Detroit City FC lands PepsiCo grant to help grow game in minority communities

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit City FC has built quite a soccer product, but it always wants to do more.

The Hamtramck-based soccer franchise has been named one of the inaugural 11 "Team of Champions" grant winners from PepsiCo, with the money aiding in Detroit City FC's efforts to grow the game in minority communities, specifically among Blacks and Hispanics, and more specifically among youths.

Detroit City FC has received a grant to help grow the game in Detroit's Black and Brown communities.

The 11 grant winners will share in the $1 million, three-year pledge from PepsiCo. The initiative is supported by international soccer star Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez.

"This is primarily important for us," said T.J. Winfrey, who joined Detroit City FC in November as its chief of partnerships. "Obviously, before I joined, the club had done a ton of work between Sean (Mann) and the rest of the ownership and our supporters, as well, in terms of growing the game of soccer within Black and Brown communities in Detroit and the greater Detroit area."

Detroit City FC partnered on the PepsiCo grant with the national organization For Soccer Ventures, which was founded by Richie Graham, an owner of Major League Soccer's Philadelphia Union. That organization's chief goal is growing the game in the U.S.

For Soccer Ventures is helping determine how the PepsiCo dollars will be allocated in the Metro Detroit area, with the help of Detroit City FC. Those ventures haven't yet been announced, but are in the works. In general, PepsiCo said funds will help provide equipment, field access, mentoring, coaching, education and fan experiences.

Detroit City FC has had its own similar initiatives in recent years, with one started by club supporters. In 2019, a program was started where if you bought a single-game ticket, you could also donate a ticket that would go to a youth in the community that otherwise might not have the opportunity to attend a match. DCFC also runs youth camps and clinics all over the area.

It wasn't immediately clear how much of the $1 million would go to Detroit City FC's efforts. Other cities with clubs and organizations to receive a grant include: Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Dallas, El Paso and Fort Lauderdale. The first grant winners have been dubbed the "Starting Eleven." PepsiCo and its brands Pepsi, Lay's and Gatorade are supporting the program.

Other sponsors teaming with PepsiCo on the program include Lay's and Gatorade.

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The "Team of Champions" program is part of PepsiCo's Racial Equality Journey, which has pledged more than a half-billion dollars to help Black and Hispanic businesses and communities in the U.S, addresses inequality and creating opportunities.

Detroit has the largest percentage of Black population in the U.S., and the Hispanic population has been growing for several years.

“As one of the fastest-growing and unifying sports in the United States, we saw an opportunity to leverage our largest global platform — UEFA Champions League — and the game as a force for good,” said Esperanza Teasdale, vice president and general manager for PepsiCo's Hispanic business unit in North America. “With ‘Team of Champions,’ we’re building upon decades of experience and commitment on and off the field to equalize access to the game and bring smiles and opportunity through soccer.”

tpaul@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tonypaul1984