Major League Soccer gets good marks for gender, ethnic diversity hiring

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Major League Soccer's hiring practices show an improvement in overall gender diversity, most notably at the senior team administration level, according to an annual report released on Wednesday.

The report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport gave MLS an overall gender grade of B, up from a C+ in 2014. That makes it the only men's professional league with a B in gender hiring besides the NBA.

The league earned its third straight B+ grade for overall racial hiring practices. MLS also received an A+ for diversity initiatives for the seventh consecutive season.

The number of women in senior team administration jobs increased from 42 in 2014 to 49 this season. The league added two new franchises -- Orlando City and New York City FC -- to bring the total number of teams to 20.

Report author Richard Lapchick said MLS's improvements are encouraging in a time when diverse hiring in some other leagues has become stagnant.

"It shows the MLS is putting its focus on gender and diversity as a business imperative," Lapchick said.

The MLS league office remained the most diverse place in MLS with people of color comprising 47 of 122 professional positions, or 39.1 percent. Women filled 37.4 percent (46) of those jobs. The percent of people of color and women in those roles was the same in 2014.

At the team level, 299 of the league's 570 players were people of color.

Colorado Rapids' Pablo Mastroeni and FC Dallas' Oscar Pareja are the only head coaches who are racial minorities. Nelson Rodriguez, who was hired by the Chicago Fire in September, became the first general manager of color in MLS since 2013.

But it's the first season since 2004 there were no teams with a person of color serving as a CEO or president.

The league's two newest franchises each showed diversity throughout their organizations. Most notably, Orlando City's Flavio Augusto da Silva is one of four majority owners in the league who are people of color.

"It's hard to move the needle much with many of the other leagues because they've been established for so long," Lapchick said. "But when you start like the WNBA did and make diversity a priority, you can see great success. So to see the new MLS teams taking advantage of that as well is encouraging."