Vancouver Whitecaps FC announced their new sporting director on Friday, unveiling veteran German executive Axel Schuster as their choice following an “extensive global search.”
Schuster arrives in British Columbia after a three-year stint at Schalke 04, where he served as senior director of professional football, and previously worked as the head of football operations at FSV Mainz 05 for some 16 years. He will oversee “all technical aspects of Whitecaps FC from youth to first team,” reporting directly to ownership.
The sporting director post is a newly-created one for the Whitecaps, who saw longtime club president Bob Lenarduzzi step down to take on a club liaison role earlier this season and maintain Greg Anderson as VP of soccer operations as well as head coach Marc Dos Santos in their current posts.
“We worked with a leading global sports recruitment firm, conducted an extensive search, interviewed numerous highly-qualified candidates, and hired our top choice in Axel,” said Whitecaps co-owner Jeff Mallett in a statement. “Axel brings great vision and a wealth of knowledge and passion. His addition is a monumental step forward for our club.”
Though they claimed victories over eventual Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC and several other playoff qualifiers, the Whitecaps largely struggled in Dos Santos’ first season in charge, finishing in last place in the MLS Western Conference with an 8-16-10 record.
A native of Cologne, Germany, Schuster helped lead Schalke to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga during the 2017/18 season while qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League, overseeing the development of a global scouting operation. At Mainz he served as a youth coach before advancing to the post of youth director, working with the likes of Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel as the club earned promotion to the Bundesliga and a spot in the UEFA Cup for the first time in club history.
Schuster studied law at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, holds a UEFA A coaching licence and is fluent in German, English, and Spanish.
“When I first learned about this opportunity, I was immediately interested and excited. I’m really happy to be here, in this city, and officially start,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people in the business. This ownership is really passionate and my first impression was that all the people I’ve met at the club work with that passion. That gave me a very good feeling. There’s a lot of energy in everybody in this club. It’s up to me and everyone at the club to work together, to bring this energy and achieve our targets.
“We have to make the right decisions right now to influence next season; to acquire and transfer the right players, to give Marc a group of players that can win. And then, step-by-step, we have to continue to work on our philosophy, our recruitment, and the pathway from the academy to the first team.”