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MLS: Next Man


It was January 2007 and Charles Altchek was sitting in the back of a plane bound for New York. The four-year-old Harvard football player had just participated in the Adidas MLS All-Rounder in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He wouldn’t be officially informed of his fate for a few days, but he knew his prospects as a player were over.

As the plane sailed by, a dejected Altchek saw two MLS coaches, who had clearly enjoyed a few cocktails, seated in front of him.

“I asked them what I should do,” Altchek recalls. “They looked at each other, started laughing and said, ‘You should get a job, and one that’s not football related as a player. “”

In eight years in MLS, Altchek has helped with expansion, team sales and stadium deals.andy mead

Altchek took that advice, but after two years on the fixed income trading desk at Goldman Sachs and three years with the New York Mets, he eventually joined an MLS team, joining the New York Red Bulls in a role business development. In 2014, he moved to league headquarters, working in the Commissioner’s Office, and in March 2021, he was named Senior Vice President, League Growth and Operations. His rapid rise has now brought him, at 36, with a big mission: president of MLS Next Pro, Major League Soccer’s new lower-division professional league that will kick off next month with 21 teams, including 20 affiliated with the MLS and an independent club in Rochester NY FC.

Like other lower-tier circuits in the United States, such as the NBA’s G League, MLS Next Pro will serve as a test lab for its parent league for business, media, production and competition. It will also serve as a proving ground for Altchek, who crafted the league’s business plan and who will eventually have a full-time staff of 25 reporting to him at MLS headquarters in Manhattan.

“I know that I and the rest of our office and our ownership groups are confident that he will be an excellent leader in building what is going to be a massive undertaking, essentially building a second league from the ground up,” said the MLS commissioner. Don Garber.

MLS Next Pro

President: Charles Altchek
Senior Vice President, Competition and Operations: Ali Curtis
Start date: End of March
The teams in 2022: 21 (20 affiliated MLS; 1 independent, Rochester NY FC)
The teams in 2023: At least 29 (28 MLS affiliates)
Regular season games: 24
Post-season: 8 teams, single elimination
Media rights: Every game will be available on MLSNextPro.com
Corporate sponsor: Adidas

For most of the past two months, Altchek and Ali Curtis, the new league’s senior vice president of competition and operations, have flown across the United States meeting everyone from MLS team owners to people who manage minor league teams to people affiliated with the big United States. professional sports franchises, giving a presentation on the value of investing in a property that will bridge the gap between the league’s top-tier teams and its MLS Next youth development system.

Just as he has throughout his tenure in the league, Altchek has won many admirers.

“Charles is tremendous: extremely talented, able to gracefully balance a million balls in the air simultaneously, and a tremendous asset to the development of football in the United States,” said Jake Silverstein, co-owner of DC United and Swansea City of the Championship. , the second division of English football.

John Kimball, chairman of Real Salt Lake added: “Charles has a commercial maturity that you very rarely see, certainly at his age, but quite honestly not at all.”

Altchek, a native of Westchester County, NY, who now lives in Connecticut with his wife and two young children, first crossed paths with Garber while working with the Mets. At the time, the Wilpon family who owned the team were exploring an MLS expansion club and possible stadium project around Citi Field, and Altchek took, he says, “a crash course in the sports industry. “.

After moving to his job at MLS, Altchek found himself at the center of the league’s steady growth. He helped secure the ownership group for what would become LAFC and its future football-specific stadium, and later worked with ownership groups in Columbus and Austin to resolve the multi-year fight that resulted in the creation of teams – and new stadiums – in both cities.

“It was the project where everything really fell into place for me, and it crystallized for me how important it is to develop these close relationships,” Altchek said.

Gradually, Altchek took on more responsibilities: leading, with Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott, expansion talks for Charlotte FC and St. Louis SC, among others; management of new MLS stadium projects in Austin, Cincinnati, Nashville and Columbus; leading the league’s crisis management team; and overseeing the league’s operations department, which includes game day.

More recently, he has been instrumental in sales for Houston Dynamo FC, Orlando City SC and Real Salt Lake over the past year.

Kimball and Altchek spoke almost daily during RSL’s sale process. Kimball said Altchek had a “cold hand and a cool head” during a complicated time and noted that he was “going through all the things he had to go through to be a significant leader in [MLS].”

Indeed, Altchek’s increased profile has given him additional visibility with members of the board of governors, billionaire owners and senior league executives. He now has the chance to lead an entire league, with plans to take MLS Next Pro beyond 30 teams and capitalize on improving player talent ahead of the World Cup in North America in 2026.

Next Pro has a corporate sponsor, longtime MLS partner Adidas, and all matches will be broadcast on
MLSNextPro.com. The executives noted that Altchek’s new position will help him complement his industry experiences both commercially and in the media side of the football industry, areas he has not been as closely tied to. during his years in MLS.

“I kind of see Charles as a mirror image of [Don Garber], how he conducts himself, how professional he is and how fun he is to work with,” Kimball said. “In my opinion, he’s a strong candidate to run one day. [MLS].”

LA Galaxy President Chris Klein, who serves on the executive committee guiding the formation and evolution of MLS Next Pro, said Altchek’s scouting tour was a wise move, given that success — or his absence – from the league will ultimately be what he’s measured against.

“There is no cap for Charles,” Klein said. “We are trying to develop the next generation of football players in this country, and what a great role in developing the next leader in football in our country.”