Young soccer players have scored $14 million worth of new programs thanks to Target Corp. as the company continues to deepen its ties to the popular sport.
The Minneapolis-based retailer announced Tuesday an $8 million grant program to increase young people's access to soccer in addition to a $6 million partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build 100 soccer play spaces across the country by 2020.
Earlier this year, Target announced a three-year deal to be an official partner of Major League Soccer, signed on as a major sponsor for local team Minnesota United FC (who wear the company's bull's-eye logo on their jerseys) and committed as the official retailer for U.S. Youth Soccer.
"Target's commitment to soccer brings the game to more kids and families across the country, and increases involvement at all levels, from local youth leagues to professional teams," said Rick Gomez, Target's chief marketing officer, in a statement.
During the next four years, the grant program will allow schools, government agencies and other organizations to apply for $1,000 grants to help pay for everything from player registration fees to field equipment with preference given to programs serving "in-need communities."
Applications for the first round of recipients will be accepted through Aug. 30, with grants given out in November.
The 100 new soccer play areas will be created through the U.S. Soccer Foundation's "Soccer for Success" program that has a goal to "transform the landscape of underserved communities, turning play deserts into safe and accessible soccer spaces." The foundation wants to create a total of 1,000 such spaces by 2026.
"We are thrilled to partner with Target to make soccer more accessible to hundreds of thousands of children across the country, ensuring our nation's youth have safe play spaces right in their neighborhoods," said Ed Foster-Simeon, president and chief executive of the U.S. Soccer Foundation, in a statement.
The partnership's first three play spaces will be constructed in Chicago, where the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target is being played this week. Additional locations will be announced later.
Through its partnership with U.S. Youth Soccer, Target is an official partner and the presenting sponsor of the Target United Cup, a traveling event that is the largest recreational youth soccer tournament in the country.
Target has focused on soccer as a response to its popularity with the company's core customer demographic groups including families, millennials and Latinos. In 2016, Target sold more than 1 million soccer balls, Gomez previously told the Star Tribune.
As Target has focused more on soccer, it has backed away from its other sports partnerships.
Last week, Target said it would stop its NASCAR sponsorship of Chip Ganassi Racing after 16 years. Last year, Target ended a 27-year sponsorship of IndyCar.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.