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Vardar Coach Mike Lupenec (left), reconnects with Ali Curtis of MLS at the MLS Next Fest held May 2024 in Maryland.

Vardar Alum Appointed Senior VP of MLS

By Karen Read, 05/16/24, 9:30AM EDT


Ali Curtis, a former alumni of Vardar Soccer Club, has been appointed to Senior Vice President of Sporting Development for Major League Soccer.  Please read the press release from MLS.  Photo shows Vardar Coach Mike Lupenec (left), reconnecting with Ali Curtis of MLS at the MLS Next Fest held May 2024 in Maryland.

MLS Announces New Leadership for MLS NEXT & On-Field Innovation
Ali Curtis promoted to SVP of Sporting Development for Major League Soccer, leads MLS NEXT and MLS On-Field Innovation

NEW YORK (Thursday, May 9, 2024) – Major League Soccer today announced the new leadership team for MLS NEXT, the league’s youth development platform. The new leadership team is part of the evolution of MLS NEXT, which began in September 2020 and now consists of 15,000 elite players across the United States and Canada.  Ali Curtis has been promoted to the newly created role of Senior Vice President of Sporting Development for Major League Soccer. In his new role, Curtis will lead all areas of MLS NEXT and continue to manage the sporting side of MLS NEXT Pro. Additionally, Curtis will head On-Field Innovation throughout Major League Soccer as new on-field rules are an important focus area that will help push the sport forward within MLS NEXT, MLS NEXT Pro and MLS.
Former New York Red Bulls and Inter Miami CF goalkeeper Luis Robles has been promoted to Technical Director of MLS NEXT. In his role, Robles will serve as the lead for all MLS and MLS NEXT Elite Academy Directors and Technical Staff. Drawing on his experience as an accomplished youth, collegiate and professional player both abroad and in MLS, Robles will provide technical and sporting guidance for MLS NEXT.
Kyle Albrecht will become the Interim General Manager of MLS NEXT, replacing Justin Bokmeyer, who departed to a position with the Brooklyn Nets. Albrecht will lead execution of MLS NEXT programs to continuously improve and elevate the quality of competition, talent identification, education, compliance, and club membership. Albrecht will continue to oversee MLS GO, the league’s recreational soccer program that supports access, participation, and the growth of soccer for boys and girls across the country. Both Albrecht and Robles will report directly to Curtis as part of their new roles. MLS NEXT will immediately begin a global search for a permanent General Manager.
“It is exciting to now be involved in MLS at all levels – MLS first teams, MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT academies,” said Curtis. “Development, both on and off the field, is a passion of mine and now is the perfect time to step into this role. The sport is evolving, our MLS ecosystem continues to grow, and the 2026 World Cup is around the corner. We will be intentional in every aspect of what we seek to achieve. I am looking forward to the work.”
Curtis joined MLS NEXT Pro as senior vice president of competition and operations prior to its inaugural 2022 season to oversee the League’s competition, medical, security, operations and player relations
departments. In his role, Curtis spearheaded several innovative initiatives, including two rules that have recently been implemented in MLS – the Off-Field Treatment Rule and the Timed Substitution Rule. Prior to MLS NEXT Pro, he served as general manager of Toronto FC from 2019 to 2021. During his time in Toronto, the club won the Eastern Conference Championship and advanced to MLS Cup in 2019. Curtis was previously the sporting director for the New York Red Bulls, where during his tenure, the club won the
2015 Supporters Shield. When he was hired in 2014, Curtis became the first African American general manager in MLS history. From 2007-2014, Curtis worked in MLS’ league office in the player relations and competition department. Prior to working in MLS’ league office, Curtis was an analyst at JP Morgan.

An accomplished player who spent four seasons in MLS, Curtis was a three-time All-American and two-time national player of the year at Duke University where he was inducted into the Blue Devils’ Athletics Hall of Fame in 2022. Drafted second in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft by the Tampa Bay Mutiny, Curtis also went on to play for D.C. United and FC Dallas. Curtis spent his youth playing career with MLS NEXT Elite Academy, Vardar Soccer Club (Detroit, Mich.). 

Following a 14-year playing career that included nine seasons in MLS with the New York Red Bulls and Inter Miami CF, Robles joined MLS NEXT in May 2023, in which he helped assist programming, new on-field initiatives, player development, and the launch of MLS GO. The Arizona native spent eight seasons with the Red Bulls, winning three Supporters’ Shield titles (2013, 2015, and 2018) and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors in 2015. After starring at the University of Portland (2003-06), Robles began his
professional career in Germany with 1. FC Kaiserslautern (2007-10) and Karlsruher SC (2010-12) before joining the Red Bulls. He also appeared three times for the U.S. Men’s National Team, making his debut on July 11, 2009.
“As a product of the youth soccer system in this country, I am humbled by the opportunity to become the Technical Director of MLS NEXT,” said Robles. “I have seen the incredible opportunities that this program provides players, families, and coaches, and I look forward to being a part of the process to enhance and broaden them even more."
Albrecht has spent five years with MLS, most recently as vice president of MLS GO, leading the launch of the League’s new recreation program in 2023. Before joining MLS, Albrecht had a nine-year tenure with Under Armour, which included leading Sports Marketing for the organization’s European operations in London. A native of Silver Spring, Md., Albrecht played for four seasons on the George Washington University men’s soccer team and spent his youth soccer career with MLS NEXT Elite Academy, Bethesda Soccer Club (Bethesda, Md).
Launched in 2020, MLS NEXT is the most elite platform for youth player development in North America.
With a commitment to innovation and providing access and representation, MLS NEXT players receive the best training and coaching as they prepare for their futures, both in soccer and in life. Throughout a season, MLS NEXT hosts four marquee events across the country, including the Generation adidas Cup, which features MLS academies playing against the top international clubs. Membership for the 2023-24 season includes 29 MLS academies, 114 Elite Academies (143 total clubs), 677 teams and over 15,000 players across the U.S. and Canada. Official partners of MLS NEXT include adidas, Allstate, and DoorDash. For more information about MLS NEXT, visit