Beckham MLS Miami team makes first big hire

Atlanta United vice president Paul McDonough was hired as Sporting Director of David Beckham’s Miami MLS team.
Atlanta United vice president Paul McDonough was hired as Sporting Director of David Beckham’s Miami MLS team. Atlanta United

David Beckham’s yet-to-be-named Miami Major League Soccer team now has a general manager. The team confirmed to the Miami Herald Thursday morning the hiring of Atlanta United Vice President Paul McDonough, one of the top executives in the league.

McDonough, whose title will be Sporting Director, will work closely with the Miami ownership group and report directly to Managing Owner Jorge Mas as well as Beckham, whose title is Owner and President of Football Operations. He will be responsible for building the team’s roster and leading the sports operations.

McDonough has been a huge part of Atlanta’s success on and off the field.

Atlanta United sits atop the MLS standings and leads the league in attendance with 52,409 fans per game. Last week, Atlanta drew a record crowd of 72,243 for its game last against the Seattle Sounders, who rank second in the league with 40,567 per game. The average league attendance is 21,467.

“To be able to join the expansion franchise in Miami at its inception is truly exciting,” McDonough said in a statement. “I am looking forward to working with Jorge and the entire ownership group to build a team that represents the very best of soccer.”

Mas said: “On behalf of our city’s soccer fans, I look forward to welcoming Paul to Miami. Paul shares our dream for making Miami the league’s global team and is uniquely positioned to recruit and develop the talent on and off the field to make this a reality.”

McDonough has been with Atlanta for two and a half years, hired away from then-expansion team Orlando City, where he was Vice President of Soccer Operations. Upon arriving in Atlanta, he oversaw the construction of a $60 million state-of-the-art training facility and helped build a roster made of young talent rather than players at the twilight of their careers.

Players such as Paraguayan midfielder Miguel Almiron and Venezuelan forward Josef Martinez have been at the heart of Atlanta’s success and McDonough was instrumental in their signings.

Almiron, 24, has been the target of a few English Premier League teams this off-season. Martinez, 25, was named Best XI for the 2017 season after finishing fourth in the league in scoring despite playing only 20 games due to injury. On June 2, 2018, Martinez scored his fifth MLS hat trick, the quickest any player in the league ever reached that milestone.

Last season, Atlanta United was the first expansion team since Seattle in 2009 to make the playoffs in its first season.

“Paul is the first hire for our club and his appointment marks the real start of our journey in building not only the team but also the team spirit of Miami MLS,” Beckham said. “Paul’s soccer experience is world class and he will help us to create a globally recognized team that we can all be proud of.”

McDonough had signed a four-year contract extension with Atlanta last October, but chose to take the Miami job.

Prior to joining MLS, McDonough spent two years as Director, Global Soccer with Wasserman Media Group where he represented players in MLS and overseas. Among the players he represented: Juan Agudelo (US International), Darren Mattocks (Jamaican International), Brek Shea (US International), Teal Bunbury (US International), Zach Loyd (US International), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), and Dax McCarty (NY Red Bulls).

Before that, he was an assistant coach at Wake Forest University, University of South Carolina and the University of Connecticut. He is a native of Marshfield, Mass.

His experience as a coach, player agent and director of soccer operations gives him a rare skillset that has helped build Orlando City and Atlanta United on and off the field. He has a vast scouting network, and understands the intricacies of the MLS business model, salary cap issues and day-to-day soccer business.

Mas said the team name, colors and shield will be unveiled in the coming weeks. Inter Miami and Atletico Miami are the leading candidates for team name.