D.C.-area youth soccer players occupied the South Lawn pitch Monday evening as the White House hosted a soccer clinic featuring professional players from Major League Soccer.
Dressed in various MLS team jerseys, D.C.-area kids participated in the event just days before D.C. hosts the MLS All-Star Game at Audi Field. Participants trained with area youth coaches and former MLS players before playing matches alongside the pros that will play in the exhibition.
Thennie Freeman, interim director of D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, told WTOP that 75 D.C.-based players that participate in the department’s soccer program in one of its seven recreational centers were selected to take part in the special training session on the South Lawn. It was a first-come, first-served sign-up process, and the response was “overwhelming,” she said.
“Many young people live in the District but they never get the opportunity to visit the White House. So one, to visit the White House and two, to play on the White House lawn — isn’t that a memorable moment for any child?” Freeman said.
The White House billed the event as part of first lady Jill Biden’s continued effort to “highlight how sports unites us, and supports and empowers young people.” Following warm-ups, the first lady arrived to address all the players while donning an all-star team jersey.
“When we work as one to score that point or cheer on our team, sports unite us across backgrounds and borders. There are no strangers in the stands or on the field,” Biden said.
By the end of the clinic, President Joe Biden came out for a surprise appearance, met with several of the youth players and chatted with players of the all-star team.
D.C. United player Christian Benteke, who was also selected for the all-star team, took part in the event and kicked around soccer balls with kids and answered questions. The striker also had a lengthy chat with President Biden during their handshake next to the White House.