Paul McDonough to steer USL forward



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USL with new president Image: United Soccer League

The United Soccer League (USL) (US) announced recently that the experienced soccer executive Paul McDonough has been named as the USL President and Chief Soccer Officer.

‘United Soccer League’ stated that in his new role, McDonough will lead the USL’s ongoing strategic efforts to elevate its professional leagues: The USL Championship, the USL Super League and the USL League One.

Tampa (US)-based the United Soccer League (USL), formerly known as the United Soccer Leagues, is a soccer league in the United States and Canada. It organizes several men’s and women’s leagues, both professional and amateur.

The USL Championship is one of the most successful professional soccer leagues in the world, reaching a population of more than 84 million and fueling the growth of the game across North America. In 2018, The Championship had the biggest season in its history, with almost three million fans attending games over the league’s regular season and postseason.

The USL Super League is a second-division professional women’s soccer league expected to begin play in 2024. Furthering the USL’s commitment to advancing the women’s game, unifying communities and fueling the growth of the sport, the USL Super League aims to double the number of professional women’s soccer teams in the United States by its inaugural season.

The USL League One is shaping the future of the game in the United States, uniting passionate fans in new markets with the thrill of a proven professional soccer experience. After being announced in 2017 as the USL’s third division, the USL League One made its debut in Spring 2019 with 10 teams competing in a 28-game regular season.

‘United Soccer League’ further stated that he will focus on laying out the strategic vision for evolving and implementing the USL’s business and sporting initiatives, including innovative competition reforms that will accelerate USL growth and transform soccer in America.

Said Alec Papadakis, USL head honcho, “The USL is thrilled to welcome Paul McDonough, one of the most respected and qualified soccer executives in the United States, at a pivotal moment in our evolution as the largest and fastest-growing soccer organization in the United States. His experience and knowledge of soccer in America and football abroad are unmatched as it relates to both the on-field product and the business of sports. Paul will assume a major role in taking our professional leagues to the next level, as well as implementing the innovative sporting reforms we have under consideration to more closely align the USL with the global game.”

Added Papadakis, “The USL is steadfastly committed to achieving this goal. Furthermore, Paul’s astute business acumen and comprehensive expertise in the transfer market will greatly enhance our teams, academies and player development pathways while bolstering the financial health of our clubs. With the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup™ on the horizon, Paul will further cement the USL’s position as a global leader for professional soccer.”

The 2026 FIFA World Cup™ will be the 23rd FIFA World Cup™, the quadrennial international men’s soccer championship contested by the national teams of the member-associations of FIFA. It will be jointly hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada and will be held from June 11th-July 19th, 2026.

Stated Paul McDonough, USL President and Chief Soccer Officer, “The USL has evolved incredibly in the last decade, which is a testament to the work of everyone in the league office and all the clubs. It is now firmly established in the fabric of the game in the United States and primed to play a major role in shaping the game’s future here. The USL professional leagues have strong clubs, dedicated ownership, world-class infrastructure, emerging player development pathways, and passionate fan bases. This makes the opportunity to join this organization exciting and interesting, and I look forward to working with the entire USL ecosystem to push our leagues and our business forward.”

McDonough joins the USL with more than 20 years of experience in a variety of leadership roles in American soccer. Most recently, he held the position of Chief Soccer Officer at Wasserman, the sport’s global leader in player representation.

Previously, McDonough served as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Sporting Director of the Major League Soccer (MLS) team Inter Miami CF, where he managed business operations and helped lead the club from its nascent phase through its inaugural season. He played a significant role in the club’s efforts to develop a soccer-specific stadium and a world-class training complex.

In 2016, McDonough served as the Vice-President of Soccer Operations for the MLS team Atlanta United FC, helping launch the expansion club in Major League Soccer in 2017. He was responsible for assembling Atlanta United’s inaugural roster, signing many of the players who went on to win the MLS Cup in 2018 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2019.

The MLS Cup is the annual championship game of Major League Soccer and the culmination of the MLS Cup Playoffs. The game is held in November or December and pits the winner of the Eastern Conference Final against the winner of the Western Conference Final. The MLS Cup winner is awarded the title of league champion.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, commonly known as the U.S. Open Cup, is a knockout cup competition in men’s soccer in the United States of America. It is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the US.

McDonough has previous experience with the USL, having served as the MLS team Orlando City SC’s General Manager when the club was in USL PRO (now USL Championship) in 2014-2015. In his first year, the team enjoyed a successful campaign that saw them break multiple attendance records and finish with the best regular-season record. McDonough then led the club’s soccer operations as it transitioned to Major League Soccer, overseeing the building of the initial roster, which included the global superstar, Kaká (Brazilian former football player) and future Canadian international Cyle Larin (Canadian soccer player), among others.

By signing for Orlando City, Kaká became the highest-paid player in MLS history, with a base salary of US$6.6 million per year, and with a guaranteed compensation of $7.2 million per year.

Like many of the USL’s top executives, McDonough is steeped in the game beyond the front office. He has held assistant coaching roles at the Wake Forest University, the University of South Carolina and the University of Connecticut.

In addition to his strategic business role, McDonough will lead the USL’s Sporting Department, previously managed by the Sporting Director Mark Cartwright. Cartwright, who joined the USL headquarters in 2021, has recently departed to pursue other opportunities abroad.

The Major League Soccer (MLS) is a men’s professional soccer league sanctioned by the United States Soccer Federation, which represents the sport’s highest level in the United States. The league comprises 29 teams – 26 in the United States and 3 in Canada – since the 2023 season. The league is headquartered in Midtown Manhattan, US.

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