MLS Launches MLS ADVANCE to Increase Diversity in MLS Ecosystem • SoccerToday

Proven path: 42% of candidates involved in MLS ADVANCE were hired by MLS clubs in sporting positions

MLS ADVANCE is part of the league’s commitment, begun in 2020, to drive recruitment and recruitment
Promoting coaches and candidates from underrepresented groups across M
major league football.

Major League Soccer made the official reveal in February MLS AHEAD … a leading initiative in the league’s strategy to enhance the inclusion and representation of underrepresented candidates for sporting positions throughout the MLS ecosystem and beyond.

MLS ADVANCE for sporting roles is a Invitations only professional development and networking series for candidates inside and outside the MLS ecosystem who are ready to join or lead an MLS, MLS NEXT or MLS NEXT Pro Club.

The program has already had a tangible impact with 42 percent of candidates participating in MLS ADVANCE receiving offers in sporting positions.

MLS ADVANCE launched in December 2022 with a pilot program aimed at expanding MLS’ global candidate pool and developing and accelerating the professional careers of underrepresented coaches and front office candidates in athletic roles.

The three main routes of MLS ADVANCE to sporting roles include:

  1. Building a Global Diverse Candidate Database – MLS builds a global database of qualified underrepresented candidates by working with expert advisors both domestically and internationally.
  2. Networking Events with Key Decision Makers – MLS ADVANCE for Sporting Roles offers underrepresented job applicants and MLS decision makers the opportunity to network and build relationships. These networking events take place throughout the year, including during the league’s annual Chief Soccer Officers (CSO) meetings.
  3. Professional development – MLS ADVANCE for Sporting Roles offers its attendees an in-person and virtual professional development program year-round, including improving technical skills, candidate and hiring manager interview preparation, mentoring opportunities, a speaker series featuring MLS and industry leaders, and assistance with of coaching licensing.

As part of their stated commitment to greater diversity and better representation, MLS’s strategy is rooted in removing barriers to entry and scaling its impact.

While MLS ADVANCE begins with a focused focus on sporting positions, the initiative plans to expand to business roles in the MLS ecosystem in the coming years.

“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 just of MLS but of our sport around the world,” said the MLS commissioner Don Garber.

“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.”

MLS commissioner Don Garber

MLS ADVANCE will support clubs looking to recruit candidates for sporting roles while complying with the league’s updated hiring policy on diversity, which dictates that the finalist pool for an open sporting position must include two or more non-white candidates, one of whom must be black must.

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“Over the past year, we have partnered with the 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 MLS Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Sola Winley.

“The candidates who compete in MLS ADVANCE are committed to making our league better, and in return the league is committed to ensuring we give them every opportunity to contribute at the highest level. We all share the common goal of making MLS one of the best leagues in the world. It’s a testament to our having one of the finest ownership groups in all of sport and to the extraordinary people at the league office and our clubs who have been outstanding partners and leaders in this effort,” said Winley.

“Participating in MLS ADVANCE has really changed my life,” he said Herve This, who attended the kick-off event in December and has since been employed as an assistant coach at CF Montréal. “I was able to learn from some of the key leaders in MLS, had the opportunity to hone my interviewing and networking skills and finally met CF Montréal Assistant Sporting Director Vassili Cremanzidis, which led to my new role at the club. I have been blown away by the level of support, help and encouragement I have received from MLS league staff and leaders over the past few months. I look forward to staying heavily involved in MLS ADVANCE programming in the years to come as I continue to develop as a coach and as a professional and hope to one day mentor and give back to the next generation of diverse leaders in our league. ”

Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta

“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,” said Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta. “I am so grateful that MLS has gone beyond simply setting diversity hiring standards by working with us and giving us tools to exceed those standards for the good of our team, our league and our sport.”

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“We are grateful to see not just policies but meaningful and valuable programs like MLS ADVANCE that have emerged as a result of our deeply committed partnerships and shared vision with MLS,” he said Quincy Amarikwa, Founder and Executive Director of Black Players for Change (BPC) and participant of MLS ADVANCE. “We are encouraged by the results to date and know that the list of qualified individuals eager to help continue the league’s progress will only grow. This positive shift in thought leadership continues to create concrete pathways that would not be possible without the involvement of all key stakeholders.”

