What’s true in USL will be true in MLS, at least at one staffing position. From Club release:
NASHVILLE (October 30, 2018) – Nashville’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team announced the hiring of Mike Jacobs as General Manager for Soccer Operations on Tuesday morning.
Jacobs will maintain his current position as Technical Director with Nashville SC of the United Soccer League (USL) and transition into his new MLS role during the 2019 season.
“I am excited to announce Mike’s appointment as General Manager in the early stages of our club’s development,” said Nashville MLS CEO Ian Ayre. “Mike has significant experience in the U.S. Soccer industry both at the collegiate and professional level, and his varied expertise across the game is a key skill set as we embark on our Major League Soccer journey. In my experience, building successful teams is all about matching the best talent to the right opportunity. Mike’s knowledge of the U.S. soccer landscape and his creative approach to building a roster are crucial factors as we begin assembling a team and the associated infrastructure needed to create a successful soccer club.”
Nashville MLS lead owner John Ingram commented, “Having had the opportunity to see Mike’s work with our USL franchise in 2018, where he played a key part in assembling our successful roster for the season, I am delighted to see him transition into this prominent role with MLS.”
Prior to arriving in Nashville, Jacobs was the Assistant Technical Director for Sporting Kansas City of MLS from 2015-17. He helped oversee the club’s U.S. Open Cup Championships in 2015 and 2017, in addition to Sporting KC’s CONCACAF Champions League appearance in 2016. Jacobs also served as President of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), the world’s largest soccer coaches organization, in 2016. His collegiate soccer background includes roles as Head Coach for the University of Evansville Men’s team and Assistant Coach for Duke University.
“With a career in sport that has developed over many years and in a variety of soccer environments, I am grateful and excited to be given the opportunity to hold this position for Nashville as we head to Major League Soccer,” said Jacobs. “Nashville and its soccer aspirations are both headed in an upward trajectory, and I am proud for myself, and my family, to be a part of this incredible journey.”
This may be an obvious hire, but obvious can be good, and is in this case.
Jacobs is the sort of guy in soccer who knows everybody, from his time with SKC, to Evansville, to being president of the Organization that is now United Soccer Coaches, and so on and so forth. That just about everyone he comes across considers him “one of the good guys” is both a positive – and no coincidence.
It’s fair to say that, with a limited budget compared to the Cincinnatis, Tampa Bays, and Louisvilles of the world, the roster he constructed for the inaugural season of the USL lifetime of the club was an exceptional one. He managed to find plenty of value in players who were underappreciated (either in role or in compensation) by other clubs, and while the season didn’t end the way fans wanted, it wasn’t because the pieces underachieved in comparison to what the opposition did.
There’s also obvious value in a guy who is already in Nashville, has local and organizational knowledge already established, and seems intent on setting down roots in the Music City. Keeping a guy just because he’s here isn’t the right move, of course, but with a year-plus for the organization writ large to evaluate his performance, and over five months for MLS CEO Ian Ayre, the evaluation passed with flying colors, and Jacobs’s investment in the community is certainly a bonus.
The way this role evolves over the next year (as noted in the release, he’ll transition from focusing on USL to MLS over the course of the 2019 season) will be interesting to watch. The staffing, scouting, negotiating demands will be very different at the big league level than they are with USL.