Alum guides team to Major League Soccer championship

January 4, 2021

While some sports were put on hold this year, Major League Soccer held its championship game — and a Spider helped lead the winning team to victory.

Tim Bezbatchenko, a 2004 Richmond grad, is the president and general manager of Columbus Crew SC in Ohio, his home state. The team — one of the original 10 Major League Soccer teams — earned its second MLS Cup in December 2020 against defending champion Seattle Sounders. The Crew won its first championship in 2008.

In just over two years at the helm, Bezbatchenko has overseen multiple milestones, including the groundbreaking for a new stadium and training facility, a multi-year sponsorship with Nationwide Insurance, and the formation of a reserve team that will launch within the year.

While at Richmond, he studied economics and leadership studies and has said he's used his background in the Jepson School as his career led him to the top of the professional soccer club arena.

"Leadership really is about what we learned at the Jepson School — understanding people's motivations, communicating well, and marshaling a mission," he said. "Jepson helped me learn how to approach intricate problems in complex environments."

After a terrific soccer career at Richmond as a midfielder, Bezbatchenko played professionally for Pittsburgh’s pro team, the Riverhounds. He 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.

"Jepson taught me effective organizations are driven by a vision," he says. "One of the first things I did was sit down and talk with the players, coaches and fans to carefully listen and understand the club. Those conversations helped to create the vision that we're now striving to achieve."