U.S. Soccer has named longtime MLS executive Nelson Rodriguez to a newly created position called managing director of national teams advisory services, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told SI.com on Thursday. The new position was the idea of U.S. men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who wanted someone with U.S. Soccer who was in charge of providing advice and pre-professional training for promising young U.S. players, as well as their families.
“Jurgen’s thought was that as the landscape has changed so dramatically, getting information and some basic counseling to our young players was very important,” said Gulati, who had no comment for now on Thursday's events involving FIFA. “Basically, a pre-professional program: What it means to be a professional. And in terms of the landscape changing, meaning NCAA issues, issues about playing in Europe or in MLS, issues about what it means to have an agent and what are the FIFA rules on the transfer of minors.”
In addition, Rodriguez will be in charge of providing information on nutrition and diet, media training and time management, as well as other aspects of how to be a pro. Rodriguez has a varied resume, having served most recently as the caretaker president of Chivas USA after MLS took over the team earlier this year. Before that, he was an MLS HQ executive for 14 years, and he coached before that at the college level.
“It promises to be a great challenge but incredibly rewarding,” said Rodriguez, who will work with USA's boys and men's programs. “Education will be the primary focus, especially initially. And ultimately I think we will be creating bespoke advisory services for every member of the U.S. national team pools … I see this as trying to help individuals develop specific plans for themselves that will help them understand the rigors and the necessities of life as a professional athlete.”
Rodriguez will initially spend time with the 16- and 17-year-olds currently in the U.S. residency program in Bradenton, Florida, as they prepare for the Under-17 World Cup. Considering some of the friction lately between Klinsmann and MLS commissioner Don Garber over the quality of MLS, the choice of an MLS veteran executive like Rodriguez for a position conceived by Klinsmann could be seen as an olive branch to the U.S. domestic league.