Major League Soccer announced the official launch of MLS ADVANCE–a leading initiative in the league’s strategy to boost inclusion and representation for underrepresented candidates across the MLS ecosystem and beyond.
MLS ADVANCE for sporting roles is an invitation-only professional development and networking series for candidates both 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 noticeable impact with 42% of candidates participating in MLS ADVANCE having received job offers in sporting positions.
MLS ADVANCE launched in December 2022 with a pilot program designed to grow MLS’ global candidate pool and develop and accelerate the professional careers of underrepresented coaches and front office candidates in sporting roles.
The three key pathways of MLS ADVANCE for sporting roles include:
1. Building a Global Diverse Candidate Database – MLS is building a global database of qualified underrepresented candidates by working with expert consultants both domestically and internationally and utilizing this database to provide bespoke hiring support to MLS clubs which includes sharing curated lists of qualified underrepresented candidates for open positions.
2. Networking Events with Key Decision Makers – MLS ADVANCE for sporting roles provides underrepresented job candidates and MLS decision makers with the opportunity to network and build relationships. These networking events take place year-round, including during the league’s annual Chief Soccer Officers (CSO) Meetings which include CSOs and General Managers, at MLS Board of Governors Meetings which include Owners and Chief Business Officers, and at other MLS events.
3. Professional Development – MLS ADVANCE for sporting roles provides its participants with year-round, in-person and virtual professional development programming including upskilling technical skills, interview preparation for candidates and hiring managers, mentorship opportunities, a speaker series with MLS and industry leaders, and coaching licensing support.
As part of its stated commitment to increasing diversity and improving representation, MLS’ strategy is rooted in removing barriers to access and scaling its impact.
While MLS ADVANCE begins with a concentrated focus on sporting positions, the vision of the initiative is to expand in the coming years to business roles in the MLS ecosystem.
“With our League’s richly diverse player and fan populations, our work at MLS is to continue to ensure that our league and clubs reflect the diversity not only of MLS but our sport around the world,” said 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 continue to make our league even stronger.”
MLS ADVANCE will support clubs looking to hire candidates for sporting roles while complying with the league’s updated Diversity Hiring Policy, which requires that the finalist pool for an open sporting position include two or more non-white candidates, one of whom must be Black.
“This past year, in concert with the MLS DEI Committee and stakeholders across the enterprise, we have been laser-focused and intentional on rolling out policies and developing programs that are both sustainable and impactful,” said MLS Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Sola Winley.
“We are delighted to introduce MLS ADVANCE to the global soccer community and encouraged by the initial success and substantial level of interest in the program to date. We are just getting started. The candidates participating in MLS ADVANCE are committed to making our league better and in turn the league is committed to ensuring we provide every opportunity for them 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 having one of the best ownership groups in all of sports and to the exceptional individuals at the league office and our clubs who have been terrific partners and leaders in this effort.”
MLS ADVANCE for sporting roles launched with a 2-day leadership and networking experience in connection with the MLS’ annual Chief Soccer Officer (CSO) meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida in December 2022.
This experience was designed to support candidates’ professional development, enhance their leadership profiles, expand their networks, and introduce them to some of Major League Soccer’s key leaders with the objective of advancing their careers.
“Participating in MLS ADVANCE has been truly life changing for me,” said Hervé Diese, who attended the launch event in December and has since been hired as an Assistant Coach at CF Montréal.
“I was able to learn from some of MLS’ most important leaders, had the chance to sharpen my interviewing and networking skills and ultimately met CF Montréal Assistant Sporting Director Vassili Cremanzidis which led to my new role with the club.
The level of support, assistance and encouragement I’ve received from MLS league staff and leaders around the league over the last few months has blown me away.
I look forward to staying very involved in MLS ADVANCE programming in the years to come as I continue to develop as a coach and as a professional, and one day I hope to mentor and give back to the next generation of diverse leaders in our league.”
For more info about MLS ADVANCE, click here.