After Hiring Club President, What’s Next For Atlanta?

MLS Atlanta recently announced their first Club President Darren Eales
by Corey Langley   |   Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Atlanta Rising – column on MLS Atlanta & the Georgia area soccer scene.

Atlanta’s newest sports team made its first front office hiring on September 10, as the club announced that Darren Eales will take over the position of club president.

Eales was born in Cambridge, England, in 1972. After moving to the United States, he played soccer for both West Virginia and Brown. After graduating from Brown, Eales spent time playing in the USA-A League with the Hampton Road Mariners. After returning to Cambridge to obtain his law degree, Eales eventually took a legal counsel position with West Bromwich Albion Football Club. In 2010, Eales joined Tottenham Hotspur, where he ascended to the position of club director.

Eales started his American soccer career at West Virginia University, where he spent his freshman year. He received 2 Rookie of Week honors and made the All-Atlantic 10 First Team. After Eales’ stellar year, he transferred to Brown University, where the talented forward really made his mark. After leading the league in scoring his sophomore year, Eales led his team to the NCAA Tournament in 1994. Brown made a surprise run that year by making it all the way to the quarterfinals. During the process, Brown upset the top ranked Boston University. Eales scored two goals that day.

Eales was named the Ivy League Player of the Year, a NSCAA All-American, the USA Today Student-Athlete of the Year, ECAC Male Athlete of the Year and the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American his senior year. He currently holds the record for most consecutive games with a point (in college soccer, points are earned based on assists or goals) and is tied for most consecutive games with a goal. While obtaining every single one of these accolades, Eales was still able to graduate with an economics degree and a 4.0 GPA.

After graduating, Eales spent time with the Hampton Road Mariners where he played alongside RSL General Manager Garth Lagerwey. After playing a couple of seasons in the US, Eales headed back to Cambridge where he studied law before eventually becoming a barrister. His abilities with law provided him an opportunity to work with West Bromwich Albion. After demonstrating a knowledgeable understanding of the logistics of a soccer club and rising through the ranks at West Brom, Eales was hired by Tottenham in 2010 as a club director.

There has not been anyone outside of Major League Soccer who has done more to raise the profile of the league than Darren Eales. Most would credit Tim Lieweke, currently trying his best to resurrect Toronto FC, for doing quite a bit in raising MLS’ international appeal. Bringing in such exceptional players like David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Michael Bradley, and Jermaine Defoe has certainly raised the league’s profile. Where Lieweke has done this from inside the league, Eales has done so outside of it.

Eales’ time at Tottenham included some of the biggest transfers in Major League Soccer history. Eales took part in the sales of Robbie Keane to the LA Galaxy, Clint Dempsey to the Seattle Sounders, and Jermaine Defoe to Toronto FC. Not only was Eales an essential part in bringing major star power to MLS, he also helped facilitate the $132 million dollar sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. It has not all been a one-way street, though. Eales recently helped Tottenham with the acquisition of US international DeAndre Yedlin.

So what’s next?

Now that Arthur Blank has made a decision on someone to run the new franchise, the focus has shifted to what comes next. In an age of MLS expansion that necessitates star power and immediate results, MLS Atlanta must make the right decisions at every turn. New York City FC pulled in American heavyweight Claudio Reyna. Orlando City SC will bring the smile and marketing power of Kaka. Blank has made the decision to hire a man who has done a lot to increase the appeal of Major League Soccer, but also a man who has zero experience in the regulated confines of America’s top flight.

There is no doubt that Eales is a terrific negotiator with a great track record, but how will he fare when selecting players based on available salary cap space? How will he find creative ways to increase the cap like some of the better soccer clubs? These are the concerns of hiring someone who is not familiar to the system. Major League Soccer is an ever changing landscape that Eales must learn to navigate quickly. However, if anyone can learn the intricacies of MLS, surely it is an Ivy League graduate who finished with a 4.0 GPA.

Certainly, Atlanta fans are excited for Eales to formally take his position. With his presence comes the realization that the club is taking shape. By hiring Eales, MLS Atlanta has chosen a man with an affection for Major League Soccer, a rapport with the Barclay’s Premier League, a dedication to youth, and a knack for negotiating. In other words, Blank has hired exactly the man that, on paper, has the qualifications to run a successful MLS club. Based on Eales’ marvelous track record, there should be no doubt that he can easily adjust to the MLS way of life and provide the Atlanta soccer community with the team it deserves.  

Corey LANGLEY

Nationality:
USA
College:
U. of West Georgia
Club Domestic:
LA Galaxy, MLS Atlanta
Club Foreign:
MUFC
Corey fell in love with soccer too late, so he tries to soak up all he can now that he watches. He will cover soccer in Georgia and specifically Atlanta, which will be adding an MLS team in 2017.
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