JoAnn Neale

JoAnn Neale

President and Chief Administrative Officer
Major League Soccer


Business Operations


Please share a bit of background about yourself.

I serve as President and Chief Administrative Officer for Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing, where I oversee Strategy and Business Intelligence, Human Resources, Social Responsibility, Technology and Administration.

I sit on the Board of Directors for the U.S. Soccer Foundation, was named a Sports Business Journal Game Changer, Adweek’s 30 Most Powerful Women in Sports, Crain’s Notable Women in the Business of Sports and NY’s 100 Most Responsible Corporate Citizens. I was also honored by the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women for my leadership in providing opportunities through sport to underserved girls. Prior to joining MLS, I spent four years as a practicing attorney where I focused on corporate finance and real estate transactions. I earned my law degree from New York University’s School of Law, graduating cum laude, and received a Bachelor of Science degree, with distinction, from Cornell University.

All pathways are different; how did you get to where you are?

As a young adult, I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in law, but I found the traditional law firm job unfulfilling. In 1998, I decided to pursue an in-house legal role at Major League Soccer. It was a risky move. At the time, soccer in America was not considered a viable business. I was willing to take a chance because I was passionate about soccer and confident that I would be able to find another role if MLS eventually failed. I am now entering my 24th year with the League. Throughout my career at MLS, I continued to challenge myself to pursue opportunities that I cared deeply about and to lean into new opportunities that arose as the League grew, which meant trusting in myself and assuming roles outside of my comfort zone and core competencies. Looking back, I can say that the training I received as a young corporate attorney taught me invaluable skills that I continue to use in my every-day work.

What do you love about your current job?

There are so many things that I love about my job. My role is unique in that I touch so many different areas of the business, which makes each day unpredictable. The diversity keeps me focused and challenged. In a typical day, I can work on an employee issue, strategize about data integrity, discuss community impact programs, manage organizational design, address public health issues (like COVID-19), etc. I am truly never bored. Equally important (if not more so) to the day-to-day work, is the enjoyment I get from the people who work for MLS. We have terrific, passionate, and dedicated staff. It is so important to like and respect the people with whom you work, and we truly have wonderful staff throughout the organization and a terrific culture. I miss seeing everyone in person!

What advice would you give to women seeking a position in the sports industry?

The advice I would give to women seeking a career in sports is no different than the advice I would give to anyone starting a new career. Be in the moment and always give one hundred percent, even if you are not in the role you want or think you should be in. The reality is that it will be hard to advance if you aren’t doing your current job well and showing up with a positive attitude. Accept feedback as a gift, stay open to new ideas and smarter ways of doing things, and do “sweat the details.” Try not to be distracted by things you cannot control. Focus on what you can control: work ethic, attitude, preparation, and how you treat others.