- Posted by adminxs
- On March 14, 2017
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A New Goal in Sight
by Benjamin Gleisser
Sports have always played a very important role in Nick Sakiewicz’s life.
“Soccer kept me focused on school,” he says. “I grew up in a tough, inner-city area, and there were a lot of distractions for kids in the late 1970s. Athletics helped me stay focused by teaching me discipline, a work ethic and the importance of teamwork.”
He also credits his family — especially his grandfathers — for inspiring him to keep his eyes on his goals.
“They were incredible men of character and resolve,” Sakiewicz says. “They survived two world wars. One was a math teacher in Russia, and the other was a merchant marine in the Polish Army who fought the Nazis in the Polish underground. Both men came to the U.S. with nothing and built businesses, careers and families.”
Sakiewicz’s success on the pitch caught the eye of former soccer coach and athletic director Joe Machnik, who recruited him to play for the Chargers. Over his four-year career as the team’s goaltender, Sakiewicz posted 25 shutouts and was named an All-New England selection in his junior year. He is a member of the Charger Athletics Hall of Fame.
“Goaltending was a pressure position, but I loved it,” he says. “It taught me a lot about being a leader on the field as well as off.”
After graduation, he played professionally in France and Portugal before returning to the U.S. to play for the Tampa Bay Rowdies. After his playing days, he transitioned to the business side of the sport he loved.
The excitement generated worldwide during the 1994 FIFA World Cup, which was hosted by the United States, convinced Sakiewicz and other soccer enthusiasts there was an opportunity to grow the soccer market in the U.S. The group created Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1995, and Sakiewicz was the league’s first vice president of commercial sponsorship sales. From 1997 to 2006, he served as president and general manager of the franchises in Tampa and New York. In that span, he was named MLS Executive of the Year twice.
In 2008, he founded the Philadelphia Union, MLS’s 16th team. Under his direction, the team played to 95 percent of fan capacity during its first six seasons and saw double-digit sponsorship growth. He sold his shares in the franchise in 2015.
His success as one of the founding executives of MLS appealed to the National Lacrosse League (NLL) when it was looking for a new leader, and he was named the league’s fifth commissioner in January.
“His vision and expertise in league and franchise management, as well as his intimate knowledge of corporate partnerships and expansion, made him the ideal candidate to lead the National Lacrosse League and take it to new heights,” said Steve Govett, chairman of the NLL’s board of governors.
Entering its third decade, the NLL chose Sakiewicz to help expand the league into more markets. Currently, the league has four Canadian and five U.S. teams, and its season runs from January to June.
“There are two fundamental reasons why I got excited about the National Lacrosse League,” Sakiewicz says. “First, the high quality of the entertainment our players and member clubs provide the fans is extremely ‘ticket sellable.’ Second, we have a great group of committed and smart owners who make up our engaged board of governors. They’re the kind of people that others in the sports industry would want to partner with alongside their own team.”
Creating interest in the NLL will be similar to what he and others did to popularize MLS, Sakiewicz says. “It starts with growing it at the grassroots level. I put so much time, eff ort and sweat equity into something I believed in wholeheartedly that it feels like you’re raising a child.”