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Latinos in Soccer: What’s the U.S. Model So They’re Not Left Behind?

By Jon Solomon, The Aspen Institute, 12/04/17, 5:00PM CST


Clubs around the country are finding solutions to make the sport more inclusive

Many Latino youth ­— whose culture is often identified by its passion for soccer — get left behind in today's pay-to-play landscape.

In many countries around the world, soccer remains an egalitarian game that’s accessible to low-income populations. All a person needs are a ball and a space to play.

In the U.S., youth soccer is a pay-to-play venture that has been dominated by the suburban middle class since the sport’s boom in the 1970s.

It’s an environment where families may spend $5,000 a year for access to club teams and tournaments in the chase for a college scholarship.

It’s in this landscape where many Latino youth ­— whose culture is often identified by its passion for soccer — get left behind.

Just under 8 percent of all U.S. kids ages 6-12 play soccer on a regular basis, according to the latest Sports & Fitness Industry Association sports participation survey. That’s down about 26 percent since 2011.

“There’s a lot of (Latino) talent being missed,” said former San Antonio Mayor Ed Garza. “When I think about the colleges or pros not being able to tap into this huge market, it’s the same challenge with youth soccer clubs. Part of it is how to do it, and part of it is the commitment to do it.”

Learn solutions from these programs around the country: 


About Project Play

The Aspen Institute's Project Play develops, shares and applies knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. Launched in 2013 by the Sports & Society Program, the initiative has created a national movement around growing youth access to quality sport activity, through its reports, convening of leaders, and framework of eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children.

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