Chris Klein was named President of LA Galaxy on January 28, 2013. Photo Credit: Robert Mora/LA Galaxy
MLS News: LA Galaxy President Chris Klein Is Not Your Average Fromer Pro Player
Former professional MLS soccer player becomes President of MLS’ championship LA Galaxy. Combining passion for the beautiful game with natural business intensity, Klein plans to grow the Galaxy’s galaxy.
The LA Galaxy’s best days are ahead, and we agree.
For most top-flight soccer players, the end of their playing career generally means a move to the sidelines as a soccer coach. This was not the road chosen by twelve-year Major League Soccer (MLS) veteran soccer pro Chris Klein. While he has enjoyed his time training the next generation of soccer players, Klein is distinctive in a sea of retired pros. While most professionals give back to the game by coaching, with his interest in the business side of soccer along people management and organizational skills, Klein has sought to impact the game on a larger industry scale.
The result? A meteoric rise for the man who developed himself while on and off the soccer field and who holds a strong, determined vision on how to grow the game of soccer. Klein easily inspires respect and admiration with his clear vision for success and his attention to detail.
Who is Chris Klein?
Klein was drafted by the Kansas City Wizards in the first round (No. 4 overall) of the 1998 MLS College Draft. He spent eight years with the Wizards, helping lead the team to the MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield in 2000 and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2004.
Chris Klein was named to the MLS All-Star team every year from 2002 to 2005, during which he scored 39 goals and earned 45 assists as a midfielder. He also played for the U.S. Men’s National Team, earning 22 caps from 2000 to 2006 and scoring five goals.
|Chris Klein (L) will continue to work closely with LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena (R) to build the best First Team in the region. Photo Credit: Robert Mora/LA Galaxy
In 2006 Klein was traded to Real Salt Lake where he played 43 games before moving to the LA Galaxy in 2007. Klein set records with the Galaxy for consecutive starts (118) and games played (141) that still stand today. In his 94 regular season appearances he netted two goals and earned 15 assists, including a legendary bicycle-kick goal in the 2007 SuperLiga final that sent the match into overtime. He closed out his playing career by helping the Galaxy win the 2010 Supporters’ Shield.
Klein, who holds a USSF 'B' coaching license, retired from playing in 2010. In December of that year, he was named Director of LA Galaxy Academy.
The Soccer Business Person:
The role of Academy Director united Klein’s expertise on and off the field. This was not Klein’s first venture into an administrative role. In 2003 he had joined Landon Donovan, Tim Howard, Alexi Lalas and Ben Olsen as the founding members of the MLS Players Union’s Executive Board. The move followed the unsuccessful attempt in Fraser v. Major League Soccer in which a group of players filed an antitrust suit against the league. Klein and his colleagues knew that MLS players needed to be organized to be heard and knew there must be a better way to achieve this goal.
“Ten years ago our players were not organized and did not have one voice to speak to the league,” Klein explained. “There was a players’ organization that was formed that ended up in a lawsuit with the league and lost. Some of us knew there had to be a better way and that a players’ group could have real discussions with the league and address major concerns.”
The newly formed Major League Soccer Players Union negotiated the first collective bargaining agreement with the league in 2004, which lasted through 2009. In 2010 a new agreement was signed, with Klein playing a major role in the bargaining. During that time he got to know LA Galaxy CEO Tim Leiweke, who was impressed by Klein’s business knowledge. It was then that Leiweke suggested Klein become involved with the LA Galaxy Academy.
Klein’s impressive rise in the administrative world of soccer may have started at the Academy, but the road was traveled quickly and in 2012 he became Vice President of the club. On January 28, 2013, Klein became President of the most outstanding MLS team in the USA with two, back-to-back championships.
In this new role Klein has the responsibility to lead the Galaxy to new heights of success, and he has ambitious goals. As a former Galaxy player coached by Bruce Arena, and with the in-depth knowledge of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy – united with an unyielding passion to build soccer in our country – Klein is a man to watch.
Klein will work closely with new AEG Sports Chief Operating Officer Kelly Cheeseman in developing long-term goals for the club. Klein also continues to oversee the long-term financial and technical plans for the Academy, which recently initiated the LA Galaxy Academy Alliance with South Bay Force and West Coast FC as well as arrange international friendly matches for the first team as well as leading the club in all MLS and community development-related matters.
When asked by SoccerNation News Editor Diane Scavuzzo about his transition to the administrative side of the game, Klein said, “A lot of people end up coaching, but I wanted to do something that was involving business, so I did things to advance myself in the business world. For example, I got my Series 7 and Series 66 securities licenses to enable me to be a financial advisor.”
