Eight clubs from five different leagues spanning Canada and the United States join forces and commit to Play Proud, an LGBTQ+ inclusion initiative, in a bid to ensure that the FIFA 2026 World Cup is the most inclusive Men’s soccer tournament in history.
At a critical time when LGBTQ+ rights are under attack worldwide, Common Goal, the global impact movement for soccer, is launching a 2023 coalition of clubs from Major League Soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League, United Soccer League, and the Canadian Premier League. The coalition is joining Common Goal’s LGBTQ+ inclusion initiative Play Proud, to fight back against discrimination and promote greater inclusion in soccer and beyond. Common Goal is committed to implementing diversity, equity and inclusion training in key soccer markets across United States, Mexico and Canada ahead of the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup.
Common Goal’s Play Proud offers a holistic and collective approach to creating inclusive soccer communities with a focus on under-resourced and marginalized populations. As part of this year’s Play Proud program, Common Goal has partnered with leading soccer clubs, supporters’ groups and community-based organizations from across North America to host a series of workshops, totaling 100 hours, focused on promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in soccer.
The first 50-hour workshop will be hosted by Seattle Sounders FC, MLS’ Inclusion and Impact Award recipient in 2022, for four days starting on April 4th. Seattle Sounders FC and Common Goal will be joined by fellow MLS club Toronto FC, NWSL clubs Gotham FC and Kansas City Current, USL clubs Union Omaha, New Mexico United and Detroit City FC, and Canadian Premier League club Vancouver FC. With pride activations across all 8 stadiums in June, the coalition will come together for the final 50-hour workshop in October 2023.
The 2023 club coalition joins Common Goal’s ongoing club partners such as Liga MX’s Tigres UANL, Angel City FC, and Philadelphia Union in their commitment in completing 100 hrs of diversity, equity, and inclusion training.
“We are honored and excited to host one of this year’s Play Proud workshops,” said Sounders FC Chief Operating Officer Maya Mendoza-Exstrom. “As a club, Sounders FC remains steadfast in its support for the LGBTQ+ community in meaningful ways, which includes an ongoing commitment to build internal capacity in partnership with experts. As one of the most comprehensive programs dedicated to creating inclusive soccer communities, Common Goal’s Play Proud provides even more of that expert training. We know that sport has the power to effect societal and cultural change and it’s an honor to join with this coalition of likeminded organizations as we all work toward the ultimate goal of using our platforms to stand for equality and inclusion.”
Play Proud will provide participating clubs and organizations with training, resources, and support to help them create inclusive policies and practices within their organizations. In collaboration with Impact, Inside Inclusion, Stonewall UK, and HTVB, the workshops will feature discussions and presentations from leading LGBTQ+ athletes and advocates, as well as interactive sessions aimed at promoting inclusive leadership. Common Goal plans to work across every host city and key soccer market by the FIFA 2026 Men’s World Cup with the goal of creating safe and inclusive stadiums, enabling access to soccer programming in under-represented communities, and upskilling youth-based coaches in trauma-informed practices.
Lilli Barrett-O’Keefe, Executive Director of Common Goal USA and Founder of Play Proud, says: “All too often ` initiatives and solution-based approaches are disconnected and fragmented from the needs of the community. Historically we see that professional clubs, fans, brands and youth-centered programming work in isolation. We want to disrupt that pattern. All the key stakeholders across the soccer ecosystem must work together in order for authentic change to happen.”
The Play Proud program is part of Common Goal's wider efforts to use soccer as a tool for social change. Common Goal is an inclusive movement aiming to empower all soccer stakeholders to create action-based solutions to the social and environmental causes that they and their communities feel most passionate about.
Along with representatives from the various clubs, Play Proud also welcomes leading community organizations to the diversity and inclusion training. The 2023 Community Organization cohort includes: South Bronx United, Football for the World, The Somos Unidos Foundation, Global FC, RAVE Foundation, MLSE, Canada SCORES Vancouver, Detroit Sporting Coalition.
To discover more about opportunities to become part of Play Proud, or how to join other Common Goal collective projects around themes such as racial justice, gender equity, climate action, and mental health, visit common-goal.org.
About Common Goal:
Common Goal is a global impact movement that exists to unite the soccer community in tackling the biggest challenges of our times. The movement aims to inspire and mobilize every stakeholder of the soccer economy to play a meaningful role in serving the wellbeing of people and planet. To do so, Common Goal provides a simple and impactful mechanism for professional soccer players, managers, officials, clubs, and other stakeholders, to pledge a minimum of 1% of their earnings to high-impact initiatives that use the game to drive progress towards the Global Goals. The movement’s long-term ambition is to unlock 1% of the entire soccer industry’s revenues—estimated at $54 billion per year —to establish an intrinsic link between soccer as a business and soccer as a tool for social change.