Photograph courtesy Columbus Crew SC Communications

At the start of 2018, Tim Bezbatchenko, ’04, was in Toronto, 300 miles away from his hometown team, as he followed news that it planned to depart for another city. At the start of 2019, he was the team’s president, helping it stay and succeed.

Bezbatchenko is president of the Columbus Crew, the first of Major League Soccer’s original 10 franchises, a distinction it earned in 1996 on the strength of 11,500 season ticket deposits and a plan to build the nation’s first soccer-specific stadium. As Crew’s new president, Bezbatchenko will help lead the construction of the team’s next stadium, one piece of a major investment by new owners who bought the team in part to prevent relocation.

“Growing up in central Ohio, I have followed Columbus Crew SC since Day One, and my parents have been longtime season ticket members,” he said. “To have the opportunity to come back to Ohio and proudly serve as president of the charter member of Major League Soccer is an honor and an immense point of pride for myself and my family.”

MLS’s popularity has boomed in recent years. The league’s average attendance in 2017–18 outpaced the NBA and NHL, and MLS teams in Atlanta and Seattle outdrew their cities’ NFL teams over their respective seasons. After a century of fits and starts, soccer has become a major sport in America.

Bezbatchenko has helped create this success. After a terrific career at Richmond, he played professionally and then went to law school, but he quickly found a place in MLS league offices, rising to senior director of player relations and competition. From there, he moved to league member Toronto FC, where, as general manager he oversaw soccer operations before taking over at Columbus.

“The future is bright for this club, which has such storied history,” Bezbatchenko said. “In the near future, Crew SC will have state-of-the-art stadium and training facility projects underway that will help showcase the upward trajectory of this organization and the sport itself.”