|Charlotte MLS adds Dustin Swinehart for local engagement|
|Former Project 658 exec to lead outreach|
|Published Monday, January 13, 2020 9:25 pm|
Dustin Swinehart was the face of Charlotte soccer before Major League Soccer expanded to the Queen City.
He joined Charlotte MLS as director of community engagement after previously serving as executive director of Project 658, which advocates for refugee and low-income communities in East Charlotte.
“We have one chance to start this club,” Swinehart said. “My role is to make sure that the team and the club overall really create a positive impact on our city and our communities across the Carolinas.”
At the Charlotte Soccer Gala last Friday where club president Tom Glick addressed hundreds of youth players, he reminded the room that they were not bringing professional soccer to Charlotte, rather it had always been there. Hiring someone as ingrained in the soccer community as Swinehart reflects that, as he spent 12 seasons in Charlotte with the Charlotte Eagles in the USL.
“When you think about a new MLS franchise and how it’s going to roll out, there is a lot of excitement, but you have to be conscious that there is a big community to be aware of,” Swinehart said. “How do we support and navigate relationships in the city. How do we navigate the economic realities with a new team coming in? How do you support neighborhoods that might otherwise get overlooked? Basically how can we help the club be a blessing for the city at every neighborhood level for every resident as much as we can?”
Swinehart sees it as the franchise’s obligation to uplift the community.
“If you’re great on the field, but you’re bad for the community, then you’re not winning,” he said. “My charge is to help us be great off the field.”
Swinehart, who grew up in Ohio, played Division I college soccer at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His professional career spanned from 1996-2010, which included a move to Charlotte in 1998. Former Eagles head coach and USL Hall of Famer Mark Steffens—who is coach for National Independent Soccer Association’s Stumptown Athletic, referred to Swinehart as the eternal optimist. His star player was a captain on the field and an ambassador in the community off it. To Swinehart, Steffens is a second father.
“I always call him that,” Swinehart laughed.
Said Steffens: “Not only was he a great player, but he was an amazing leader and an extreme optimist. He’s in the perfect job.”
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