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North American Soccer League Names David Downs as Commissioner

2011 March 28
by Brian Quarstad

NASL Commissioner David Downs

The North American Soccer League announced Monday morning that former USA Bid Committee Executive Director David Downs has accepted the position of commissioner for the first-year league. Downs will assume his new role with the NASL on April 4th, the same week the league starts its league play.

Downs joins the NASL after serving as Executive Director of the USA Bid Committee, the organization created by the U.S. Soccer Federation to participate in the bidding process to host the FIFA World Cup™ in 2018 and 2022.  Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years in the broadcast industry as an executive with both ABC Sports and Univision Communications. During his broadcast career, Downs was instrumental in the successful negotiations to secure the U.S. television rights to every World Cup from USA ‘94, through Brazil ‘14.

“I’m excited to hit the ground running with the NASL as we work to elevate second division soccer in North America and play an active role in taking soccer to the next level in the region,” said Downs. “We plan to work closely with the fans, players, administrators, other leagues and everyone else involved in this beautiful game to build up the NASL at a league and local market level.”

“The combination of David’s experience in sports television including soccer, his recent experience leading the US World Cup bid and his passion for and understanding of soccer globally and domestically uniquely position him to lead the NASL,” said Aaron Davidson, NASL CEO and member of the NASL Board of Directors and Executive Committee. “David has been directly involved in the growth of soccer in this country and thus appreciates the critical role that the NASL will play in the continued growth of the sport.”

Downs was born in Leiden, Netherlands. His Dutch mother and American father moved to the U.S. when he was a child. His grandfather played for 1st division club HVV (Haagse Voetbal Vereniging, Dutch for Hague Football Club) in the early 1900s. Downs has been involved with soccer in America for several decades: as a college player, a licensed youth coach, and as the parent of two soccer-playing children. He currently serves on the board of the USSF Development Academy club FC Westchester and is also an Arsenal fan after an uncle brought him to a match at Highbury in the early 70s.

18 Responses
  1. Greg permalink
    March 28, 2011

    I’m the first to admit I’m still a relative newcomer to the game and know sweet FA about the politics of the game, but I fail to see what this guy brings to American 2D soccer. Extensive experience in sports television? Irrelevant unless we’re getting games on TV. An understanding of the global game? Great, he can explain promotion/relegation to Don Garber. Captain of a failed WC bid? Maybe he can get us into the US Open Cup. Someone help me out here. How is he qualified other than the fact that he wanted the job?

  2. March 28, 2011

    He’s organized nationwide organizations and campaigns from scratch, which is pretty much what this is. I don’t think anyone believes the USA Bid was “flawed” at all, even though it didn’t win. The commissioners of the major sports in the US don’t exactly paint a solid path to the top. Goodell and Stern were lawyers for their league, Selig was an owner of a team, Bettman was an NBA outside counsel, and Goodell was a marketing director for NFL Europe (speaking of failure…).

    He’s got experience running large-scale operations and negotiations, and as an added bonus, it’s not someone from within Traffic.

  3. March 28, 2011

    The fact that he has worked very closely with US Soccer and I’m sure with MLS Commissioner Don Garber can’t hurt the league either. I see this as a very good appointment for the league.

  4. Strikers Return permalink
    March 28, 2011

    Steve makes some good points here, and there is one other to consider. Is he the person that the league, the teams, and the fans would have chosen if they could have had the freedom to just pick? Certainly not. But let’s mix in a healthy does of reality to the discussion here. We’re still talking about D2 soccer in North America and the Caribbean. This isn’t a “high-profile” job at this point that “ideal” candidates were lining up for. We got someone who is experienced with the pro game. Everyone and associated with this league in any capacity is going to have to do a little “growing” on the job. This thing is just in it’s first year. There has been more than enough NASL bashing over the last couple years to last us all a lifetime. The season is less than two weeks away now. Let’s sit back, enjoy our teams and the games, and see how things progress. They have all year to make tweaks here and there, to identify and work on things needing improvement, and to grow each team at the fan and sponsorship levels which to me should be the key focus points for Year One.

  5. thesuperrookie permalink
    March 28, 2011

    Where are the naysayers?

    Come on people, tell us how the NASL has their collective heads where the sun does not shit!

  6. yankiboy permalink
    March 28, 2011

    @Greg: Some people have already given you some feedback but here is my 2 cents-

    EXCELLENT HIRE!!!

    The guy is CONNECTED–he’s got a lot of media experience–real media experience. He understands how media needs to iteract with potential markets and vice versa. Throw in his Univision experience which could potentially give him other insights that could be potentially very useful.

    I AM AMAZED THAT THE NASL WAS ABLE TO LAND THIS GUY!

