U.S. Soccer: Tim Howard ensures sport in safe pair of hands

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 6: Tim Howard former player of the United States National Team being honored during a game between Mexico and USMNT at MetLife Stadium on September 6, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images).
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 6: Tim Howard former player of the United States National Team being honored during a game between Mexico and USMNT at MetLife Stadium on September 6, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images). /

Former USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard is the new Sporting Director of Memphis 901 FC. The American legend ensures that U.S. soccer is in a safe pair of hands.

Among all levels of play and in every corner of the United States, U.S. soccer is growing rapidly. Though it has always seemed like the U.S. has been playing catch up when it comes to soccer, it’s a weird thought considering the country hosts arguably the top leagues in the world in basketball (NBA), American football (NFL), hockey (NHL) and baseball (MLB). But it’s true. Major League Soccer, the dominant domestic league, and U.S. soccer more generally have always taken a backseat.

It’s an uphill battle, with MLS perhaps more focused on trying to catch the league in front of them than the race’s front runner. But with such a small footprint on the international Goliath that is the sport of soccer, the United States has produced players who have made their mark internationally for the some of the best clubs around the world. Players like Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard have enjoyed illustrious careers overseas and on U.S. soil. But them, among others, now look towards retirement and leaving an everlasting legacy.

The idea of giving back or paying something forward is a fundamentally universal idea that can be applicable to any person in any situation. In sports, we have seen this happen throughout the years as there was always someone before who dispensed knowledge, insight and experience. This is now the goal of former USMNT goalkeeper and premier league staple Tim Howard, who aims to lift the city of Memphis into the soccer stratosphere in their second season in the USL Championship in 2020.

It was announced on January the 8th that Howard would assume the role of Sporting Director for a Memphis 901 FC organization in only its second year of existence but full of potential. ‘Memphis is my home in the offseason, and I cannot express how excited I am to support professional soccer downtown,’ Howard said. ‘We will have a chance to see some of the brightest talent in the game playing in our city, and I look forward to helping the USL Memphis organization on any and every level I can to ensure its success.’

Howard has been a minority owner of the club since 2018 when he became a financial partner in Trinity Sports Holdings, which owns the USL side Memphis team as well as English fifth division side Dagenham & Redbridge FC — all this while still starting in 25 games for the Colorado Rapids this past season before officially retiring upon the season’s conclusion. Now, we all know those individuals who at the onset of retirement are able to sit back relax and embrace freedom. Maybe take the occasional fishing trip, breakfast with the family, or do the school run with the grandkids. Then we know the other type of individual who never learned to sit tight and hates fishing. Howard has yet to embrace the retirement lifestyle as he has moved into the Sporting Director role.

‘I have a vision of what I want the club to be,’ Howard said. ‘My goal is to learn, get better and keep pushing. I want to bring this team a championship.’

Howard is no stranger to the city of Memphis which he has called his home in the offseason since 2003. The 40-year-old enjoyed a career full of success in all facets, including overseas. 13 seasons in the English Premier League with Manchester United (2003-2007) and Everton (2007-2016), as well as at home with the MetroStars (1998-2003) and Colorado Rapids (2016-2019). His time with the United States Men’s National Team is equally as impactful which spanned nearly two decades and 121 caps from 2002-2017. But with accolades and memories to span a couple of lifetimes for most players, Howard has hung up the cleats after over twenty years of consecutive professional play now with the intention of retiring to suburbia to catch midday European matches but to impact his local community with a sport that he loves and competes in.

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‘As a minority owner it’s nice to sit up there in a suite,’ Howard said. ‘[But] by the nature of who I am, my competitive spirit, the goalkeeper in me, this role [of Sporting Director] has given me an excitement that mimics playing.’

His role at Memphis 901 FC will ultimately be to recruit players and put a competitive and exciting team on the field. The city itself has already bought in averaging over 6,500 fans in their first season of play in the USL Championship. Though the team finished 9-7-18, just five spots away from a playoff appearance, there is potential. And with a name and reputation like Howard’s to help bolster both the club’s and city’s appeal to players and agents, there is reason to believe Memphis can be a competitive team in the near future.

Perhaps most pertinently, Howard is not alone in his post-retirement enterprising. Multiple former players have taken roles on the other side of the table in front offices and on technical staffs all over the country. Former USMNT teammate Landon Donovan, like Howard. owns part of a U.K. football club, Swansea City, and the newly formed San Diego Loyal SC (USL), where he is both the Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and head coach. And it’s very well known at this point who owns MLS’s expansion side Inter Miami CF, David Beckham.

Next. U.S. Soccer: USMNT Team of the Decade. dark

But like Donovan, Tim Howard represents a generation of U.S. soccer that many fans have watched their whole life. And as they transition into new roles within the U.S. soccer structure with shared goals of advancing and growing the sport that they so dearly love and enjoy, it is safe to say that soccer is in good hands for fans everywhere.