kevin payne speaks at an interview

DC president Payne leaves club, reportedly joining Toronto

One of the most recognized faces at D.C. United is moving on.

D.C. United on Tuesday announced that club president Kevin Payne, who has led the organization since the league's inaugural season in 1996, is stepping down.

“They say the only constant in life is change,” Payne said in a club statement. “For me, D.C. United has been like my child. We brought the team into the D.C. and national sports world 17 years ago and every day since – good and bad – has been a labor of love.

“I'm very excited about the next phase of my life, and very excited about the next phase for D.C. United, as well."

Earlier on Tuesday, a report in The Washington Post suggested Payne will be joining Toronto FC.

The 59-year-old Payne has been synonymous with D.C. United and the move will come as a somewhat of a shock as the club moves closer than ever at securing a long-awaited soccer stadium.

LISTEN: Kevin Payne on ExtraTime Radio - Oct. 22, 2012

In his State of the League address on Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber indicated there was "new momentum" for the project in D.C., aided by the arrival of new owners Jason Levien and Erick Thohir in July.

D.C. United, who won the 1998 CONCACAF Champions' Cup and four MLS Cups under Payne ('96, '97, '99 and '04), experienced a turnaround on the field in 2012 with their first playoff appearance in five years. They were ousted in the Eastern Conference Championship at the hands of the Houston Dynamo.

“Very few people in American soccer have put their stamp on a club as Kevin has with D.C. United,” United head coach Ben Olsen said in the club statement. “His loyalty to the team and me is something for which I’ll always be indebted.”

The Washington Post reports that the club has already begun a search to fill Payne's position.

Toronto FC did not return an e-mail seeking comment from

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