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Another Year, Another Crop of White Men in MLS Head Coaching Positions

by on 6 December 2017

For any struggling or under-performing team, the first order of business is usually to get the coaching right. This offseason, a handful of MLS teams parted with their on-field management and all but Portland have filled their vacancies. The hires are a mixed bag. Some moves, like Montréal’s recruitment of former Lyon and Aston Villa manager Rémi Garde, are truly impressive. San Jose showed ambition of a sort, looking globally and finding a total unknown in Swedish boss Mikael Stahre. On the other hand, a few cases were real eyebrow-raisers, like Colorado’s choice of international journeyman Anthony Hudson, or New England’s selection of USMNT legend and novice coach Brad Friedel.

But regardless of national background or experience, what unites all of these new MLS coaches—and all of the midseason MLS hires: Mike Petke, Chris Leitch, Sigi Schmid, Bob Bradley—is that they are all white men.

The 2018 MLS season will start with twenty three teams, of which at least eighteen will be helmed by a non-Hispanic white male. Of the thirteen head coaches with American passports, all are white men. Just three teams; Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta, are led by Hispanic men. The only black coach in the league is NYCFC’s Patrick Vieira, a title he has now held for two seasons.

Before Vieira was hired in November of 2015, MLS had gone three consecutive seasons without a black head coach since the dismissal of Robin Fraser from Chivas USA. And of course, it hardly needs mentioning that no woman has ever coached an MLS team, and virtually none have even operated as part of an MLS technical staff. MLS is at least behind professional leagues in France, Hong Kong, the NBA, and even the NFL in this regard.

Individually, you can justify any of this offseason’s hires. But the larger pattern is quite clear and it’s an embarrassment for “the most diverse league in North America.”

American soccer does not produce enough African-American or Hispanic-American coaches, and it doesn’t reliably hire or elevate the ones that it does produce, like Fraser, Brian Haynes, Ezra Hendrickson, or Hugo Perez. And of course, it does not consider women for roles coaching men.

I’m not going to belabor the point. As a white guy, writing for a website mostly run by other white guys, it’s important to note that there are few corners of American soccer that would not benefit from a stronger emphasis on diversity. This exact article about coaches has been repeatedly written, season after season, for example, here and here. Until MLS, U.S. Soccer, and the larger community recognize this as a problem, and we collectively demand and take meaningful steps to address it, articles like this will continue to be written.  I write this one only to mark yet another offseason coaching carousel gone, and yet another batch of opportunities wasted.

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