Minnesota United on Wednesday hired Khaled El-Ahmad out of England's League One to be its sporting director and chief soccer officer.
El-Ahmad, 42, has been CEO and sporting director for Barnsley Football Club in League One — England's third division — since 2021.
He'll be tasked to replace Loons coach Adrian Heath and technical director Mark Watson as the club's chief soccer decisionmaker. Both were fired last month with two games remaining in a season when the club didn't make the playoffs for the first time since 2018.
El-Ahmad will oversee all aspects of the club's sporting operations, including technical strategy and playing style, coaching hires and development, roster construction and management from its MLS first team to its MNUFC2 development team and youth academy.
That includes hiring the club's next coach after Heath coached its first seven MLS seasons, although El-Ahmad's start date at his new job seemed unclear Wednesday.
The Loons last month made longtime executive Manny Lagos its first chief development officer, clearing the way for El-Ahmad to assume Lagos' chief soccer officer title.
Currently in fifth place in League One, Barnsley FC in a statement confirmed El-Ahmad's departure but not until his contract expires at season's end. Or much more likely, until everything is in order and the English club hires a new chief soccer officer.
Barnsley's statement thanked him for his service and wished him luck until then, adding: "Mr. El-Ahmad will remain in his role until the end of his contract, unless there is a mutual termination once a suitable replacement is found."
In a statement that announced the hiring, Minnesota United CEO Shari Ballard called El-Ahmad an "outstanding fit" for the job. She cited his "tremendous background, a track record of success, exceptional technical vision and a leadership approach that matches our club values and beliefs." She also said El-Ahmad has "an energy and focus about him that I personally love."
El-Ahmad noted what he called "a deep connection" about the club's values and visions from his first conversation with Ballard. He also mentioned the Loons' supporters and its famed Wonderwall.
"Above all else, I am most excited about the opportunity to engage with the fans," he said in the statement. "Your passion and support is of the highest level and I look forward to embarking on this journey with you."
Before leading Barnsley, El-Ahmad worked for City Football Group (CFG) — whose clubs include English Premier League's Manchester City and MLS's New York City FC — from 2015 to 2021. He served as its CONCACAF and Scandinavia scouting lead and supported roster construction and recruitment, which helped the club produce consistently talented and high-performing teams, for a NYCFC team that won the 2021 MLS Cup.
He was born in Lebanon, raised in Sweden and played collegiately at the University of Wis.-Milwaukee. El-Ahmad graduated from there in 2005 with a degree in business administration and also became an assistant coach there. Lagos and Minnesota soccer great Tony Sanneh played there as well, although about a decade earlier than El-Ahmad.
MLS' offseason includes decisions needed on player options, free agency, trades and the college draft. It officially starts Nov. 22 with formal contract offers, but gets busy throughout December. Players report for the 2024 season in early January and the season begins in late February.