Houston’s Grow the Game campaign receives major boost

The Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee and the U.S. Soccer Foundation have announced a $6m campaign aimed at providing communities access to the world’s most popular sport.

The committee laid out plans to raise funding for and create 30 new mini-pitches across the greater Houston area, with an aim to dramatically increase participation in high-quality soccer programs by 2026.

To do this, the committee is partnering with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, a national non-profit organisation with a mission to provide underserved communities access to innovative play spaces and evidence-based soccer programs that foster well-being and help youth achieve their full potential.

Chris Canetti, President of the Houston 2026 World Cup Bid Committee, was excited to see the work that would come from the support.

“As part of our 2026 FIFA World Cup Bid, we are focused on creating a legacy. We want to make a lasting impact long after the matches are over,” he said.

“As part of that legacy, we are motivated to help grow the game while positively impacting the lives of local youth. This collaboration with our community and the U.S. Soccer Foundation is a strong example of these things. We look forward to delivering an impact well into the future.”

In addition to the creation of 30 mini-pitches, the $6m campaign aims to fund the expansion of the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program to serve at least 15,000 local youth and train 1,000 adults as coach-mentors to run the program.

Soccer for Success has been recognised nationally for its ability to improve the health and social outcomes of its participants. Houston Parks & Recreation has been running the Foundation’s Soccer for Success program since its inception.

“Soccer is a dynamic, fast-paced sport with a global audience, and it makes sense to increase access for young people in the nation’s fourth-largest and most diverse city,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said.

“The program will provide young people in underserved communities with innovative spaces to play, boost their confidence and promote a healthy lifestyle. It also aligns with my Complete Communities initiative to ensure that all Houstonians have equal access to quality services and amenities. It is a win-win for everyone.”

Football SA extending Development Centres throughout regional and metropolitan areas

Football SA Development Centres

Football South Australia (SA) announced the expansion of its Development Centres for boys and girls from ages nine to 13.

This expansion will offer more football and more opportunities for players in the Barossa, Noarlunga, Port Lincoln and Metropolitan Adelaide.

The five new centres add to the four currently located in the Limestone Coast, Whyalla, Riverland and the Adelaide Hills, taking the total up to nine centres in 2024.

Much of the talk has been the incredible impact that the home soil FIFA Women’s World Cup has had on football participation in the country across all age groups. There has been a notable uptick in player participation in regional areas , registering a 16.5% increase. Across the entire state, there is overall growth of 9%.

The key goal of the Football SA Development Centres expansion is to lay the grassroots foundation in place and create a suitable environment for kids so that their talent is recognised and captured by coaches.

These added sessions as a result of the expansion are designed not to conflict with existing club activities and will enhance players’ fundamental footballing skills.

Football SA Technical Director Michael Cooper touched on the opportunity this opens up for player development at the early ages.

“When we started the original program in 2023, we had the vision to implement a state-wide program that provides equal opportunities for players to progress to our State programs and offerings, which are highly regarded nationally,” Cooper said via Football SA press release.

“Taking our programs to regional South Australia has prevented the need for young players to travel week in week out to Adelaide for specialised coaching. This illustrates our support for regional associations and pathways we collectively offer.

“We are excited to see all players come together at events such as the State Development Carnival in July and I am confident more players will be identified from regional areas in the future.”

An issue Football South Australia touched on in their 2023-2026 Strategic Plan was the lack of regional players making the transition into state and regional squads.

The key function of Football SA, as mentioned on their website, has always been player development and to increase participation. This Development Centre expansion will service the regional communities and allow potential talented players, who weren’t recognised before, to grow through a natural pathway up until they represent state squads.

Cádiz CF outlines plan for new sports technology centre

Cádiz Sportech City

LALIGA football club Cádiz CF has unveiled plans to construct a brand-new sports technology centre which will be known as ‘Sportech City’.

The centre is expected to deliver significant results in the sports technology industry, and assert Cádiz’s position in the top-flight of Spanish football.

In addition, the centre aims to make a positive impact in areas outside of the football club, most notably in health and education. A short video released on its official YouTube channel helped outline the proposed facilities within Sportech City.

These include:

  • A 7,500-square-metre data centre.
  • A dedicated sports university.
  • 5,600 square metres dedicated to laboratories and prototype validation for user experience.
  • An events/congress centre.
  • A technological business incubator centre with 6,100 square metres of offices.
  • Health and medical services.
  • A designated retail zone.

Sportech City is the latest plan to be announced since La Liga introduced its ‘Impulso’ agreement with CVC Capital Partners in 2021. The agreement provided nearly two billion euros (3.3 million AUD) for Spanish football clubs to invest in technology, innovation, internationalisation, and sporting growth initiatives.

Plans for the centre are being coordinated between the club and professional services firm KPMG, who believe the centre will stimulate the local economy. It is estimated that 4,000 jobs will be created for the construction of Sportech City alone, with a further 2,900 jobs expected for the running of the centre.

According to sources within the club, Cádiz CF hopes to generate a minimum of 15 million euros (24.7 million AUD) per year once it begins operation.

Cádiz CF, like many clubs that sit beneath the traditional giants of Spanish football, have suffered a turbulent off-field history.

However, under president Manuel Vizcaíno’s stewardship since 2019, the club attracted overseas investment which helped them return to the top-flight of Spanish football for just the fourth time in its 123-year existence.

Sportech City is hoped to be the next initiative under an ambitious Vizcaíno that will bring success not just to the football club, but to the city of Cádiz.

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