2022 was a year jam-packed with great moments, yet far more important than any of the thrilling action that took place on the pitch was all of the incredible work accomplished within the community. Though much more was accomplished than could ever be captured in a short article, as we look forward to an exciting 2023, we thought we’d kick off the year by taking a look back at some of our favorite moments in the community from the past calendar year.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH COFFEE TALK –
February is Black History Month, and as a way to celebrate, MNUFC players Niko Hansen and Dayne St. Clair sat down with the owners of The Get Down Coffee Co. to celebrate black excellence while discussing the power of human connection and cultural cohesion.
FRASER SENSORY KITS –
Our team worked with Fraser Minnesota to create complimentary sensory kits, available for families with various sensory-processing needs during game days at Allianz Field. As the first pro sports team in the Twin Cities to partner with Fraser to offer such kits, we are extremely proud to take another step in our ongoing effort to create a more inclusive gameday environment for all.
MLS ALL-STAR WEEK –
MLS All-Star Week was full of fun events, and with so many exciting people pouring into the Twin Cities, we had the unique opportunity to reach even larger audiences.
MLS ALL-STAR ANNOUNCEMENT – The announcement of the 2022 MLS All-Star competition was held at Boys & Girls Club Mt. Airy in St. Paul. We had a wonderful list of guests that included Shari Ballard, Mayor Melvin Carter, Adrian Heath, and most importantly, the kids of Mt. Airy.
ALL-STAR DAY OF SERVICE – As part of MLS All-Star Week, MLS Works, U.S. Hunger, and Target teamed up with fans to pack 100,000 healthy meals for local children and families in need. Meals were distributed locally through Keystone Community Services and Second Harvest Heartland.
ALL-STAR COMMUNITY DAY – MLS greats and LIGA MX legends joined MLS, Minnesota United FC, Target, and the U.S. Soccer Foundation to unveil a new ADA-compliant mini-pitch at the Mt. Airy Boys & Girls Club. Beneficiaries of the pitch include attendees of the Boys & Girls Club, as well as the youth of surrounding neighborhoods and participants from Sol of The Cities Futsal League.
HOMETOWN HEROES SHOWCASE – MLS, Minnesota United, Black Players for Change (BPC), and community leaders teamed up to celebrate a selection of diverse, innovative, and impactful leaders in the St. Paul and Minneapolis communities. Four leaders focused on areas of education, mental health, food security, and social justice were chosen to be part of the event. There was a live panel discussion and showcase that highlighted their mission and work, and their organizations received a suite of support services to help elevate and amplify their impact.
UNIFIED ALL-STAR GAME – The Unified All-Star Game is part of the season-long Special Olympics Unified Soccer Exchange program that provides opportunities for Unified soccer teams to participate in a first-team MLS experience. In an East vs. West format, the Unified Sports® West and East All-Star soccer teams, comprised of individuals with intellectual disabilities (Special Olympic athletes) and without intellectual disabilities (Unified partners) played in an 11 vs. 11 match, with players Madison Schoolfield and Anthony Benston representing Minnesota United.
FREE FARMERS MARKET –
Once again, we partnered with Allianz and Keystone Community Services to provide meals every month from June-September to our Midway community. In total, through the five events we held together at Allianz Field, we gave away 66,515 pounds of food to 10,156 people.
TORO FIELD REBUILD –
Partnering with The Toro Company, we rebuilt a soccer pitch at the Arlington Hills Community Center in Saint Paul, using our very own grounds crew to create a state-of-the-art field. When the field debuted, Coach Eric Dick and Coach Niko Hansen stepped onto our newly-rebuilt pitch with their teams, going head-to-head in a match for the ages. With a new pitch for the children around the Arlington community, they can come and play in a safe space and have free access to the field.
UNIFIED TEAM –
In partnership with Special Olympics MN and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, we hosted tryouts for our 2022 Unified Team — a team that gives athletes with intellectual disabilities an opportunity to play soccer alongside partner teammates — on the same turf where our MNUFC players train, creating a special signing ceremony with our very own Sporting Director, Manny Lagos. In August, our Unified team took the pitch at Allianz Field following an MNUFC game, with hundreds of fans sticking around to cheer on the team in their first inter-squad game since 2019.
UKRAINE YOUTH SOCCER TEAM –
Target USA CUP is the greatest youth soccer experience in the world, with 1,200+ teams coming together to participate in the tournament. FC Minaj, a boys soccer team from Ukraine who had fled their home country, was invited to stop by and visit our first team at their training grounds, as well as make an on-field appearance at an Allianz Field game day, creating a truly special memory for a group of young men enduring unimaginable hardship back home.
POWER SOCCER SIGNING –
In a special surprise ceremony, The Courage Kenny Blizzards power soccer team, who thought they were simply invited to take a tour of Allianz Field, were officially signed into the MNUFC family by our Sporting Director Manny Lagos. Thanks to support from our friends at Allina, the former Courage Kenny Blizzards will continue to compete under the MNUFC banner as the club’s official power soccer team, receiving official MNUFC uniforms, special power-soccer equipment and more.
MASONIC VISIT + STAFF BLANKETS –
As part of our 2022 Kick Childhood Cancer initiatives, we teamed up with MNUFC player families and M Health Fairview to create 100 tie blankets for the kids at M Health Fairview Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Joining us in visiting the hospital were Robin Lod and his wife Janni Lod who met with the kids and passed out the blankets.
ST. PAUL CUP –
Building on the tradition of the Mayor’s Cup, this October we were excited to host the inaugural St. Paul Cup — a new annual matchup at Allianz Field that highlights local boys and girls varsity soccer teams. In partnership with Bell Bank, Saint Paul Public Schools, and the City of Saint Paul, Washington Tech went head-to-head with Harding High School in this year’s event, with future editions to feature rotating matchups between Saint Paul Public High Schools.
There were some truly great moments in 2022. Whether the impact was local, international, or something in between, the things accomplished now build better stepping stones for community endeavors in the future. With that thought in mind, we excitedly await the 2023 season and hope to see you out in the community this year!