The Philadelphia Union Foundation (PUF) is partnering with The SWAG, the fast-growing Philadelphia soccer program reaching over 2,000 inner-city young children per year, to help encourage the city’s most vulnerable youth to develop a passion for soccer and lead them on a successful path to a healthier lifestyle, educational opportunities, and collegiate scholarships.
The SWAG is a no-cost, 47-week per year annual soccer training program for young athletes ages 4-8 in some of Philadelphia’s most neglected African American and immigrant communities. The SWAG’s programming is specifically centered around areas of Philadelphia where basketball and American football dominate the sports culture: North Philadelphia and West/Southwest Philadelphia.
“We see tremendous value in partnering with The SWAG, who are committed to introducing soccer to low-income communities where children have less access to the game,” said Paul Howard, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Union Foundation. “Through this new partnership, we hope we can grow a love for soccer while expanding our reach and impact in the community.”
The SWAG conducts regularly scheduled community-focused clinics known as Starter Days to introduce and increase interest in soccer to boys and girls between the ages of 4-8. During the two-hour, free events, boys and girls learn new drills and experience a fun and engaging interactive session with experienced professional soccer coaches. At the Starter Days, boys ages 4-8 who display exceptional aptitude may receive an invite to The SWAG Select for more regular, skills-focused training. Girls of similar talent may be referred to top girls’ clubs in the region.
The first Philadelphia Union-The SWAG combined Starter Day community event will be held at Conservatory Field (8045 West Chester Pike, Upper Darby on Tuesday, July 13 from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. The Union will also make occasional appearances at The SWAG events at Philadelphia Police Athletic League centers across the city and events in conjunction with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation or other community partners.
"We are thrilled to partner with the Union Foundation, a non-profit organization aligned with of one of the top professional teams in the MLS,” said Nick Bibbs, Director of Coaching, The SWAG. “The Philadelphia Union Academy is one of the top youth programs in North America and we are fortunate that many of the Academy coaches will be leading clinics for The SWAG. The Union coaches and players can serve as role models to many of our participants and we certainly hope through our new arrangement to see soccer grow among inner-city youths.”
The SWAG launched as a pilot in late 2018 to help identify, support, and invest in talent from the City of Philadelphia, creating local superstars from Philadelphia’s most under-resourced areas by offering very early exposure to the sport with professional training.
The SWAG expects new interest levels in soccer across the country and around the world will intensify with the approach of this summer’s Olympic Games and next year’s men’s soccer World Cup. The SWAG also hopes participation in the sport will continue to flourish with the U.S. hosting the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Summer Olympic Games.