Leaders in Sport: Tim Holt

Leaders in SportWelcome to Business of Soccer’s latest column – Leaders in Sport. Each month, Business of Soccer will feature a leader in North American soccer who is positively impacting the direction of the sport. For a schedule of the upcoming features, visit www.businessofsoccer.com/leaders.


Tim Holt is in his fifth season as the President of United Soccer League (USL). Since joining the USL in 1999, Holt previously lead the USL as the A-League and Super Y-League Operations Director, Director of Senior League Operations, Chief Operating Officer, and Executive Vice President. Under his leadership, the USL has become the largest system of elite soccer leagues in North America. Holt was a key figure in developing the partnership between USL PRO (Division III) and Major League Soccer (Division I). Holt is currently Co-Chairman of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Committee and serves as a member of the USSF’s Professional Council.

Tim Holt, President of United Soccer Leagues. Photo courtesy of United Soccer Leagues.

Tim Holt, President of United Soccer Leagues. Photo courtesy of United Soccer Leagues.

As a youth soccer player, Holt was a member FC DELCO youth club (now Continental FC) in eastern Pennsylvania. He is a graduate from Penn State University with a BS in Management and later earned his Masters Degree in Sport Administration at Florida State University.

I’m like a lot of people that grew up playing the game and grew up playing the game at a time when there was no legitimate professional soccer league. There were really very few jobs in the sport and have been fortunate enough, as I’ve moved from being a kid and a student into the professional world, to have come at a time not only when MLS launches and is booming, but these lower divisions are there. So there’s been an increased opportunity due to the people that created this stuff to work in the game.

He emphasized the importance of opportunities in the professional world, particularly in the soccer industry.

I was fortunate to get an opportunity at a relatively early age, to work in the game and be put in a position where I could make decisions and during my time at USL, I’ve continued be given different opportunities and roles. I think I’ve worked hard. I’ve served – tried to serve on committees with the Federation and the NSCAA Board.

It’s mostly about hard work and opportunity – actually, in the reverse order – opportunity and hard work. The exciting thing is there is more and more opportunities for people who are passionate about the sport that come at it from a business background to do this. The evolution of the soccer industry is so exciting and it continues to grow and with that, opportunities grow. I am a good example of someone that had an opportunity and have tried to take advantage of that in a way that serves the game.

Earlier this year, Holt was selected as SI.com’s “50 Most Powerful People” in American soccer. He was named one of Soccer America’s ‘Rising Stars,’ highlighting the top soccer executives under the age of 35 in the United States in 2007.

“Those [honors] are just a function of what role you have been put in to and the performance of our teams. As our teams perform, you get recognized.”

Modest about his role in American soccer, Holt views his professional opportunities as opportunities to serve and improve the sport at every level.

On a going forward basis, I continue to see where I can make the most impact, continuing to be at USL and the development of the sport at the elite level below and in support of Major League Soccer. On the pro side, call it the pre-professional side – with the PDL, the W-, Super-20 – and on the youth side, and then all of the other events. The opportunities that we create for the 20,000 players each year that are elite players in over one-hundred markets. Where you can make the biggest difference. It’s something that I am very passionate about. I would be fortunate to continue to just have an opportunity to serve the game. It’s an honor to serve on any of those committee and when people recognize you, but when they do that, they’re recognizing your organization, for the most part, and the members of that organization. USL is an amazing system of teams and leagues. It’d be an honor to continue to be able to do that.

In the landscape of soccer in the United States, Holt seeks to continue the expansion of USL PRO and grow the league’s relationship with Major League Soccer. The league has thirteen active clubs competing in the 2013 season and have plans to increase the table to as many as twenty-four teams in the next three seasons.

You can follow Tim Holt on Twitter, here.

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Reporting on the business side of the world's game.