JIM TRECKER is a football consultant in the United States.

The mantra of the FIFA World Cup USA 94 organizers was to stage the greatest World Cup ever and to leave a legacy for football in the United States. That promise of the 1994 dream is alive and thriving in every corner of the United States, thanks to the US Soccer Foundation.

Whether USA 94 was indeed the greatest football tournament ever is best left to others to decide - but though there had been many sceptics who had questioned the organising committee's optimism, there was never a doubt among World Cup USA Chief Executive Alan Rothenberg and his colleagues that the event would turn a profit. And their stated aim was to ensure that those dollars must be used in perpetuity to fuel the continued growth of football in the United States.

To that end, the US Soccer Foundation was established in 1993 - before the actual tournament - to be the recipient and guardian of the World Cup profit. It is a not-for-profit organization whose goal is to help the sport grow and to enrich people's lives through football. Since its first grant process, through which groups large and small all across the country can apply for funds, the Foundation has dispensed more than USD 12 million. The 2001 grant cycle has already proven the busiest ever, with more than 500 applications received.

Foundation Chairman Jim Hamilton says: "We're committed to being a catalyst for football. We know that even with the large profit from 1994 (editor's note: More than USD 50 million was transferred into the Foundation initially), football's needs still far exceed our resources. We are an activist organisation nowadays, seeking partnerships and fund-raising opportunities to keep the soccer boom alive."

Through a sophisticated investment strategy, the Foundation has been able to see its money grow significantly, and it grants money only from earnings, not from the principal. In this manner, the Foundation ensures that the 1994 World Cup legacy will be there to serve players, teams and groups far into the future, when its origins might only be memories.

Football and learning
The Board of Directors and Foundation Executive Director Herbert V. Giobbi rigorously apply a philosophical framework to every request for funds in its effort to fulfil its primary objectives. To reach that goal, the Foundation concentrates on programmes that provide healthy and educational opportunities, promotion of participation in football by the physically or mentally challenged, gender equity, as well as creating public private sector partnerships that leverage even more funds into the world's game.

Alan Rothenberg, President of the Local Organising Committee for the FIFA World Cup USA 1994.
Photo: FIFA Archives
These bedrock principles have resulted in remarkable achievements in the past year. For example, "America Scores" is an inner-city literacy programme that combines football with learning. Begun in Washington D.C., the group received an initial USD 60,000 grant from the Foundation in 1997 and now operates in five cities and has plans for ten more sites for this award-winning programme helping to teach young people in the classroom and on the field.

The Foundation has also pioneered relationships with government agencies that are now paying enormous football dividends. In partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Foundation has undertaken the Herculean task of building hundreds of new football fields in communities all across the nation. The EPA's Reclaimed Superfund sites risked being under-utilized but through the foresight of the EPA and the Foundation, these sites are being turned into sparkling grass fields for the youth of today and tomorrow.

Coast to coast
The Foundation reaches all levels of the American football scene, from coast to coast. Some examples : In El Centro (California), a rural community just 20 kilometres from the Mexican border, the Police Athletic League received a modest grant to provide healthy alternatives for at-risk youth; within weeks the programme grew from 30 kids to more than 300, thanks to the financial support.

When the Air Force base in Rantoul (Illinois) was closed, gloom descended upon the tiny community as jobs were lost and the land sat idle. But where there was once the roar of jets taking off, now there is the sound of youngsters kicking footballs, thanks to a USD 25,000 grant. That modest sum ignited a fever of volunteerism and donated skills that have now produced a football boom there.

In New Jersey, the sport of futsal got a Foundation boost, too. Thanks to a grant, the town of Kearny, home to many US soccer stars, will have two full-sized futsal courts to complement its many outdoor fields.

In an ingenious combination of support from both the private sector and local government as well as community enthusiasm, the Foundation has also spurred the renovation of an American soccer icon - the Metropolitan Oval in Queens (New York), where many of the nation's original players started their careers.

The Foundation's World Cup legacy initiatives also have been directed at such high-profile events as the Women's World Cup a couple of years ago. Long before anyone knew the tournament would stop the entire nation in its tracks for the summer of 1999, the Foundation provided the organising committee with a loan to help get it started. Similarly, the accelerated men's development programme has received generous Foundation backing as America aggressively pursues its dream of winning a World Cup. Through direct grants and dollars leveraged through partnerships, the Foundation has created a financial impact of more than USD 25 million. And the initial corpus of dollars has grown to more than USD 80 million -- and has not even been touched yet!

When FIFA's Honorary President João Havelange declared that the World Cup in the United States would conquer football's "last frontier," even he could not have foreseen just how the marvellous summer of 1994 would continue to power football years later.