Massapequa Native Manning Leading the Way in Utah
March 25, 2014 | by Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
One of Major League Soccer’s top front office executives has many fond memories of growing up in the Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL). Bill Manning, the President of MLS Western Conference champion Real Salt Lake and the club’s Rio Tinto Stadium, played for the LIJSL Select Team from 1979 to ‘83 as well as the Massapequa Soccer Club from 1972 to ‘83.
Bill’s Massapequa teams had virtually the same players from Under-10 to Under-19 but kept changing their name depending on who their coach was. He played for the Massapequa Flying Dutchmen (coached by Kurt Knoblauch), the Massapequa Bugs (Dick Roche), the Massapequa Cosmos (Jerry Lyons) and the Massapequa Bulls (coached by his father, also named Bill Manning). The Bulls might have lost in the Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) State Open Cup finals to B/W Gottschee in overtime in 1983 but his teams won the LIJSL division championship in 1974, ‘76 and ‘79 plus the Long Island Cup in 1980 and ‘83.
While Bill eventually moved on to pro soccer, one of his teammates, goalkeeper Kevin Ferrari, started volunteering with local youth soccer groups and is the current President of the Massapequa Soccer Club.
“My best memory of youth soccer is from our last year together with the Massapequa Bulls,” Bill stated. “We travelled to the Pocono Cup in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. It was a select team tournament and we were one of only a few club teams there. We wound up beating the New Jersey state champs and then a team from Denmark in the finals to win the championship. We just had a great time together and to go out as winners with this group that had played together for so long was special.”
Bill was selected to play in the 1986 Intercollegiate Soccer Association of America East-West All-Star Game. As a sophomore at the University of Bridgeport, he helped the Purple Knights to an NCAA quarterfinal berth, and as a senior in 1986, he led his team to a Final Four appearance while earning first-team All-America honors.
Bill continued his playing career after college and won a US Open Cup with the Brooklyn Italians in 1991. He also played professionally in the United Soccer Leagues (USL) with the Penn-Jersey Spirit (1991), Valley Golden Eagles (1993) and New York Fever (1994-95) before Major League Soccer existed.
He began his sports management career by joining the front office of the Continental Indoor Soccer League during its inaugural season in 1993. A year later, he returned to the Empire State to play with the New York Fever and do double duty in their front office as Director of Marketing and Operations. In 1996, he was hired as Vice President and General Manager of the Long Island Rough Riders and the club was honored twice by Soccer Business International as the recipient of the Marketing Excellence Award for best overall marketing in the USL.
“I moved from California to come back to New York for this opportunity to play for the Fever and work in their front office,” he said. “That set the stage for my eventual move to the Long Island Rough Riders as General Manager in 1996 when I was 30 years old. The timing was right.”
After the 1997 season, he left Long Island to become President and General Manager of the USL’s Minnesota Thunder and immediately made an impact as Minnesota advanced to the 1998 USL A-League championship match after a losing record the previous season. The following year, Bill was named USL Executive of the Year after Minnesota won the 1999 championship and developed the second-highest revenue base in the league.
He moved to Major League Soccer at the turn of the millennium when he was named President and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Mutiny. He was honored as the 2000 MLS Executive of the Year by the Washington Post but the team was contracted less than two years later. At a career crossroads, Bill moved to the NBA, where he joined the Houston Rockets as Director of Corporate Partnerships, then served four years as Vice President of Sales and Service for the Philadelphia Eagles, overseeing a 50% increase in corporate sponsorship from 2004 to 2007.
Since landing in his current position in 2008, Real Salt Lake gave Utah its first major-league professional sports championship (2009) in nearly 40 years, plus he successfully sold naming rights and opened one of the United States’ latest state of the art sports and entertainment venues, Rio Tinto Stadium. With Bill leading the charge, tickets sales and sponsorship revenue have more than tripled since his arrival. He was honored as the 2012 recipient of the Doug Hamilton Award as MLS's Executive of the Year.
Bill’s brother Lawrence and sister Heather also played for the Massapequa Soccer Club as kids. Lawrence went on to play for Cortland State and the U.S. Deaf National Team and represented the red, white and blue at the Deaflympics in Copenhagen (1997), Rome (2001) and Melbourne (2005).