MLS NEXT and DoorDash have announced the six recipients of funding from the second-annual MLS NEXT Delivering Access presented by DoorDash.
The program benefits MLS NEXT clubs by providing financial resources to create equal opportunities and advance soccer communities throughout the United States. Clubs submitted their stories demonstrating the grassroots efforts made by staff, families, and local communities, and the six recipients were selected by a five-person review panel. Only non-MLS affiliated clubs that participate in MLS NEXT were eligible to apply.
DoorDash will provide $25,000 to each of the following six clubs ($150,000 total):
An internationally recognized community-based club, Alexandria Soccer Association (ASA) offers year-round soccer and futsal programming for participants with all experience levels. With the Delivering Access funds, ASA will look to offset yearly costs in order to support travel for all players. By doing so, this will give players more ways to be recruited and potentially receive life-changing opportunities professionally or via the collegiate pathway.
The only MLS NEXT club based in Alabama, Hoover-Vestavia Soccer services families across the state and supplies top-class coaching, ACT prep classes, and free treatment/rehab from UAB Sports Medicine. Delivering Access funds will help the club offer scholarships via their ‘Pass It Forward’ initiative to players from several of the low-income areas within Birmingham. The initiative provides additional benefits to families that may not fit the traditional financial aid packages.
After launching in 2018, the LA Bulls strive to teach essential life skills while developing intelligent, technical, and confident players to reach their highest potential. The club has a strong connection to the Los Angeles community and will use the resources to elevate their scholarship program in underserved communities. Additional ways MLS NEXT Delivering Access will assist includes supporting the player leadership program, mental performance program, and other community outreach initiatives.
Modesto Ajax United strives to meet the needs in their community by providing access to athletes who may not be able to afford playing elite soccer by supplying scholarships and transportation and removing barriers to access in the area. The goal is to bridge the gap and provide financial support to deserving families to ensure they have access to the highest level of soccer. One area Ajax will aim to utilize the funds is for the community of Los Banos – a city approximately one hour south of Modesto. Ajax recently provided three players from Los Banos with full scholarships and Delivering Access will assist in expanding that number to more young athletes in the region.
One of the premier clubs in Michigan, Vardar Soccer Club aims to provide a highly competitive opportunity for young athletes, while giving each player the immediate and direct guidance that is carefully tailored to their individual needs. Through Delivering Access, Vardar will provide further training opportunities, fitness experts, and video analysis to their MLS NEXT players. Additionally, the club will continue to strengthen its partnership with Hoverla FC, a nearby club that has been influential in supporting Ukrainian families seeking refugee from the turmoil in their country. With their support, Vardar and Hoverla have become more than just soccer clubs to these families, but rather a second home for the newcomers.
Seventy-four percent of families in the Ventura County Fusion program are low-income, including many who are migrant families without college degrees. The $25,000 will be used to combat travel needs, support field upkeep costs, provide access to high-level college guidance, and aid in the development of a nutrition and mental health program. These funds will assist youth players’ physical and personal development at Ventura County Fusion.
The five-person review panel evaluated the clubs that demonstrated extraordinary needs or challenges by grading each application on a scale of 1-10, with one being the highest and 10 the lowest. All scores were tabulated to determine the six recipient clubs. The panel considered the following factors:
- Coaching and Training: Clubs that have financial needs to support training, equipment, facilities, and/or coaching tools.
- Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: Clubs that prioritize building and sustaining an inclusive and equitable environment for all within their soccer community, including players, staff, and parents.
- Community: Clubs that rely on community members to provide volunteer services or products to a club to ensure quality operations and an acceptable training environment.
- Financial Hardship: Clubs that demonstrate the need for financial assistance to support player scholarships to participate.
- Transportation: Clubs that demonstrate the need for transportation to allow players to participate.
The five-person review panel was comprised of:
- DoorDash Representative (Kofi Amoo-Gottfried – Chief Marketing Officer)
- DoorDash Representative (Donna Lupton – Director of Cultural Partnerships)
- MLS NEXT Representative (Luis Robles – Senior Manager, MLS NEXT Programming)
- MLS NEXT Representative (Jordan Rouse – Manager, MLS NEXT Club Administration)
- MLS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Representative (Tunde Oguntimein – Vice President, Commissioner’s Office)