MLS expanding Diversity Hiring Policy ahead of 2022 season

Major League Soccer announced a series of updates to its Diversity Hiring Policy on Tuesday.

A group consisting of coaches, club personnel, league executives, and current and former players worked on strengthening the language and clarity of the policy, which first implemented in 2007. The goal remains the same — create opportunities in soccer for individuals from underrepresented groups, including ethnic, gender and identity diversity.

Among the new requirements are uniformity to what the interviewing process looks like, and ensuring candidates have comparable experiences. For example, the finalist pools for open technical positions will be required to include two or more non-white candidates, and one must be Black or African American. The policy previously only required one diverse candidate.

Additionally, clubs failing to abide by the policies will be subject to escalating fines that can exceed $100,000 depending on the offense.

“The policy reflects input from stakeholders from across the ecosystem with different perspectives,” Sola Winley, MLS Chief DEI Officer and Executive Vice President, told Yahoo Sports. “These are opportunities for us to solve together. Across the soccer landscape there are a lot of different experiences and I think that we brought those to bare in this policy.”

Winley, who began his role with the league on February 16, emphasized the importance of the policy's reach, which filters down to MLS’ youth academies, MLS NEXT, the new Lower Division League, MLS NEXT Pro.

“This is a long-term plan for MLS to develop talent internally, invest in talent internally and to create a consistent culture where diverse individuals feel this is a place where they can contribute and impact at the highest levels,” Winley said.

Along with the help of representatives from Black Players for Change (BPC) and SCORE (Soccer Collective on Racial Equality) organizations, the diversity committee will review the policy annually using metrics and data. They will track progress based on balancing coaching positions to be representative of the diverse player pool in the league, with aim to double the number of qualified candidates being interviewed for open positions.

To aid those efforts, they created a Diversity Policy Portal where clubs must submit details of vacant positions and include information related to the candidates in the final stages of the process. They are also aiming to establish a centralized database to act as a resource for teams.

“I feel really good about the relationships that are deepening and the trust that is being built,” Winley told Yahoo Sports. “One conversation and one success at a time. We’re just beginning with the work.”