Our Game. Our Stories.
The essence of soccer is captured in the fact that it connects a wide variety of people in a dynamic way. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are profiling 20 individuals who have made a significant impact on the game of soccer or who have been impacted by soccer in a positive way. Here, we will show you the diversity of the beautiful game and how it connects everyone as one universal team...Together, We Are Soccer.
This is our game and these are our stories. Be sure to visit our site every week to see who we feature next!
Named U.S. Soccer Foundation President & CEO in May 2008, Ed Foster-Simeon has more than two decades of experience at the local, state and national levels of soccer in the United States. A champion of soccer as a vehicle for youth development and social change, Foster-Simeon has been an active member of the U.S. Soccer Foundation’s Board of Directors since 2004 where he served on several key committees, including the Executive Committee. At the grassroots level, he is a former Vice President of the Virginia Youth Soccer Association and past president of Prince William Soccer, Inc. — a 3,000-player recreational and travel club in Northern Virginia. In 2011, Foster-Simeon was awarded a Community Leadership Award from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition (PCFSN). In June 2009, Foster-Simeon accepted an invitation to join the Board of Directors for the USA Bid Committee in its efforts to bring the FIFA World Cup to the United States in 2018 or 2022.
Prior to joining the U.S. Soccer Foundation, Foster-Simeon served as Deputy Managing Editor at USA TODAY where he was responsible for Washington, Political and Foreign news operations. During his 15 years at USA TODAY, Foster-Simeon opened the newspaper’s Beijing bureau and organized and executed the newspaper’s coverage and logistics for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Foster-Simeon served as chairman of the Page One Task Force whose work led to significant improvements in USA TODAY’s content and newsroom organization. USA TODAY also tapped him to plan and lead the newspaper’s coverage of the 1998 World Cup in France.
How did you get involved in soccer? Did you know that you wanted to be involved in the sport?
Soccer was a mid-life revelation for me. When I was growing up in New York, the games in my neighborhood were stickball, handball and basketball. Basketball became the game that my friends and I played most often. I had heard about soccer, but it was from a distance. My first introduction to the game on a personal level came 26 years ago when we signed my then 4-year-old son up for "Little Kickers" at our neighborhood recreation center where we live in Virginia. He took to it like it was the game he was meant to play and I was pretty much hooked from there. Like many soccer parents before me, I was told "if you don't coach, there won't be a team." So I stepped up as a volunteer. At the time I had no soccer aspirations and no idea how deeply I would become involved with the game. It only took one season to realize that I wasn't a very good coach so I moved into administration -- first as team manager, then as president of our local 3,000 player youth club and later Vice President of our State Association before joining the U.S. Soccer Foundation Board of Directors.
Do you have a favorite soccer memory or is there a player that you particularly admire?
My favorite soccer memories are of watching my four children play and grow with the game during the last 26 years. Watching them gain control of their bodies and develop soccer skills that allowed them to truly enjoy the game. Standing on the sidelines in blazing heat and freezing cold as they competed on recreational and travel teams. Watching them run around the hotel and around the pool after a hard day of play on a tournament weekend. Watching them develop friendships with teammates and opponents that endure to this day. Watching the game open their eyes to the world as they became interested in teams and players from Brazil, England, Italy and the Netherlands. My best memories are of all that the game has given them both on and off the field. Beyond my family, some of my favorite memories revolve around the 1994 World Cup, and the games at RFK stadium. It was my window onto what the whole thing was really all about. The sense of global community, the color, the passion, the artistry on the field, the fellowship and kick-arounds during pre-game tailgate parties. How could you not fall in love with soccer? I later had the privilege of being the USA TODAY editor in charge of coverage at the 1998 World Cup in France which provided a host of fantastic soccer memories.
In your opinion, what is it about the game of soccer that makes it such a valuable tool for youth development and social change?
It starts with how accessible the game is. All you really need is a ball and some space. Both boys and girls play equally, creating the perfect vehicle to help children develop healthy, active lifestyles and to improve social outcomes. The game is a great teacher. So much decision making rests with the players on the field, creating countless opportunities for them to learn to lead, learn to follow and learn to collaborate. When thoughtful coaches get involved and leverage the many teachable moments presented by the game, they help children develop character and important life skills that benefit them on the playing field and throughout life. The payoff can be tremendous.
Of all the great things the Foundation has accomplished in the last 20 years, which milestone or achievement makes you most proud and why?
That's sort of like asking a parent to pick their favorite child. Not possible! The Foundation has done so much to help the game grow in the United States that it is difficult to know where to start. The Foundation helped Major League Soccer get up and running. It helped build the U.S. Soccer National Training Center. The Foundation has supported opportunities for women to play in professional leagues in the United States. We've invested in player development at the highest level. The Foundation has invested more than $60 million in program and field building projects at the grassroots level in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Most recently, the Foundation has created opportunities for tens of thousands of children growing up in underserved communities to learn the game and enjoy its many benefits. How do you pick a favorite? I am proud of all the Foundation's accomplishments and have only listed a few. Each is noteworthy and impactful in its own right. But together with the incredible successes of every member of the U.S. Soccer family, those accomplishments have helped elevate the game to a level we once only dreamed about. Together we have helped make soccer an integral part of the fabric of American life. The exciting part is that there is so much more room for growth.
What are your goals for the Foundation and the sport of soccer moving forward?
Our most basic goal is to continue playing a major role in the growth and development of soccer in the United States. The wonderful thing about being involved with soccer at this point in time is that the massive accomplishments of our sport during the last 20 years offer only a hint of what is yet to come. The idea of soccer becoming a dominant sport in the United States can no longer be dismissed as a dream. Much work still remains to be done to get there, but we are clearly on our way. At the Foundation we are focused on ensuring that there are safe places to play our game and on ensuring that as many children as possible have easy and affordable access to quality soccer programming that aids their development on and off the playing field. We are working to help make learning and playing soccer the easy choice. If we are successful in our work, outdoor futsal courts one day will be as ubiquitous as basketball courts on neighborhood school yards and playgrounds across the nation – places where children are organizing and playing games on their own, with the freedom to develop individual skills and express their creativity. We want to help bring hundreds of thousands of new players into the game by creating opportunities for children in under-resourced communities, where participation has not mirrored the sizzling growth in the rest of the nation. Soccer has become an essential part of the fabric of American life. We are focused on building on that legacy and working with others to take it to the next level.
If you could only pick one word to describe soccer, it would be.....