MLS creates new Sport & Competition Group

Major League Soccer has introduced a new Sport & Competition Group that will oversee all aspects of league play.

The group's work will cover on-field competition, the quality of play and the signing and development of players. It will also cover the entire player pipeline from MLS and Division III MLS Next Pro to MLS Next, the national youth league, and MLS Go, the new recreational initiative.

The new group will be led by Nelson Rodriguez, in the new position of Executive Vice President, Sporting Product & Competition, and Todd Durbin, Executive Vice President, Player Strategy & Relations.

Rodriguez, who spent nearly 15 years as an MLS executive in its early years, has recently served as the MLS chief of staff. He was with the Chicago Fire for almost six years (2015-21), serving at different times as president and general manager.

He will oversee all aspects of how games unfold in all four MLS leagues, including scheduling, match-day operations, officiating, security, and health and medical, and work with Durbin on sporting strategies (how much money teams spend and how they spend it).

Jeff Agoos, Senior Vice President, Competition & Medical Administration, and Jeff Stonebreaker, Senior Vice President, Safety & Security, will report to Rodriguez.

Durbin, one of MLS's first hires on the sporting side in 1995 and a key architect of its competition structure and evolving player mechanisms, will continue to lead the overall strategy on the player side.

He will also work with international governing bodies on rules and policies and work alongside Anastasia Danias, Executive Vice President, General Counsel, on player issues with the MLS Players Association.

Charles Altchek, another MLS Executive Vice President, has been president of MLS Next Pro since its launch in 2022. He will also now oversee MLS Next and MLS Go as well continue to manage matchday operations and expansion.

With Rodriguez's move, Nina Tinari will become MLS's Chief of Staff under Commissioner Don Garber. She joined MLS in February after serving as Vice President of External Affairs and Chief of Staff for the NWSL's Kansas City Current.

Her work in the public sector includes three years as Special Assistant to Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell.
3 comments about "MLS creates new Sport & Competition Group".
  1. R2 Dad, September 21, 2023 at 5:25 p.m.

    These should be USSF positions, and NOT report up the chain to Garber. The USSF should be managing these functions for the benefit of players & coaches, instead of for the benefit of MLS.

  2. humble 1, September 22, 2023 at 1:22 a.m.

    Really does not make a difference R2.  Putting people who have never played professionally and have never developed profjessional players - on the pitch - in a central location - removed form the competittion - in charge of professional player development will never ever work.  They know this - it is window dressing.  Just look at Chicago House for USSF - since 1991 what ground breaking changes did they make for our youth programs?  Being somewhat familiar with Uruguay's youth setup because my player has trained there off and on - we know - the AUF - Uruguays USSF - does not tell clubs how to develop players.  The clubs do this.  The way they manage it is pretty simple. Youth coaches at every level must show progression in players.  The U16 coach knows what he needs from the incoming U15s.  They only coach one age group.  If you fail to progress the players - you won't last long.  The last link in the chain is the U19 team - certain number of those players must progress to the 2nd team - sign pro contract.  Then to the 1st team.  These academies do not collect any fees - maybe they get a stimpend from AUF - small - mostly - they live off the training and solidarity payments from the pro players they've produced.  So - if you don't produce pro players - eventually - you won't be able to pay your bills.  Probably in the ebb and flow of things - there are hard times - then you get a Darwin Nunez xfer - and you bank $3.5M - enough to run your academy for at least a couple of years.  MLS really is not in the youth development business - if they were - they'd already be out of business - USSF did not even begin registering players so that Transfer and Solidarity payments could be properly applied for and paid - until some time in 1999, less than 5 years ago.  One year that I took my son to train in Uruguay - was with the U16s - the team was not performing - as expected - given it's past as U15 and U14 and before that all the guys in baby futbol - the coach was under so much pressure - it got to the kiddos - a huge fight broke out - we had to move my son to train with the U17 of a different club.  This was at the highest level there - their MLS Academies.  That is the pressure to peform and produce we do not have.  It is not unlike the relegation pressure in a way - though different - similar - in that if you fail - everyone is watching - there is no smiles - no reward - no draft - you get fired.  

  3. Nate Spencer, September 23, 2023 at 10:50 p.m.

    Anyone know how long this has been in the works to create or did it just pop up? Sources required 

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