Christen Press presented the Angel City FC co-founders with an award at the Grassroot Soccer's World AIDS Day Gala. (Noam Galai/Getty Images)

Angel City FC star Christen Press praised the NWSL team Thursday night as she presented an award to the co-founders for their commitment to gender equity in sports.

The 33-year-old forward, who became the first player to sign with the expansion club in 2021, helped to celebrate Angel City FC at Grassroot Soccer’s World AIDS Day Gala in New York.

“In its first year as a professional club, Angel City FC became one of the most successful business models in sports,” Press said. “All of this, because Angel City believes in a diverse, equitable and fair future for women and all people and they built a community that believes the same.”

Angel City FC co-founder and president Julie Uhrman accepted the Grassroot Soccer Game-Changer Award, which recognizes those who have demonstrated “extraordinary leadership in driving real and meaningful social change.” Her fellow co-founders Natalie Portman and Kara Nortman were also honored.

The presentation came during Grassroot Soccer’s 20th anniversary celebration. Throughout its 20 years in existence, Grassroot Soccer has helped to bring live-saving health information, services and mentorship to more than 18 million young people in over 60 countries. Grassroot Soccer raises over $1 million each year through the gala.

“Winners of the award are equity champions, passionate advocates, movement builders and unifiers who bring different stakeholders together to work toward a common goal,” Press said. “Angel City and Grassroots Soccer have shared values: We leverage soccer for social impact. Angel City is a women’s professional soccer club in Los Angeles that pursues goals that are bigger than soccer.”

In its first year as a club, Angel City FC sold out four home games, as well as 16,000 season tickets. The team also sold out a game against OL Reign on the same day that Juventus played a sold-out game against Real Madrid at the Rose Bowl.

“We have proof that if you lead with purpose, if you lead with your values you can build a community that’s different and will show up for you no matter who else is playing down the street,” Uhrman said during her acceptance speech.

Originally, Uhrman admitted, she and her co-founders didn’t strive to build a soccer club at all. They simply wanted to build something bigger than the game following the USWNT’s 2019 World Cup win.

The three co-founders wanted to drive equity and make an impact on the sport. Ultimately, Angel City FC was formed with a majority-female ownership group with a goal to make women’s soccer more accessible.

“After the women had won the World Cup in 2019 and we felt like there was an incredible wave that we could ride,” Uhrman said. “We could use football as a platform to drive for equity and impact and build an organization where mission and capital could co-exist where we never had to decide whether we wanted to do something good or make money, but recognize the importance of doing both at the same time.”

ACFC has shown up in their community in a number of ways, including creating a first-of-its-kind sponsorship model that drives revenue back into the community. Through that model, ACFC has generated more than $1 million to put back into the community.

They’ve also helped more than 70 different women become coaches and donated food through their partnership with Sprouts Farmers Market.

“This goes beyond just soccer,” Uhrman said. “We want to make sure that we have a positive impact in LA and ultimately grow that beyond. And we do that by building community. We’ve been intentional about building a community that is diverse and inclusive. That is representative of LA and we live our values every single day with our community.”

And ACFC doesn’t want to just make an impact domestically. They want to take their brand across the world.

“If we are global, we can draw more attention and awareness to the impact we are building,” Uhrman said. “We can draw more attention to these incredible women athletes who deserve the same attention, the same dollars, the same sponsorship as men. And we can put women on an even playing field. Because we believe getting to equity is possible and that is something that we focus and work on every single day.

“Our purpose and vision is global and we’re gonna use our platform unapologetically to tell the world that women are as good as men. We’re gonna drive to equity and we’re gonna make a difference every single step of the way.”