The Philadelphia Union Foundation is making a difference with youth soccer in Philadelphia.

A partnership with The SWAG, a soccer program reaching more than 2,000 inner city kids a year, helps 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 college 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 landscape: 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 in a statement. “Through this new partnership, we hope we can grow a love for soccer while expanding our reach and impact in the community.”

The SWAG holds regularly scheduled community-based 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 was scheduled for Tuesday at Conservatory Field in Upper Darby. 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,” Nick Bibbs, director of coaching at The SWAG, said in a statement. “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 Philadelphia, creating local superstars from the city’s most under-resourced areas by offering very early exposure to the sport with professional training.

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