CHICAGO – The U.S. Soccer Board of Directors conducted its quarterly meeting Friday in advance of the 2021 Annual General Meeting, which is taking place virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The first of four Board of Directors meetings in 2021 was highlighted by welcoming NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird as a member, updates on National Team programming, U.S. Soccer’s continued COVID-19 protocols to keep staff and players safe and healthy, U.S. Soccer’s COVID-19 Relief Fund program for members and the revised timeline of the 2026 FIFA World Cup City Selection process.

Baird joined the board, replacing Steve Malik as the Pro Council representative.

The federation also announced the reopening of the COVID-19 Grant Fund, which is designed to support U.S. Soccer Members who have struggled financially as a result of the global pandemic. The application process will begin March 1, with notification of application status expected to be provided to members in May.

In the first round of funding, 31 approved applicants received funds totaling $357,000. All U.S. Soccer members in good standing, except for professional leagues, are eligible to apply for funds. U.S. Soccer will provide from $7,500 to a maximum of $15,000 per member depending on the organization’s size and revenue loss due to COVID-19.

Here are other topics that were discussed and approved by the Board in the public and executive sessions:

* U.S. Women’s National Team General Manager Kate Markgraf and Men’s National Team General Manager Brian McBride provided information on recent senior National Team training camps and matches and provided a look at the upcoming schedule in 2021 and 2022.

* U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Earnie Stewart provided an update on U.S. Soccer’s Regional ID Centers, explaining that due to the lack of Youth National Team programming during the pandemic, the centers will become one-day camps. The program will take place in markets across the country and include almost 1,000 players.

* Chief Medical Officer George Chiampas provided insight into the enormous amount of work done by Federation staff to ensure the health and safety of its players, staff and fans during past camps, showcasing the low positive testing rate due to following the health practices outlined by the CDC and the U.S. Soccer Return to Play protocols. He also mentioned the educational resources and programming focused on mental health that are available as part of U.S. Soccer’s Recognize to Recover platform on ussoccer.com.

Director of Extended National Teams Jim Moorhouse provided an update on the programs’ various development initiatives as well as the 2021 calendar, which will include a return to action for the Futsal and Beach Soccer National Teams in May at their respective Concacaf Championships.

Director of Sport Development Dan Russell provided updates on department operations and efforts to address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion locally and nationally within sporting departments. He also introduced Didier Chambaron as the Director of Coaching Education and took the board through a free coach training initiative to be introduced later this year.

Director of Events, Competition and Operations and Special Advisor on the FIFA World Cup 2026 Venue Selection Process Amy Hopfinger provided an update on the 2026 World Cup City Selection process, which is aiming for a December 2021 timeline with its decisions.

Chief Commercial Officer David Wright provided an update on U.S. Soccer’s commercial priorities moving forward.

The Board approved professional league sanctioning for the 2021 season for the USL Championship. Major League Soccer (MLS), National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and USL League One were approved during the last board meeting in December 2020. NISA was approved in February 2020 for its 2020 Fall/2021 Spring season.

The Board of Directors also confirmed that the 2022 Annual General Meeting will take place in early March in Atlanta. The next scheduled Board of Directors meeting will be May 21, 2021.