When the NWSL kicked off its 2020 Fall Series, it did so with the announcement of a new award for the competition. In a first of its kind for the league, the Community Shield -- a grant-based award -- will be given to the top three teams based on points earned in the Fall Series The top club will earn a $25,000 grant for their chosen community partner, with second place and third place earning $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.
All nine clubs were tasked with selecting a local business or organization to play for thought out the competition. Let's take a look at some of the local businesses and organizations who have clubs have decided to play for during the 2020 NWSL Fall Series as they continued to be announced.
North Carolina Courage
The North Carolina Courage have chosen to play for local nonprofit 321 Coffee in the 2020 Community Shield. The mission of 321 Coffee is to provide meaningful employment for adults with IDD (intellectual or developmental disabilities) and to model inclusion for other businesses to follow.
North Carolina Courage midfielder Cari Roccaro has a connection with 321 Coffee after being a celebrity barista at the coffee shop in March. Roccaro worked side-by-side with the baristas, learning how to make coffee for customers.
"I am genuinely excited for the opportunity to play for 321 Coffee in the Fall Series and the 2020 Verizon Community Shield," Roccaro said. "I learned so much about the nonprofit when I was a celebrity barista and I know that they could use the grant money to make an even greater impact on the community. 321 Coffee exemplifies inclusion which is also an important message our team wants to relay during this time."
Chicago Red Stars
The Chicago Red Stars have chosen to play for Semicolon -- Chicago's only Black woman-owned bookstore and gallery space.
As the featured business for the Community Shield, Semicolon has already made an impact in the community through their #ClearTheShelves initiative. Every month, Semicolon invites Chicago Public School students to the store and students can take home whatever books they'd like, free of charge.
"Semicolon is an amazing business to play for because of the work they do to spread knowledge and power throughout our community and the representation they bring for women of color in literature and art," Red Stars defender Tierna Davidson said.
The Washington Spirit is playing for DC SCORES, continuing their community partnership since April. DC SCORES utilizes a unique combination of soccer, poetry and service-learning to create neighborhood teams that give 3,000 kids in need the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and in life.
Spirit owner Steve Baldwin has committed to matching any of the Community Shield prizes should the Spirit come away with any of the three grants. He intends to distribute it equally among the team's other community partners -- the Youth Leadership Foundation, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Children's National Hospital, Comfort Cases, Kids Enjoy Exercise Now and Teens Run DC.
The Houston Dash have chosen the Houston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as their Community Shield beneficiary.
"We discussed a foundation that we wanted to choose based on a lot of research we did on the Houston community. Being such a diverse city, we knew there was a lot out there, but the NAACP stood out to us because it dives right into the community in a smaller aspect and then branches into bigger," Dash captain Jane Campbell said. "For us, something as simple as voting rights or the racial biases in the business world -- things that are little but can make an impact. We really wanted to help get rid of that and create change. The NAACP, to us, is going to do that. They're a great organization to support and to play for."
Portland Thorns FC
Mimi's Fresh Tees, a Portland-based t-shirt company that amplifies tough social justice conversations and allows people to wear their truth, is the Thorns' partner for the Community Shield.
"The team is very excited to play for Mimi's Fresh Tees during the Fall Series for the Verizon Community Shield," Thorns FC forward Simone Charley said. "Kamelah Adams [owner and designer of Mimi's] is a great example of someone who not only recognized an issue, but also took action through her work.
"We love her creative ideas on how to continue these conversations and are thrilled to support her positive efforts to impact our community. It is important that the conversations around race continue as these are building blocks to addressing the many systemic issues we are facing in our country."
OL Reign announced the will compete on behalf of the Black Future Co-op Fund. The Black Future Co-op Fund was launched in June 2020 to address the systemic racism and wealth inequality that has disproportionately affected the Black community for generations. The Fund serves as a hub for efforts to combat poverty, build generational wealth, preserve Black culture and celebrate the resilience of Washington's Black community.
"Ever since the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, we as a team have been working feverishly to educate each other and come together as a united front so we can create meaningful change for our local Black and Brown communities that we represent as an organization," forward Jasmyne Spencer said.
"Playing for the Black Future Co-op Fund gives us the chance to partner with four incredible Black women who share our desire to provide resources that will enable these communities to prosper for decades to come."
Utah Royals FC
Utah Royals FC selected Journey of Hope as their local program to play for. The nonprofit organization is based in Sandy, Utah, and it aims to provide support to women and girls at-risk in the area whose status put them in jeopardy for further harm and incarceration.
Journey of Hope empowers at-risk women and girls -- the homeless, the trafficked, those fleeing domestic violence, the addicted, the mentally ill, women transitioning from jail and prison, and girls aging out of state services -- by providing resources through mentoring and case management.
"After getting to know Journey of Hope we knew we wanted to help in any way that we could," Utah Royals FC captain Amy Rodriguez said. "To spotlight this organization is something we are very proud of, and I hope we can make a positive difference in our community."
Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC announced plans to play for local non-profit New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice (NJISJ) was established in 1999 by Alan V. and Amy Lowenstein. NJISJ seeks to empower people of color in New Jersey with its cutting-edge racial and social advocacy. The Institute focuses on exposing and fixing issues of structural racism that have been embedded in communities locally in ways that can be replicable across the nation.
"The Institute does phenomenal work explaining how systemic racism affects the Black experience in America and develops policy to address these discrepancies," said Sky Blue FC defender Imani Dorsey. "I hope our partnership with the Institute can further highlight the hard work they do to advocate for social justice and equality."
Orlando Pride selected Parramore Kidz Zone to play for in the 2020 Community Shield, a program located in the heart of downtown, just a block from the Pride's home at Exploria Stadium, with the mission of leveling the playing field for Parramore's children. The organization aims to equip its children to become successful, healthy, well-educated adults and is achieving this by investing in things that make a difference in children's lives -- such as quality early childhood education, access to health care, mentoring, tutoring, college access assistance and more.