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Each season, Major League Soccer and Wells Fargo recognize MLS fans who are making a positive impact in their community. During these challenging times caused by COVID-19, we’ll be joining forces to shine a light on those individuals who are going above and beyond to serve our communities.

Fans throughout the soccer community will have an opportunity to nominate themselves or individuals who have provided critical services including healthcare professionals, social workers, teachers, delivery & truck drivers, grocery store employees, first responders and many other essential workers to keep our communities resilient and safe.

Representing each MLS Club, 26 Community MVPs will be selected. Receiving charitable donations totaling $65,000, each Community MVP will receive national and local recognition, a donation to a 501(c)(3) charity of their choice, a customized adidas MLS jersey, and an MLS adidas 2020 NATIVO XXV Official Match Ball.

2020 COMMUNITY MVPs BUILDING BETTER COMMUNITIES

COMMUNITY MVP TESTIMONIALS

Julio Gutierrez

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

We all shared the similar goal in which we wanted to give hope to others in our community by giving our time and energy to improve it.

Overall, [the Contest] was a wonderful experience and this is a great way to demonstrate how your community work has impacted others’ lives. Having [Major League Soccer] recognize you is an unforgettable experience that I wish all leaders could go through. This Contest is not just to celebrate your accomplishments, but to motivate future leaders and show that their work does not go unrecognized.

This is a great way to show that no leader deserves to go unnoticed and to inspire others to help their community in any way.

Bobby Samra

2013 MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize Winner

We galvanized so many people for a common cause. It was awesome seeing the soccer community come together to try to win for charity. There are many people who work hard to benefit others. [This Contest] is a great way to recognize their unselfish work.

Omari McCleary

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

Community Service and Social Work deserve accolade and praise just as much as feats of athleticism.

I think all sports have the potential to be transformative, but I believe soccer specifically has a capacity for social change and connectedness. A lot of the possibilities that soccer can inspire goes without recognition and celebration, and yet it’s vital to highlight those who are utilizing the sport for social impact. [This Contest] goes beyond acknowledgement, it could possibly inspire someone to get involved.

Stephen Schirra

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize Winner

The charitable contribution [from the Contest] allowed us to grow our efforts beyond what we ever thought was possible, increasing our impact both domestic and global.

The Contest…provided us all with an incredible opportunity to network with other leaders in the sport for social change sector, hearing their stories, and drawing inspiration from the work they were doing within their own local communities and beyond.

Knowing how important it was to recognize those using sports to make a difference in the world, we have since started a permanent scholarship fund (established June 2017) that will award $1,000 to a graduating high school senior, male or female, who is using sports to make a difference in the local community.

Derek Braun

2015 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

[This Contest] creates a community out of a sports team. [It’s] important in highlighting and honoring leaders in the community.

Mark Popsie Lewis

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

It’s always important to show appreciation to the people that aren’t necessarily looking for any recognition.

Jennifer Karps

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

I think we have an obligation to support our communities. [The Contest] enables individuals to make a greater impact than they could alone.

Karen Wright

2015 MLS WORKS Community MVP Grand Prize Winner

[This Contest] gets the word out about all the “everyday” people behind the scenes that really help make communities strong. We truly were just examples of the masses that also do what we do.

Robert Castaneda

2015 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

I think it’s important for the sport of soccer at its highest level in the country to recognize the valuable work that people are doing on the ground every day trying to make a difference in our world through what unites us, soccer. It’s an important reminder that even though we may cheer for different teams, ultimately, we are all on the same team.

Charlie Bedard

2016 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

…the monetary reward was valuable to our local soccer organization. Even though our fees to play organized soccer are quite low, there are many families who cannot afford even that. So, we established a scholarship fund to make sure that any child who wanted to play could play.

Lisa Stilgenbauer

2017 MLS WORKS Community MVP Finalist

I live in a small community that embraces other sports before soccer. From the newspaper articles and just word of mouth, [the Contest] introduced our area to the wonderful game of soccer.

PAST MVPs

BOBBY SAMRA
2013 WINNER
“There are many people who work hard to benefit others. This contest is a great way to recognize their unselfish work.”

BOBBY SAMRA

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

Bobby Samra was chosen as Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Community MVP for his work as an educator and soccer coach. He is a vice principal in Surrey, British Columbia and has coached soccer for over 25 years. He first started coaching right out of high school and fell in love with teaching and working with kids. Since then, he has coached soccer at every school he has been at and has even had former students return to help him.

Most recently, Bobby developed a soccer program with Central City Soccer Club and the Surrey School District for kids with mental health issues.

Bobby donated the money he won from the Community MVP contest to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, a cause that is personally very important to him and his family.

BILL YOACHIM
2014 WINNER

BILL YOACHIM

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Bill Yoachim of Nanaimo, British Colombia was chosen as Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s Community MVP for co-founding “Hope and Health,” a soccer-based organization that encourages and inspires kids to overcome adversity, in partnership with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Bill works with indigenous Canadian children known as First Nations. He saw how many in the community struggled, and he co-created “Hope and Health” to provide support and inspiration for these kids to live healthier, more active lives.

KAREN WRIGHT
2015 WINNER
“It is wonderful that the Community MVP contest gets the word out about the “everyday” people behind the scenes that really help make communities strong. We truly were just examples of the masses that also do what we do.”