    MAD PROPS TO THE NASL!!!

    I will be very curious to see how long the relationship lasts between Downs and the NASL. They went BIG but he might be too BIG for them. he might realize tby mid summer that this gig was going to be even tougher than he thought that the resources are going to be too limited for him to succeed and he may bail worrying about his rep–but if I were him, I wouldn’t worry about that too much–Most observers think that the fix was already in with Qatar and that the NASL is a losing proposition.

    So he can always turn around and say that he still has his touch–he just was riding to ponies that were never going to be first across the finish line.

    If helps launch the NASL to place that many doubters thought possible then it just makes him look all the better.

  7. yankiboy permalink
    March 28, 2011

    thesuperrookie
    March 28, 2011
    Where are the naysayers?

    Come on people, tell us how the NASL has their collective heads where the sun does not sh-t!

    ——————————————————————–
    The NASL SUCKS–they obviously have no idea of what they are doing! They should have NEVER left the USL!!! They will be LUCKY if the USL takes them back when they go back with their tails between the legs!

    What an absolute JOKE of a league!

    (feel better, now Bro? :D )

  8. Greg permalink
    March 28, 2011

    This is exactly what I was looking for, thanks guys. I trust the opinions of Brian and the rest of you (most of you at any rate) more than I trust a press release, and your comments make this seem much more sensible than I was initially thinking. Can we play soccer now?

  9. thesuperrookie permalink
    March 28, 2011

    Yankiboy- thanks, I now feel complete.

    I just think it was funny that we would have stories on here during the sanctioning debate with 60+ comments and the Soccer Sam’s of the world would spew their venon, but now it is *crickets*.

  10. Sgc permalink
    March 28, 2011

    I’m sort of a ‘naysayer’ if you will, on Traffic, and their level of influence. But not on this hire. My thought was the same as Brian’s–they hired a guy (and they probably had to reach into the pocketbook to do it) with the mission and the ability to patch things up with USSF, get the sanctioning in due time, and move on from that episode.

  11. Kenn permalink
    March 28, 2011

    The USA’s World Cup bid was only “flawed” in that it didn’t include enough bribes.

    This guy has an impressive resume, so that’s good. Big task ahead. Good luck to him.

  12. Dave permalink
    March 28, 2011

    How’s this for naysaying: if Traffic pulls out, or rather, stops bankrolling Atlanta and Carolina, your man Downs won’t have a league to be the commissioner of. Having said that, this guy has his hands full, and I wish him well. Perhaps he can turn the “spite” league into a legitimate concern.

  13. ERic permalink
    March 28, 2011

    Here’s as nay as I get: I’ll hold on my opinion until after the NASL lands a solid replacement team for Montreal, and gets sanctioned for ’12. This is a move in a positive direction, but the NASL still has a steep hill to climb. At least they appear to have installed an engine that might be able to do the job.

  14. Matt in SF permalink
    March 28, 2011

    This looks very promising. He’s already light years ahead of Jeff Cooper and he doesn’t start till next week. ;)

  15. Jonathan Bennett permalink
    March 28, 2011

    I have been involved with soccer for some years and am familiar with the current pro structure of the game here in the USA – it’s promise AND it’s problems. That said, I think that the NASL has gotten pretty lucky to have a man of Mr. Downs experience available and WILLING to face the task at hand. It will not be easy, and unlilke some others, I do not expect miracles but they now have a comissioner who will lead out front and be heard behind closed doors. If the league can scratch out the resources to make it through the first few years, I think that this will prove one of the main turning points – I wish him and the league well.

  16. Jane permalink
    March 29, 2011

    For all of you have posted negative comments on this hire you have clearly demonstrated zero understanding of the importance of having a Commissioner who has a very close relationship with USSF and MLS. This was an excellent choice by the NASL Board of Directors/owners.

  17. Bart permalink
    March 29, 2011

    Mr. Downs main asset for NASL are his TV relationships and his potential ability to get a media contract for NASL as the Commissioner. This may be too late for the inaugural season, but I would bet a few Kronen that this will be one of his highest priorities assigned to him by the King.

  18. yankiboy permalink
    March 29, 2011

    “Perhaps he can turn the “spite” league into a legitimate concern.”
    -Dave

    @Dave: I pretty much agreed with you right up until your parting shot:

    Downs didn’t sign on to work for the USL; He’s going to be working for the NASL.

    Hey Bro–I think that you are confused–like we in the hood like to say–”ya got it a little bit twisted, Playah”.

    But, if you still want to beat that dead horse–bring it on! We need the post count to climb back up. It’s all good, Bro.

    :D

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