Sports executive Marla Messing, best known as the president and CEO of the1999 Women's World Cup organizing committee, has been named the NWSL's interim CEO in charge of the league's day-to-day operations.
Her appointment comes 15 days after Lisa Baird stepped down as NWSL commissioner in the wake of revelations about former NWSL coach Paul Riley and the inaction on Baird's part to investigate complaints of sexual coercion made about Riley by two of his former players, Sinead Farrelly and Mana Shim.
Investigations into those complaints as well as other cases of abuse within the league and what was known about them are ongoing by multiple organizations, including FIFA, U.S. Soccer and the NWSL.
After Baird's departure, a three-woman executive committee consisting of Amanda Duffy, Angie Long and Sophie Sauvage was formed to oversee the NWSL as it attempts to get out from overcome what Shim described as "institutional failure." With Messing's appointment, that committee has been dissolved.
The NWSL will continue its global search for a permanent commissioner. The search committee is comprised of current members of the NWSL's board of directors. The board has also agreed to give NWSLPA representatives an opportunity to meet with potential candidates and have what the league described as "a meaningful opportunity to be heard in the selection of the next commissioner."
The opportunity to participate in the commissioner selection process is one of the eight demands made by the NWSLPA. On Monday, it agreed to give the league an additional seven-day good-faith extension in order to resolve the other demands.
Latham & Watkins alum. Messing came out of Latham & Watkins, the Los Angeles-based law firm where former U.S. Soccer president Alan Rothenberg was a partner and many other attorneys have gone to work in executive positions in soccer.
Among her positions in soccer:
-- Executive vice president of the 1994 World Cup organizing committee;
-- Senior vice president of Major League Soccer at its launch;
-- President and CEO of the 1999 Women's World Cup organizing committee.
The 1999 Women's World Cup drew record crowds for women's soccer and shattered television viewing records. After the USA beat China in the final at the Rose Bowl, Time, Newsweek, People and Sports Illustrated featured the U.S. women on the cover, the first time the same subject has appeared on the covers of all four weekly publications.
"Sports is certainly a leading factor in the cultural evolution of women all around the world," Messing told Soccer America in its 1999 Women's World Cup preview. "We seem to accept women as athletes before we accept them, perhaps, in a business environment or a political environment. As there are increased opportunities for women in athletics, particularly in soccer -- and they are given recognition as soccer players -- we can slowly bring them into other parts of our society."
In 2020, Messing was named as executive producer for the Netflix feature film on the '99ers after the rights to New York Times reporter Jere Longman’s book on the 1999 U.S. Women's World Cup championship team, “The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World” was acquired.
LA Olympic bid committee executive. Messing was vice president and executive director of the 2024/2028 Los Angeles Olympic and Paralympic Bid Committee, working with international federations on venue issues. In 2017, Los Angeles was named the host of the 2028 Summer Olympics. Most recently, she was the CEO at USTA Southern California, the former Southern California Tennis Association, which dates back to 1887 and has 40,000 members.
In a statement issued by the NWSL, Messing said she fully embraced the need to transform the NWSL so that player welfare was central to every discussion and decision"
"I also want to commend the bravery and strength of each and every player in the league to demand the change that should be at the core of every organization. Gaining the trust of our players and uniting players and owners is central to my approach so that we can most effectively create systemic change."