In addition to events such as the program held at the MLS CSO Annual Meeting in December, MLS ADVANCE is also working to expand its talent pool in MLS’ other existing professional development programs for coaches. For example, since the launch of MLS ADVANCE, diversity has been prioritized in the MLS Elite Formation Coaching License Program (EFCL), which is run in partnership with the French Football Federation and is one of the most respected and rigorous football coaching programs in the world. Nine of the 25 candidates in this year’s EFCL group come from underrepresented backgrounds, including the program’s first female candidate.

Candidates or football leaders interested in participating in or learning more about MLS ADVANCE should contact [email protected].

MLS ADVANCE is one of the many advances MLS has made since it made a series of commitments to increase inclusion and representation in 2020. In recent years MLS has:

  • Increased player and coach diversity – In 2023, 57 percent of the league’s players are Black or Hispanic (up from 36 percent in 2007); Thirty-four percent of the league’s first-team head coaches are Black or Hispanic (up from 7 percent in 2007). Between August 2022 and November 2022, hiring of black candidates increased by 120 percent.
  • Appointment of Sola Winley, Executive Vice President, Commissioner’s Office & Chief Diversity Officer in 2021. Since his appointment two years ago, Winley has worked with colleagues in the league office, owners and clubs to reposition DEI as a business imperative and core operating principle.
  • Updated and improved the league’s diversity hiring policy in 2021 by ensuring that the finalist pool for an open sport position includes two or more non-white candidates, one of whom must be black. The guideline also contains rules relating to the Diversity Policy Portal (DPP), to which clubs must submit full details of vacant sporting positions and their application procedures. Teams that do not comply with the policy can be fined up to $100,000. Since the policy change:
    • 51 percent of MLS sports roles filled in the first year of the updated policy were filled by underrepresented candidates
    • 64 percent of the MLS NEXT Pro sports roles filled in the first two months of the updated policy were filled by underrepresented candidates
    • Updated guidelines have resulted in a database of over 300 underrepresented candidates
    • The updated policy has resulted in over 200 underrepresented candidates being interviewed as finalists for roles
  • Partnered with the National Black Bank Foundation in 2022 using a historic $25 million loan from a consortium of black banks. This is the first time that a sports league has participated in a large commercial transaction involving only black banks. Since the announcement a year ago, the partnership has had a tangible impact and is part of the League’s strategy to close the racial wealth gap. This first-of-its-kind commercial transaction has resulted in more opportunities for NBBF and Black Banks, including but not limited to:
    • Increased volume for local black community banks (over $10m to date)
    • Approximately $45 million in earned media through strategic partnerships
    • Additional sports business opportunities including financing of construction of new Baltimore Arena
    • Presentation at MLS Annual Finance Meeting with Club CFOs
    • Participated in national conferences including the Milken Institute Global Conference and the Aspen Institute
    • Attended the Black Sports Business Symposium and Pro Sports Assembly with MLS CFO Sean Prendergast
  • Introducing MLS NEXT WellbeingNSoccer Culture Coordinators – in partnership with the Sanneh Foundation, an immersive two-day coaching education program that provides coaches and academy staff with tools for informed conversations about real-world scenarios of discriminatory behavior for the 13,000 elite players, coaches and parents within the MLS NEXT ecosystem. Coordinators who complete the program conduct training for their academy staff, players and parents. Since 2022, more than 5000 academy staff, players and parents have been trained by the first class of cultural coordinators.
  • Created MLS All-Star Hometown Heroes Showcase a new signature program at the MLS All-Star Game to highlight and empower innovative, diverse influencers who positively improve lives and drive change in the MLS All-Star markets.
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Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer, which celebrates its 28th season in 2023, includes 29 clubs across the United States and Canada, including expansion team 2023 St. Louis CITY SC. From February 1, 2023, all MLS, Leagues Cup and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches can be viewed via the MLS Season Pass available in the Apple TV app on Apple devices, smart TVs, streaming devices and set-top boxes, game consoles and on the web at

Source: press release

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