LEESBURG, Va. – With the opening of Audi Field and the unveiling of their USL side Loudoun United FC this month, D.C. United have crossed two crucial thresholds on the path to re-establishing themselves among MLS’ elite.
The next challenge involves growing talent, says club CEO and managing partner Jason Levien – both on and off the field.
“We want to grow our organization,” Levien said. “And this is our time to do that. With all these challenging projects, we need an influx of talent. We’re going to take our time and look for the best people.”
That spans the entire club, Levien said, from the first team and academy players, coaches and scouts to marketing and ticket-sales personnel.
Levien’s comments come perhaps in response to criticism from some that D.C. have skimped on their non-technical staff in recent years. Most notably in May, ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman expressed doubt the club were ready to handle the fallout that would accompany the arrival of Wayne Rooney.
“This is a franchise that has multiple people doing multiple jobs,” Twellman said then. “Do they have the infrastructure? Do they know what’s coming when a mega-superstar shows up?”
On Tuesday, Levien emphasized that attention will be paid to building out that infrastructure.
“It was doing things at the right time in the right order,” Levien said, alluding to the effort to build Audi Field. “We have more employees than we did a year ago, and we have the most employees in our front office staff that we’ve had in the history of the club. That being said, the sport is growing, the organization is growing, the opportunity is getting bigger. And we’ve got to grow with it.”
As far as United’s on-field identity in the Audi Field era, club GM Dave Kasper said to expect continued increased investment in addition to the recent Rooney signing.
“Obviously the stadium and the revenue streams we now have will allow us to shop in areas we haven’t been able to shop in,” Kasper said. “That’s the goal for the next five years, is to get back to becoming a dominant organization in the league that’s going to compete for trophies.”
However, with the establishment of Loudoun United and the construction of a new training facility/academy campus, Kasper suggested the D.C. United of the future will be a club that supplements Homegrown talent with big signings, not the reverse.
“I think we have real assets in our area with a lot of talented soccer players, and that’s really going to be the first place we look,” he said.