The future for Nick Sakiewicz, the former CEO and operating partner of the Philadelphia Union may seem uncertain since leaving the organization as CEO in September. However, there are some good reasons to speculate that Sakiewicz will likely continue to push on a three-decade quest to help soccer in this country go mainstream.
He may be perceived as hard driving but Sakiewicz still remains the only man in this country to build two soccer-specific stadiums, first Red Bull Arena and then in 2010 with PPL Park, the Union's home. After being part of a small group that helped launch the League in 1996, Sakiewicz went on to be one of a handful of men to be thrice nominated for MLS Executive of the Year, winning the award twice. In Philadelphia, he founded and launched Major League Soccer's 16th expansion team which has become one of the league's most visible franchises, building an iconic 18,000 seat soccer specific stadium that nearly reached an all time high half a million fans in 2015.
He departs the Philadelphia Union at a good time with 2015 total gross revenues reaching a high water mark at a record $23 million representing a double digit increase over its second best year which was 2014. Sponsorship grew by double digits to over $8 million and tickets, food and beverage and merchandise were all solid contributors to the mix as in previous years. Despite an attrition of parking revenue due to independent parking lot operators coming on line diluting the Union's parking revenue over the last two years Sakiewicz has led growth of the club's business in each of its 6 seasons in MLS.
"I am very proud of the eight years I spent with the Philadelphia Union and have no regrets whatsoever. The team of people that was put together to run the business was the best and most committed group I ever had and combined with an amazing dedicated fan base we realized the dream of getting the stadium built and a team launched all in the face of a severe recession and under challenging financial situations," Sakiewicz told Metro last week in his first comments since leaving the Union.
"My job was to build the stadium, launch the team and manage the business operations. I'm very proud to be leaving the club after the best year ever on the business side."
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Now with the sport growing faster than ever, Sakiewicz might just find himself in demand. In fact, it could be a bidding war as new teams pop up around North America and some existing teams continue to climb an uphill battle with ticket and sponsorship revenue needing help. Another landing spot for Sakiewicz may be at leagues outside of MLS which are also growing and looking to capture a piece of the growing soccer landscape.
MLS continues to expand, some will say too fast, and the league could certainly do with someone who has seen the launching of two first-year teams (the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996 and then the Union in 2010) as well as someone with a proven track record of building 2 soccer-specific stadiums. He does have those two gold shovels after all.
And there is the NASL, an ambitious league in its own right that is seeing growth in the second-tier of American soccer. Sakiewicz certainly could find a calling there as well.
"I have 21 years invested in MLS and very proud to have played a small part in growing the game in America. While I would love to stay involved in MLS and continue the great work we started 21 years ago there are a lot of opportunities in soccer as well as other sports and leagues," Sakiewicz said.
"I believe the knowledge and experiences I've gained over the last two decades would be valuable within growing MLS or other soccer teams and leagues around the World as well as within others sports and leagues. Right now I'm open to any and all opportunities and evaluating everything. My priorities in evaluating opportunities is they have to be a fun and big project with good people and a chance to create something great. Just like Major League Soccer, the clubs and stadiums I was involved with and the great people that were a part of creating something very special."