JT Batson, a 40-year-old software executive who has long been involved in grassroots soccer programs, has been named CEO / Secretary General of the U.S. Soccer Federation.
Batson will start in his role immediately; he replaces Will Wilson, who announced he would step down earlier this year after a two-year stint as CEO.
U.S. Soccer said Batson, a Stanford graduate and co-founder and CEO of New York- and Atlanta-based software company Hudson MX, will move from New York to Chicago in the coming months to work out of the federation headquarters. Wilson will stay on through October to assist in the transition.
Unlike Wilson, an industry vet whose resume includes positions with Soccer United Marketing, the Wasserman sports agency and the NFL, Batson has little experience as a sports executive. However, he has been a member of the U.S. Soccer finance committee, and according to a U.S. Soccer release, helped “spearhead the creation of the U.S. Soccer Development Fund, which raises money to support U.S. Soccer’s development of world-class players, coaches and referees.”
His background in grassroots and community programs also factored into the selection.
“JT is uniquely qualified for this position as a person who has vast experience working with large, complex organizations as well as an understanding of the intricate workings of modern business,” U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone said in a statement. “He also has a passion for soccer born out of playing and growing up in a generation that saw a massive growth of the sport in the United States.”
In a press conference Monday evening, Parlow Cone said Batson was among 180 candidates for the position vetted by TurnkeyZRG, the talent recruitment firm hired by U.S. Soccer to run the search.
U.S. Soccer touted Batson’s continued involvement with his childhood soccer club, Augusta Arsenal in Georgia, as a coach and advisory board member, as well as his work as an undergraduate with Stanford’s men’s and women’s soccer programs and its basketball teams in recruiting and marketing. “The first software Batson ever worked on was for the assignment of youth soccer referees for tournament organizers,” U.S. Soccer’s press release said.
The federation has seen tensions between its grassroots and community stakeholders and the national office in recent years, which were evident in the close, divisive election this year that saw Parlow Cone retain the presidency over Carlos Cordeiro.
While sponsors and players largely sided with Parlow Cone, a former U.S. National team member, many grassroots federation members wanted to restore Cordeiro, who vowed to provide more resources to lower levels of soccer but resigned under pressure in 2020 over the federation’s clumsy, sexist tactics in an equal pay lawsuit brought by women’s players.
Batson’s hiring may be seen as a way to help heal those rifts. “It’s an honor and a big responsibility to take on this position with U.S. Soccer,” Batson said in a statement, “and I’m really looking forward to working with Cindy, our board, our senior leadership, our players, coaches and referees, and all of our employees, partners and membership across the American soccer landscape.”
Prior to founding Hudson MX, Batson was an Entrepreneur in Residence at Greylock Partners and Accel Partners. He began his career as an early employee of Mozilla focused on international growth efforts of the then-nascent Firefox browser.
While at Stanford, he not only worked with the Cardinal sports teams, but he also for a short time reportedly dated Elizabeth Holmes, who went on to found the scandal-ridden medical-tech company Theranos and wound up convicted of fraud. According to the book, Bad Blood, by John Carreyrou, Holmes showed up at Batson’s dorm room “and told him she couldn’t see him anymore because she was starting a company and would have to devote all her time to it. Batson, who had never been dumped before, was stunned but remembers that the unusual reason she gave took some of the sting out of the rejection.”
Batson seems to have gotten over it, and now has his sights set on managing a busy period for U.S. Soccer.
“When I was playing youth soccer, I wasn’t the kid that was dreaming of playing in the World Cup, I was the kid dreaming about organizing one,” Batson said in the press release. “With 2022 FIFA World Cup starting in a few months, the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup coming next summer and the USA co-hosting the 2026 FIFA World Cup in four years, we are heading into a special time in our history and I’m extremely excited to be a part of it.”
(The story was updated in the seventh paragraph to include details about the search and search firm.)