After helping to build Major League Soccer from a fringe sports league in 1996 into one of the world’s most recognizable leagues, Nick Sakiewicz appears to be headed towards another big challenge of growing an emerging sport.
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Sources tell Metro New York that Sakiewicz, the two-time MLS Executive of the Year, will be named this week as commissioner of the National Lacrosse League. Sakiewicz was most recently the co-founder and CEO of the Philadelphia Union, a team he brought into MLS in 2010 and the construction of his second soccer specific stadium following stints with inaugural teams in Tampa Bay and the New York/New Jersey MetroStars where he conceived his first soccer specific stadium Red Bull Arena.
Founded in 1986 and beginning play one year later, the NLL currently boasts nine teams in the United States and Canada. The league, and lacrosse as a whole, is a fast growing one, maturing from being an East Coast sport into something that is now mainstream throughout the country.
The NLL had a peak of 13 teams as recently as 2002 but since 2012 has had only single-digit franchises. Yet things have stabilized over recent years including ownership by several NHL entities. The team in Denver, coincidentally, is owned by Stan Kroenke, who also owns the Colorado Rapids of MLS.
Sakiewicz was the only League executive nominated 3 times for the league’s executive of the year award and winning it twice in 1999 and 2000. Since then he built two soccer-specific stadiums, the only man in the league able to claim that honor. His venture with the NLL will be the first foray of his outside of the world of soccer in his 21 years as a sports executive.