As on the pitch, the combination of training and experience made the difference for Klein when it came time for LA Galaxy to name a new President for the club.
LA Galaxy press picture announcing Klein named Senior Director of the LA Galaxy Academy Program and Special Projects in Devember 2010
“We have always been impressed with Chris’ commitment and desire to excel on the business side of sports, and we have great confidence and faith that he will take the LA Galaxy to new levels,” said Leiweke when the appointment was announced. “We admire his passion and loyalty to the brand and his desire for the Galaxy to be the greatest soccer club in the history of this sport in this country. What makes Chris even more valuable to the Galaxy is his ability to understand our academy system, our development system and the partnership he has with Bruce will allow the Galaxy to continue to compete for championships year after year.”
As Klein points out, the Academy is a business that exists with the role of helping develop players and move them into the First Team. This has been apparent with the success of Homegrown Players such as Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal and recent signings of Oscar Sorto and Gyasi Zardes.
“We spend over one million dollars on our Academy program,” Klein said, “with the goal of making it one of the best Academies in the country. With all the talent we have in Southern California, our job is to identify the players we want to develop and train them to be the best.”
Working closely with first team manager Arena, Klein and his team are determined that back-to-back MLS Cup championships are just the beginning.
“The Galaxy’s concentration is always the First Team,” said Klein. “Bruce Arena took the Galaxy from a club that was really struggling to where we are today with back-to-back championships. I am here to make sure Bruce has what he needs to be successful.”
“We want to be even more innovative in our approach to being the best MLS club,” Klein explained. “We are here to build from within, to develop players who can fill our roster so we can sign players like David Beckham and Robbie Keane. The Galaxy was the first club to sign a designated player – David Beckham – and we want our fans asking who we are going to sign next. What big international soccer star is coming to the Galaxy?”
“The Galaxy Academy is about developing good soccer players,” Klein continued. “Not all great players may fit into Bruce’s system. We have to be creative to find the right spot for our Academy players. We can sell or loan players.”
Klein has recently hired Jovan Kirovski, who wore the Galaxy jersey for five of his 20 years as a professional, to be the Technical Director of the Academy, and it is his long-term responsibility to develop the soccer talent. “It is Kirovksi’s job to work with our first team coach Bruce Arena and know what players he needs for the first team.”
|Chris Klein after the USA vs Mexico 2012 LEGENDS CUP at the Home Depot Center
When asked to discuss his goals as the new president, Klein says simply, “It is about taking the next step, not as a European club set-up but with a more innovative approach. The Galaxy’s stated goal is to be the best club in the Region. We need to be able to compete effectively against teams from Mexico. The best days are ahead. We want to be and do better than we have done in the past.”
Klein’s goals are for the long-term growth of the sport and his club. Growth often translates to ticket sales and attendance. Although as anyone knows it is on-field success that translates into fan excitement and ticket sales, Klein is specific on the experience he wants for season ticketholders. While the team’s season ticket holder base has doubled recently, he wants to see more: “We want our soccer games to be like the final against Houston Dynamo. It was an amazing feeling in the stadium. Soccer is great entertainment.”
“How we treat our season ticket holders is important,” Klein pointed out. “The experience has to be a positive one throughout the entire time. These are touch points we can control. I want us to give our fans what they want – a real soccer atmosphere. When the MLS was launched, there was concern that America did not have enough serious soccer fans to sustain a league or even to fill a stadium. I think there are enough serious soccer fans to make soccer a real success in America.”
Looking ahead, Klein knows that these stalwart fans will help to drive enthusiasm to even higher levels. “The Galaxy has great supporter groups and we want to help them grow,” he said. “I want to see the demand in the market place increase from how many tickets are available for a game to people wanting to know if there is a ticket left.”
Making people think great soccer excitement every time they hear the words LA Galaxy will take time and effort, but Klein believes that the pieces are in place for that to happen. “The support of AEG is second to none; we are becoming one Galaxy organization,” Klein stated. “When people think of the most successful soccer club in the world – they think of FC Barcelona. With our structure, we have to show what we can do.”
“I want fans to instantly think of quality when they think of the Galaxy,” said Klein. And, of course, Klein wants new and old fans to come out to the Home Depot Center and support his team.
If youth players have dreams of becoming a professional soccer player, nothing is better than watching pro soccer. Becoming a fan of your local team, and in particular of the back-to-back champion LA Galaxy is important; supporting soccer is in the best interest of all of us who share a passion and love for the beautiful game. So, this year come out to the games and bring your family and cheer for your favorite MLS team.
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