The United Soccer League (USL), the organizer of North America’s second and third-tier men’s and women’s competitions, has named experienced soccer executive Paul McDonough as its new president and chief soccer officer.

Under the new role, McDonough will lead the USL’s ongoing strategic efforts to elevate the men’s second-tier USL Championship, the women’s second-tier Super League, and men’s third-tier USL League One.

Specifically, he will focus on “laying out the strategic vision for evolving and implementing the USL’s business and sporting initiatives, including innovative competition reforms that will accelerate [the league’s] growth and transform soccer in America.”

He will also lead the USL’s sporting department, previously managed by sporting director Mark Cartwright, who has stepped down to pursue other opportunities abroad.

McDonough said: “The USL has evolved incredibly in the last decade, which is a testament to the work of everyone in the league office and all the clubs. It is now firmly established in the fabric of the game in the United States and primed to play a major role in shaping the game’s future here.

“The USL professional leagues have strong clubs, dedicated ownership, world-class infrastructure, emerging player development pathways, and passionate fan bases. This makes the opportunity to join this organization exciting and interesting, and I look forward to working with the entire USL ecosystem to push our leagues and our business forward."

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The appointment comes after Jake Edwards announced in April he would step down as president after 10 years of building the organization.

His departure saw a leadership reshuffle, with the presidency split into two separate roles for the different USL tiers, with two internal promotions. Jeremy Alumbaugh was appointed president of the second-tier USL Championship, while Lee O-Neill took over as president of the third-tier USL League One.

McDonough joins the USL with more than 20 years of leadership experience in American soccer, most recently holding the position of chief soccer officer at player representation agency Wasserman.

Before that, he served as chief operating officer and sporting director at Inter Miami CF, of North American soccer’s top-tier MLS, where he led the club during its inaugural season and played a key role in the club’s efforts to develop a soccer-specific stadium and training complex.

However, his time at the club was marred after he was found to have breached MLS player recruitment protocols, with the league suspending him through the 2022 season. However, he was reinstated from his ban early last March.

The league found McDonough had circumvented league rules to sign former Juventus player Blaise Matudi in 2020 by classifying him as a player acquired with Targeted Allocation Money despite playing him (and classifying him) as a Designated Player.

The breach meant Inter Miami carried additional Designated Players over the league’s limit of three. In addition to McDonough’s ban, Inter Miami was fined $2 million and MLS reduced the amount of allocation money the club could use for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

After the suspension, McDonough was forced to leave his position with Atlanta United, which he had joined after leaving Miami.

From 2014 to 2015 he also served as USL club Orlando City’s general manager when the club was in the USL Pro (now USL Championship) before leading its operations when it moved to MLS in 2015.

USL chief executive Alec Papadakis said: "The USL is thrilled to welcome Paul McDonough, one of the most respected and qualified soccer executives in the United States, at a pivotal moment in our evolution as the largest and fastest-growing soccer organization in the United States.

“His experience and knowledge of soccer in America and football abroad are unmatched as it relates to both the on-field product and the business of sports. Paul will assume a major role in taking our professional leagues to the next level, as well as implementing the innovative sporting reforms we have under consideration to more closely align the USL with the global game.

“The USL is steadfastly committed to achieving this goal. Furthermore, Paul’s astute business acumen and comprehensive expertise in the transfer market will greatly enhance our teams, academies, and player development pathways while bolstering the financial health of our clubs.

“With the 2026 FIFA Men’s World Cup on the horizon, Paul will further cement the USL’s position as a global leader for professional soccer."

In March 2022, USL promoted its executive vice president Court Jeske to chief commercial officer and added Greg Lalas, the former vice-president of content at MSL, as the league’s first chief marketing officer to bolster its executive team in New York.

The USL’s move to boost its leadership team comes as the organization ramps up its expansion plans.

Last year, Justin Papadakis, chief operating officer of USL, explained what’s next for the US soccer pyramid in the run-up to the country’s hosting of the FIFA men’s World Cup 2026 alongside Mexico and Canada.