United Futbol Academy is looking to balance the gender and opportunity gap in organized soccer and beyond


Girls don’t just dress up as princesses and have tea parties with dolls. Last year, thanks to the United States women’s national soccer team, the whole country learned that girls can kick the ball as far, or even farther, then boys can. Soccer can offer many opportunities to girls and boys that go beyond staying healthy. That is why United Futbol Academy from Des Moines, IA wants to extend a special invitation for girls to join their organization and learn to play soccer and have fun doing it. 

United Futbol Academy (UFA) is a non-profit organization looking to help its participants to reach their goals that go beyond soccer fields. UFA emphasizes athletics, academics, and leadership.

“Our soccer academy focuses on much more than soccer, we also help our kids develop other life skills outside of the soccer field,” Jaime Leiva, a founder and current director of UFA, explained. “We make it our priority to make sure all of our participants are doing well in all aspects of their lives. The academy is a place where individuals can grow.”

Even though United Futbol Academy is a fairly new organization, it was established in 2018, their teams already won first places in various tournaments last year. Beyond those wins on the soccer fields Mr. Leiva explained that when he founded this organization, he wanted the program to give a way towards a successful life for participants. 

There are 18 coaches in total and Mr. Leiva is one of them. He coaches two girls’ teams. UFA is a 12 months soccer program with payments of between $50 to $85 per month depending on the age. The teams meet quite often and in a year, it totals  up to about 200 practices. Throughout the year the kids could play more than 50 games. Even though participants of this program are mostly Latino, UFA is inclusive of everyone and lately, Mr. Leiva expressed that he wishes more girls would participate in this program. 

“It has been an obstacle for more girls to play the sport because parents prioritize their boys when it comes to soccer,” Mr. Leiva shared his perspective on why he believes not many girls participate in soccer programs. “More recently we have seen a growth in interest from parents and we hope this trend continues so that we can continue to provide more opportunities for girls.”

Mr. Leiva added that in spite of loving the game of soccer many Latino parents fail to understand that soccer brings opportunities. For example, good soccer players, both girls, and boys, have a chance to get a sports scholarship to different universities across the country. 


“Our community loves the game of soccer, but sometimes we fail to understand the positive impact that it can make in a person’s life,” Mr. Leiva lamented. 

He clarified his point of view stating that if more parents would understand how many opportunities soccer can provide, they would be more willing to let their daughters play. 

“If parents would understand the full scope of our program and our intent to provide a pathway full of opportunities more families would be willing to register their daughters,” Mr. Leiva assured. 

Soccer might make many opportunities available, but it is certainly not cheap to start. On top of buying soccer shoes, shin guards, soccer balls, uniform, etc. one also has to pay fees to be part of the team. UFA understands that many parents struggle with payments that is why they are currently working on offering scholarships. 


“We are trying to build relationships with several organizations to be able to provide more scholarships for girls to incentivize parents to register their daughters,”’ Mr. Leiva shared. 

Soccer is not exclusively for boys. Girls can kick it like Beckham as well. And who knows, maybe the next Megan Rapinoe is training with the United Futbol Academy today. 

For more information about the UFA please contact Jaime Leiva at (515) 554-0889 or email him at [email protected]. Look for their page United Futbol Academy DMI on Facebook. 

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