KAREN WRIGHT

Portland Timbers

Karen Wright was selected as the Portland Timbers Community MVP for founding the Yamhill Carlton Soccer Club (YCSC) in 2010, and growing the club from 14 local players to over 300 registered club members, and 25 registered coaches.

In 2014, over 4,000 hours were logged by more than 100 committed soccer volunteers of all ages for numerous charitable programs and events.

Karen used the money she won from the Community MVP contest to purchase youth soccer goals for their club matches. Today, the organization runs a wide number of programs, including a Free Toddler Fun Time for children and parents, High School and Academy program for older players, and free training programs for coaches.

STEPHEN SCHIRRA
2016 WINNER
“Unbeknownst to many, being in the charity field is often a thankless profession. We don't do the work that we do for any sort of accolades, we don't do it for recognition or fame, and money...well, we certainly don't do it for the money. Charity work is (and will always be) filled with its own share of ups and downs. And sometimes as a result you have to focus on the little triumphs because they are so often scattered few and far between immense failures and hardships.
But that's truly why programs like the Community MVP contest are so important. Because although we don't need any sort of affirmation or award to remind ourselves that the work we are doing is positively impacting others, sometimes we just need that little push...that little bit of motivation to keep fighting the good fight.”

STEPHEN SCHIRRA

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

At the age of 23, Stephen Schirra set out on a mission to use sport as a vehicle to create positive change and make a difference in the world. Merging his passion for travel and the game of soccer, Stephen decided to bring a ball with him wherever he went. What followed were stunning shots of him freestyling in front of famous landmarks and beautiful locales.

He started a blog called Around the Worlds, Around the World, and an Instagram account filled with gorgeous images from his travels. The name and his vision materialized into Around the Worlds, Around the World – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching soccer to underprivileged children all over the world.

The money Stephen won from the Community MVP contest has allowed his organization to nearly double their impact. Today, they run successful programs in 23 countries, teaching the game of soccer to over 3,700 kids from 75+ different organizations. The organization continues to use their soccer program as a positive outlet for the kids they work with, who have all been thrust into trying circumstances since birth.

Knowing how important it was to recognize those using sports to make a difference in the world, Stephen’s organization has started a permanent scholarship fund (established June 2017) that will award $1,000 to a graduating high school senior, male or female, who is using sports to make a difference in the local community.

KEITH PALAU
2017 WINNER
“This whole experience will remain a highlight of my involvement as a Portland Timbers fan, a Timbers Army member, and someone who cares about members of our community who need a little extra love and support.”

KEITH PALAU

PORTLAND TIMBERS

A long-time leader in the charitable actions of the Timbers Army’s 107ist organization, Keith was nominated as the Timbers Community MVP after creating Portland Timbers and Portland Thorns FC-themed visitation rooms in the Oregon Department of Human Services offices to provide a welcoming and warm environment for foster children and their families. In just 48 hours, Keith raised over $8,500 for the project and received a major donation from La-Z-Boy Furniture.

Keith also organized a team of 93 volunteers, who dedicated nearly 800 hours of work toward the cleaning, priming, painting and staging of the visitation rooms at the Oregon Department of Human Services offices in Beaverton, Oregon.

Through the Community MVP contest, Keith was able to provide funds to Embrace Oregon, an organization that connects caring community members with vulnerable children and families. Embrace Oregon has been able to increase its bandwidth in community mobilization, volunteer initiatives and foster family recruitment, and the funds have allowed them to impact nearly 2,000 individuals: children in foster care, biological families, foster families, and Department of Human Services staff.

 

ADRIAN CONOBOY
2018 WINNER
“The MLS WORKS Community MVP contest was an unbelievable experience! I was blown away to be nominated…let alone win. With this donation we can continue to grow our charity and support children and young adults affected by cancer through the power of soccer. Thank you to everyone who voted, and to Major League Soccer, Wells Fargo and everyone at New York City FC. Together…We Can Kick It!”

ADRIAN CONOBOY

New York City FC

In 2016, Conoboy was diagnosed with brain cancer. During his time in the hospital, he was touched by the kids around him also battling this journey and decided to use this unfortunate turn of events to do good in his community.

Conoboy founded We Can Kick It, a nonprofit that provides free soccer programs to kids and young adults, ages 6-18, affected by cancer. Their soccer community is based in the New York metropolitan area and their mission is to expand throughout the United States, helping those affected by cancer everywhere.

STEVEN CRUZ
2019 WINNER

STEVEN CRUZ

From a young age, Steven has been traveling to El Salvador where he would spend his summers in his mother’s hometown – a rural community called Los Amates. Despite not having much in common with the children in this community Steven saw that there was a common language they all spoke – it was soccer. Soccer brought him closer to the children in Los Amates, and Steven witnessed the disparities the children endured on a daily basis: limited water, lack of education, and severe poverty.

As Steven grew older and continued visiting his mother’s hometown, he saw the children he once played soccer with were now involved with the local gang. Unfortunately, gang recruitment and violence is very prevalent in communities of Central America.

Unwilling to allow this image to define the people of this community, Steven started Academia de Futbol Juvenil Amatense (AFJA), a LA-based non-profit that recycles any lightly worn soccer equipment and builds sustainable soccer academies in Central America.

Since starting AFJA, a total of three soccer academies have been established. Each student enrolled must abide to three requirements – good academic standing, attendance, and community service. The implementation of requirements has positively impacted the children in these communities. Within the last two years, AFJA has seen a large portion of students are moving on to higher education (where normally, many of the children would not go past fourth grade).