SOCCERTOWN USA-UK — EPL, EA Sports & Kearny team up to build mini-pitch

If ever there were any doubts where the capital of American Soccer is, it’s pretty clear now.

That’s because a new mini-pitch — the first of its kind in the United States — co-funded by the English  Premier League and its lead partner EA SPORTS opened last week at Washington School in Kearny.

Named the Kearny Futures Field, the project was made possible in conjunction with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Gov. Philip D. Murphy and the Kearny School District.

This all represents the first collaborative pitch in North America between the Premier League and EA SPORTS FC and organizers say it vividly demonstrates the long-term commitment to provide community access to soccer (or is it football?) across the globe.

The customized, hard-court surface, which was designed by local artist Demit Omphroy, was officially unveiled as the Premier League Summer Series pre-season tournament reached New Jersey, with Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United facing each other at Red Bull Arena on Friday night, July 28, a match, by the way, won by the lads of Newcastle United, 2-1, with goals in the 86th and 92nd minute, in front of a sellout crowd of 26,150 fans adoring fans.

The new pitch opening was attended by a host of special guests including Brighton & Hove Albion and Newcastle United Managers Roberto DeZerbi and Eddie Howe and players from both clubs; interim Kearny Mayor Peter P. Santana, former Kearny Mayor Alberto G. Santos, Council President Carol Jean Doyle, other members of the Town Council, Superintendent of Schools Flora Encarnacao, representatives of Kearny schools and athletics and many others with a vested interest in the sport.

It forms part of a wide-ranging program of community activity taking place during the tournament and is the first permanent site the Premier League and EA SPORTS have created in the United States.

This builds on the league’s longstanding commitment to invest in grassroots football (soccer) facilities and extends to the EA SPORTS FC FUTURES initiative as a commitment to invest in community-level football on a global scale to grow the game for all.

“We are delighted to create a longstanding legacy in New Jersey by opening this new mini-pitch in partnership with EA SPORTS and the U.S. Soccer Foundation during our inaugural pre-season tour in the United States,” Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said. “We have already witnessed the incredible passion of American soccer fans in three East Coast cities during the tournament and we know how popular the sport is here in New Jersey. We can’t wait to witness that support at the Red Bull Arena, and to be able to provide a facility here which will have a huge impact on the lives of countless young people is a real honour.

“This reflects our longstanding commitment to investing in football at all levels and communities across England and Wales, and we look forward to developing more grassroots facilities and other community initiatives through our partnership with EA SPORTS.”

The foundation says it plans to install 1,000 mini-pitches by 2026.

“When it comes to soccer, there are few places more special than Kearny — the birthplace of American soccer,” Murphy said. “Soccer builds community, breaks down barriers and forges relationships across cultural and geographic bounds. I am grateful to our partners — the Premier League, EA Sports, the U.S. Soccer Foundation, the Kearny School District — for their help in building this mini-pitch and creating a lasting legacy for our communities to enjoy.”

The EA SPORTS FC FUTURES initiative will build a publicly available library of training practices, produced in six languages, that will be available later this year for young players and community coaches to view online and use for their training plans.

EA SPORTS will also provide community access to football by supporting the creation and refurbishment of pitches, facilitated and distributed through foundations, federations and leagues. Lastly, FC FUTURES will invest in grassroots training accessories which will deliver football equipment in the form of balls, bibs, cones and wider essential equipment.

Earlier this year, EPL joined forces with EA SPORTS to part-fund a state-of-the-art 3G football pitch at Turnham Academy in London. As part of the multi-year extension as lead partner of the Premier League, which was announced a few weeks ago, the two organizations will work together on the creation of more community programs, including school football initiatives and investment into grassroots facilities.

The New Jersey pitch opening also forms part of the Premier League’s and EA SPORTS FC FUTURES’ initiative for meaningful growth of community-led football with the purpose of growing the game for all.

“We’re already making an impact on community soccer around the world through EA SPORTS FC FUTURES, and we’re thrilled to work with partners like the Premier League and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to now expand that to the United States,” Cam Weber, president of EA SPORTS, said. “Youth soccer has such a strong presence in the U.S., and we’re committed to ensuring that players around the world have the opportunity to grow their love of the sport on the pitch.”

The new Kearny Futures Field mini-pitch builds on the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s work to provide young people in under-resourced communities the opportunity to play soccer in their neighborhoods and improve their overall health and well-being.

The Premier League and the six traveling clubs are delivering more than 100 hours of community activity across the five host cities during the Summer Series. This includes community football coaching and life skills workshops delivered as part of the league’s education initiative, Premier League Primary Stars, involving more than 400 children.

There will also be programs focusing on grassroots and elite coach development, with registrations anticipated to exceed 500 aspiring and elite-level coaches, as well as referee development.

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Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.