Major League Soccer touts sporting diversity initiative

Major League Soccer, where black athletes make up 57% of rosters, is launching new initiatives to open up coaching and athletic positions to underrepresented groups.

Major League Soccer is taking the initiative to improve representation in sporting positions among its clubs.

The MLS Advance program is part of the Governing Body’s goal to expand its talent pool of candidates from underrepresented groups. The invitation-only development and networking series is open to candidates inside and outside of MLS who are ready to join or lead clubs in MLS, MLS Next or MLS Next Pro.

Forty-two percent of candidates taking part in MLS Advance have received expanded job offers in athletic positions since its launch in December.

“Given the diverse player and fan populations of our league, our work at MLS is to continue to ensure that our league and clubs reflect the diversity not only of MLS but of our sport around the world,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in an explanation. “MLS Advance will identify and develop a future generation of great leaders who will take MLS to the next level and make our league even stronger.”

The goal of the initiative is to grow MLS’ global candidate pool and accelerate their professional careers as coaches and front office staff by:

• Building a global diverse candidate database. MLS works with distributors in North America and internationally to leverage club recruitment support. It involves sharing curated lists of qualified underrepresented candidates for job vacancies.

• Conducting networking events with decision makers. The initiative brings together underrepresented job candidates and league decision-makers throughout the year, including the annual meetings of the league’s Chief Soccer Officers, which are also attended by clubs’ general managers. They also meet at MLS Board of Governors meetings, which include team owners and chief business officers, and at other league events.

• Promote professional development for sporting roles. MLS offers participants an in-person and virtual year-round professional development program that includes technical skills and interview preparation for candidates and hiring managers. The league also offers mentoring opportunities, speaker series with MLS and industry leaders, and coaching licensing support.

“Over the past year, we have partnered with MLS’ DEI Committee and stakeholders across the business in a purposeful and focused manner to implement policies and develop programs that are both sustainable and impactful,” said Sola, MLS executive vice president and chief diversity officer Winley.

While athletic positions are the initial focus of MLS Advance, league leaders hope to expand the focus to business roles.

MLS has made strides in diversity on and off the field.

In 2023, 57% of players are Black or Hispanic, compared to 36% in 2007, while 34% of first-team head coaches are Black or Hispanic, compared to 7% 16 years ago. Between August 2022 and November 2022, hiring of black candidates increased by 120%.

The league updated its Diversity Hiring Policy in 2021 which includes rules for the Diversity Policy Portal where clubs are required to submit full details of vacant sporting positions and their application process.

Since the policy change, 51% of sports roles filled in the first year of the updated policy were filled by underrepresented candidates and 64% of MLS Next Pro sports roles filled in the first two months of the expanded policy were filled by underrepresented candidates.

Zoran Krneta, Charlotte FC sporting director, said: “We all have the same goal – to make our teams as strong as possible on and off the pitch – and we know that expanding and diversifying our talent pool is key to this success. “

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