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Ryan Hollingshead On His Near-Fatal Accident And Giving Back

The soccer star was just named MLS Humanitarian of the Year.

FC Dallas midfielder Ryan Hollingshead is the winner of this year’s MLS Humanitarian of the Year, an award honoring a player for their athletics and their service in the community.

Hollingshead has made contributions on and off the field since being drafted out of UCLA in 2013’s MLS SuperDraft. After FC Dallas selected him in the second round, Hollingshead opted to delay his professional career in order to spend a year at home in Northern California helping his brother build a church and doing volunteer work in Haiti. He signed with the team a year later but missed the first part of the 2017 season after a near-fatal accident fractured three vertebrae in his neck.

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An NFL Team’s Revolutionary Approach To Helping A Neighborhood

An experimental jobs program hopes to end the stigma around new sports stadiums.

On Aug. 26, the Atlanta Falcons played a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals in the first event at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The $1.5-billion stadium, which will also be the home field for Atlanta’s United FC soccer team and will host the Super Bowl in 2019, seats over 70,000 fans and features a retractable roof and a 68,000-square-foot display, the largest video board in the NFL. Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank called it “the finest sports entertainment complex in the United States,” but its location on the west side of Atlanta places it, like so many other sports complexes, in neighborhoods considered some of the most impoverished, not just in Atlanta, but in the entire Southeast.

[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]You can’t have this beautiful thing that is going to help define the skyline of Atlanta next to some of the most marginalized and disenfranchised communities in the city.[/quote]

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Atlanta’s Big Goal

The city unveils the world’s first soccer field in a transit station, with a plan to connect the city through sports

In the heart of downtown Atlanta, not far from City Hall, and just blocks from Georgia State’s sprawling campus and the future site of the $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium—where Atlanta’s United FC pro soccer team and the Atlanta Falcons will play—sits the Five Points MARTA train station. It is the largest and busiest train station in Atlanta, and is currently home to the world’s first soccer field inside a train station.

On a warm Saturday, Lauren Desmond, director of coaching and education for Soccer in the Streets, arrives to open the field that hosts their youth soccer program four days a week, complete with coaches and volunteers. The 66 by 99 feet of bright green turf sits nestled between corporate offices and local businesses, where it replaced a concrete amphitheater originally built in 1978 that sat unused for decades. Now the headquarters for Soccer in the Streets’ Station Soccer, the site sits above the bustling tracks and main hub of Atlanta’s transit system. Kids from across Atlanta arrive with their parents or wander over from nearby neighborhoods such as Vine City, to enjoy fresh air and exercise on a beautiful 60-degree day.

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