Two proud LIJSL alumni, Real Salt Lake President Bill Manning on the left and
Real Salt Lake defender Chris Wingert show off a map of Long Island on Chris' shirt.
By Randy Vogt, Director of Public Relations, Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association
February 26, 2014-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 Western Conference champion Real Salt Lake and the club’s field, 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 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 a 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 and 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. 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 for the Minnesota Thunder to become President and General Manager, 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.
During his tenure as President since 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 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 plus the U.S. Deaf National Team and represented the red, white and blue at the Deaflympics in Copenhagen (1997), Rome (2001) and Melbourne (2005).
With 123,843 youth soccer players––68,587 boys and 55,256 girls––and more than 25,000 volunteers, the non-profit Eastern New York Youth Soccer Association (ENYYSA) stretches from Montauk Point, Long Island to the Canadian border. Members are affiliated with 11 leagues throughout the association, which covers the entire state of New York east of Route 81. ENYYSA exists to promote and enhance the game of soccer for children and teenagers between the ages of 5 and 19 years old, and to encourage the healthy development of youth players, coaches, referees and administrators. All levels of soccer are offered––from intramural, travel team and premier players as well as Special Children. No child who wants to play soccer is turned away. ENYYSA is a proud member of the United States Soccer Federation and United States Youth Soccer Association. For more information, please log on to http://www.enysoccer.com/, which receives nearly 300,000 hits annually from the growing soccer community.
Boys-Under-14 Massapequa Cosmos. Bill Manning is kneeling on the far right and Massapequa Soccer Club President Kevin Ferrari is the goalkeeper. Jerry Lyons is their coach.