DC SCORES poet-athletes kicked off a week of events for the MLS All-Star game. Photo: MLS WORKS.
The stars were out for DC SCORES poet-athletes this week as some of the biggest names in global soccer arrived in the District for the 2023 MLS All-Star game.
The annual event sees the best players in Major League Soccer (MLS) take on a top international club in front of tens of thousands of fans. The match is also accompanied by world-class events, concerts, fan experiences, and community days.
This year, the All-Stars took on Arsenal F.C., and — thanks to an official community partnership between DC SCORES and MLS club D.C. United — poet-athletes were well-represented as the District demonstrated its Sports Capital credentials.
“When we learned that the MLS All-Star game would be hosted in DC, we were incredibly eager to team up with DC SCORES and use this moment to shine a light on the remarkable poet-athletes in our shared community!” said Shanell Mosley, a DC SCORES Board Member as well as Director of Community Relations at D.C. United and Executive Director at the D.C. United Foundation.
“For this historic moment, we hope that fans experience the creativity, teamwork, and dedication of DC SCORES participants as well as the incredible impact they have on our great city,” she added.
Poet-athletes from Seaton Elementary School pose with MLS All-Stars, D.C. United players and staff, and representatives from the U.S. Soccer Foundation and MLS WORKS at the opening of the school’s new mini-pitch.
Kicking Off A New Soccer Legacy at Seaton Elementary
Poet-athletes began the week’s activities at the 2023 MLS WORKS + BODYARMOR All-Star Community Day, which was held at long-time DC SCORES partner school Seaton Elementary School on July 17.
Students from the DC SCORES teams at Seaton, Raymond Elementary School, and H.D. Cooke Elementary School participated in skills clinics with D.C. United coaches, current and former MLS All-Star players, and Arsenal legends Lauren and Ray Parlour.
After a poetry performance from the Seaton team, poet-athletes closed the event with a ceremonial first kick at a brand-new mini-pitch at the school. The pitch, which Seaton poet-athletes designed in collaboration with Design FC and the U.S. Soccer Foundation, celebrates the diversity of the school community and will provide a safe place to play for kids in the Shaw neighborhood for decades to come.
Seaton 3rd-grader Jeremiah was proud of the long-term impact the pitch would have. He said, “I know when I’m older and I come back to Seaton and see another kid on the little mini-pitch, I’ll know that that right there, we made that.”
DC SCORES Senior Program Director Jason Gross (second from right) poses with representatives from Howard University at 2023 All-Star Hometown Heroes. From left: Howard University Men’s Soccer Team former head coaches Keith Tucker and Lincoln Phillips, Head Coach Phillip Gyau, Gross, and Executive Senior Associate Athletics Director of Howard Athletics Chevonne Mansfield.
Honoring Local Legends
On July 18, DC SCORES staff attended 2023 All-Star Hometown Heroes, an event hosted by MLS, D.C. United, Black Players for Change, and RBC Wealth Management.
The awards ceremony recognized the impact of local people and organizations that advance opportunity, empowerment, and service in the District. Guests were also treated to a poetry performance by DC SCORES Associate Program Director of Creative Writing Tatiana Figueroa Ramírez.
Among this year’s winners was Howard University’s Men’s Soccer Program, which has been instrumental in the growth of soccer and DC SCORES in the District. Jason Gross, Senior Program Director of Soccer and Operations at DC SCORES and an alumnus of both DC SCORES and the Howard soccer team, was in the audience to celebrate the honor.
“Being part of an event that highlighted my mentors and colleagues in two organizations that have made such a big impact on the District, and on my own life, was really special,” said Gross, who also serves as an Assistant Coach for the Men’s Soccer Team at Howard. “This celebration of the incredible work of leaders who have advanced soccer in Black communities both at home and abroad was inspiring and really brought home all the reasons I get up for work in the morning.”
DC SCORES team members Clint Smith, Gaby Vincent, Jason Gross, Saede Eifrig, and Will Sutton pose at the BODYARMOR Creators Cup 3 v 3 Tournament.
Building Community at the Creators Cup
Later in the day, Gross was representing DC SCORES again, this time as the nonprofit’s team captain at the BODYARMOR Creators Cup 3 v 3 Tournament. The event, which was held at Hi-Lawn at Union Market, saw teams of soccer legends, media influencers, and local community members battle it out in skills challenges and a 3-a-side tournament.
The DC SCORES team featured award-winning poet and inaugural Poet-Athlete Award winner Clint Smith, former Washington Spirit player Gaby Vincent, as well as Gross and DC SCORES staff members Saede Eifrig and Will Sutton.
The team took on squads from 5ASIDE podcast, content creators SoccerGirlProbs, and more, with opponents including former USWNT star Joanna Lohman and D.C. United legend Bill Hamid.
“Playing alongside some of my soccer heroes, including former national team players, was wonderful and surreal,” said Eifrig. “But what was even better was being able to introduce them to the work we do at DC SCORES and spread the word about our poet-athletes’ impact in the District.”
DC SCORES Executive Director Katrina Owens accepts a check for $25,000 from MLS All-Star and D.C. United goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
An Impactful Gift
To cap off a busy day, DC SCORES staff members and poet-athletes joined thousands of fans at Audi Field for the 2023 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge.
After hosting a tailgate with partners District Sports and D.C. United supporters group The Screaming Eagles, staff joined DC SCORES teams from schools across the District to watch the All-Star and Arsenal players show off their skills in competitions that included the cross-bar challenge and goalie wars.
The competition was fierce as each squad chased a win and the chance to donate to a nonprofit of their choice. As the recipient of the All-Stars check, DC SCORES supporters were among the loudest in the stands.
Despite an Arsenal victory, their enthusiasm was rewarded when All-Star and D.C. United goalkeeper Tyler Miller presented a check for $25,000 to DC SCORES Executive Director Katrina Owens to help fund the organization’s soccer, poetry, and service-learning programs.
“A gift like this will have a huge impact on the poet-athletes of DC,” said Tony Francavilla, Chief Development Officer at DC SCORES. “We’re incredibly thankful for MLS WORKS, the All-Stars, and — of course – our partners at D.C. United for making this investment in our community right as the District steps into the soccer spotlight.”
On July 19, the main event of All-Star week arrived as the MLS’s best met Arsenal at Audi Field. DC SCORES staff and coaches took in the action in a game that broke Audi Field’s attendance record.
“All-Star week was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our kids,” said Katrina Owens, Executive Director of DC SCORES. “Being able to see some of the biggest names soccer play at their hometown field will be a memory they cherish forever. We’re beyond grateful for our wonderful partners in the District who enabled us to make these moments for our poet-athletes and make us part of a week we’ll never forget.”