Olsen will oversee all day-to-day operations, “driving the development of the team’s business and sporting operations, and the overall effort to enhance the club’s culture and identity.”
Olsen played for 13 seasons at Major League Soccer’s DC United and served as the team’s head coach for 10 years, from 2010-20. He has served as an advisor to DC United for the past 18 months.
“We are proud to bring Ben Olsen into the Spirit family. Ben has been a legendary player, coach, and executive in the DC soccer world. He is truly a soccer icon in the Nation’s Capital,” said Spirit majority owner Steve Baldwin.
“As importantly, he has been an engaged community builder in the DMV. The Spirit will benefit from his energy, ideas, leadership, and history competing on the international stage and winning championships for DC, as we pursue another for the Spirit,” Baldwin said.
The appointment comes with Baldwin fighting to retain control of the Spirit after coming under fire following allegations of emotional and verbal abuse by the team’s former coach Richie Burke, who was suspended by the club over the claims. The league is also investigating the matter.
Burke was hired by Baldwin, who previously coached the owner’s daughter, which is at the heart of the issue.
Spirit investor Y. Michele Kang, who acquired a 35 per cent stake in the team last December, is said to be looking to seize control of the NWSL club from Baldwin.
According to reports, Baldwin agreed to sell his stake in the team but has since changed his mind on the matter, creating an impasse.
A number of fans publicly called for Baldwin to sell the team during the Spirit’s home game against North Carolina Courage at Audi Field over the weekend.
Notably, Kang was not quoted in the press release to announce Olsen’s hiring.
According to the Washington Post, the appointment “is a Steve Baldwin move” and “Kang was kept in the dark.”
Elsewhere, the United Soccer League has named former MLS communications and content staff member Will Kuhns as its senior vice president of communications and public relations.