The last strains of summer held out for local youth soccer leagues, Major League Soccer, national partners and the Portland Timbers at Socio MLS at Delta Park on Sunday.
Socio MLS is a philanthropic initiative started by MLS to build relationships with Hispanic leagues throughout participating cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Portland.
In conjunction with PRIMETIME Sports, national partners and the hometown team in each city, Socio MLS puts on a tournament and clinics for the local leagues, reaching 25 youth leagues and over 40,000 athletes nationwide.
“It’s a way to join the Hispanic youth leagues in an MLS market for the purpose of giving back to the community and helping the leagues build up incredible foundation and infrastructure,” said Jaime Quintero, event director of PRIMETIME Sports. “Bringing in the Timbers on this occasion helps Socio MLS create the bridge between the team and these youth Hispanic leagues.”
WATCH: Chara and Timbers work with Socio MLS
Ramon Rendon is the director of La Amistad soccer club who volunteers his time with other volunteer coaches and more than 60 teams—all mostly made up of players from low-income families.
“Our goal is to get kids on the soccer field, to play, to have fun, to show respect to the other players. We want our kids to get a good education and be close with their families,” said Rendon.
“These teams believe in a dream: playing with MLS. It’s a dream. They’re excited. [Socio MLS] is really important to everybody because we are now a part of a professional team and organization in a way,” continued Rendon. “It shows these kids that if you work hard and be a good person and student, that they can be on a great team someday. The opportunity is here - they just have to work for it, and they work really hard.”
Portland’s part in Socio MLS involved four leagues, 4-H, La Amistad, El Tri and River Plate, all participating in a tournament at the U-10, U-12, U-14, U-16 and U-18 levels. The National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) held coach and referee clinics, and Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara came out to run a clinic for players under 12 years old.
“These clinics and the tournament are things that really show these kids that the Timbers care about their community,” said Socio MLS director Jesse Perl. “Socio MLS is one about doing something that is going to have a positive impact on the community, and having the Timbers here tends to reinforce the Timbers as the experts and the leaders in soccer in Portland.”
“This is a unique experience for these players, in that we’re bringing together the top teams in the area and it’s about building interconnectivity and a sense of community,” continued Pearl.
Added coach Rendon, “It’s good for the community. It’s good for our kids. When you’re a kid, you have a dream—you want to be a professional. Even if it’s not soccer, it’s baseball, football, anything.
“When your home team does things like this and is close to the kids, it’s better for the community.”