A bit of shocking news was dropped by Steve Goff this morning: club president Kevin Payne will be leaving D.C. United and, even more surprisingly, will be joining another MLS team in some capacity. Payne has been involved in soccer in D.C. since the very beginning and was one of the key players who helped get MLS off the ground and got George Soros to invest in United in 1995. Quite frankly, without Kevin Payne there might not be an MLS right now.
Kevin Payne also served as the team's first general manager, hiring Bruce Arena and helping to build the championship teams of the 1990s. Even when he came back to the team in 2004, after running AEG's soccer arm, he was always more involved in the personnel decisions than a typical club president. Despite all of the calls for him to leave in recent years, there is no question that Kevin Payne bleeds black and red: his comments during the New York series were just the latest in a long string of passionate, heartfelt, and off the cuff remarks.
However, his white whale for the past ten years has been a D.C. United stadium. We all bear the scars of this process, from Poplar Point to Prince George's County, Baltimore to Buzzard Point. But no one was a more fierce proponant of getting D.C. United a stadium of its own in the District, so it is also strange to see him leave before that deal is finalized. A thought that was thrown out there by Jonathan Tannenwald on twitter: would Kevin Payne really leave if a stadium deal was not finalized?
The team has said that the search for a new club president is underway, one who will likely focus more fully on the business side of the the team will giving Dave Kasper and Ben Olsen more freedom in personnel matters. Fresh faces are not a bad thing, and one could definitely argue that D.C. United is in need of them in the front office. The rumors out there currently are that he might join Toronto FC, the LA Galaxy, or FC Dallas. Regardless of where he ends up, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Kevin Payne for everything that he has done for D.C. United specifically and soccer in the United States more generally.