MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott Stepping Down

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Mark Abbott, Major League Soccer’s first employee and the architect of the league’s business plan, is stepping down, according a memo sent to league-wide staff on Friday.

Abbott, the league’s president and deputy commissioner, will step aside when his contract ends at the end of next year, according to the memo, which was viewed by Sportico. The memo says the decision was Abbott’s and that he “reached a point in his life and career where he would like to pursue a wide variety of new personal and professional opportunities.”

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Abbott thanked the league and its executives without specifying his future plans.

“I was incredibly fortunate to be given the opportunity by Alan Rothenberg in 1993 to help launch Major League Soccer,” he said in a statement. “The growth and success of our League has exceeded anything I could have imagined at the time; and that is a tribute to the commitment of our owners, club staffs, players, and referees and to the leadership of Don Garber and our talented and dedicated executives and staff at the League office, both past and present. I look forward working with Don and my colleagues before I step down at the end of next year as we continue what has been an incredible journey together.”

Abbott was MLS’ first official employee in 1993, and wrote the original business plan for the league, which launched in 1996 in the wake of the U.S. hosting the 1994 men’s World Cup. Since then MLS has expanded to nearly 30 franchises, with the average team now worth $550 million.

Abbott was promoted from senior vice president to chief operating officer in 1997, then became president in 2006. Prior to joining the league he was a lawyer at Latham & Watkins.

Abbott leads all areas of league operations and competition, including business strategy, player relations and new business development. Along with MLS commissioner Don Garber, Abbott also leads the league’s discussions with potential investors and expansion cities.

(This story has been updated with a statement from Abbot in the fourth paragraph.)