Anastasia Danias Schmidt, who led some of the National Football League’s most high-profile litigation during her nearly 20 years in-house there, is leaving the organization to become executive vice president and general counsel at Major League Soccer, effective May 13.
Meanwhile, MLS’ current GC Bill Ordower is moving to the business side in the newly created role of executive vice president of MLS Business Ventures.
Neither Schmidt, Ordower nor an MLS spokesperson could immediately be reached for comment about the moves. But MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott described Schmidt in a statement announcing her move as “one of the most talented and admired legal executives in professional sports today.”
“Her collaborative efforts with our leadership team and clubs will be critical during this continued period of growth for MLS and the game in the U.S. and Canada,” he said.
Schmidt joined the NFL as vice president of legal affairs in 2000, just two years after graduating from Fordham University School of Law and working as an associate at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, according to her LinkedIn profile. She was promoted to senior vice president and chief litigation officer 13 years later and ascended to her current role of deputy GC for litigation and legal affairs at the NFL last January.
During her time there, she oversaw the league’s $765 million settlement with retired players over concussion-related claims; the right of publicity class action brought by retired players relating to the use of historic game footage; the class action filed by retired players alleging they suffer from injuries resulting from the alleged improper administration of prescription painkillers during their playing days; antitrust claims relating to the televised distribution of Sunday Ticket; and an antitrust challenge by the players’ union during the 2011 lockout, according to an online Practising Law Institute faculty bio.
More recently, she was involved in the San Diego Chargers’ move to Los Angeles, overseeing the team’s application for federal trademarks on the “Los Angeles Chargers” and “LA Chargers.”
At MLS, Schmidt will play a key role in the strategic and operational leadership of the league and legal function, according to the organization’s statement.
The popularity of soccer and MLS have grown significantly in the United States in recent years. The league doubled its number of teams from 12 in 1999 to 24 today, with 20 of those playing in their own soccer-specific stadiums, compared to just one 20 years ago. In addition, Nashville, Tennessee; Miami; and Austin, Texas, soon will host their own MLS teams, bringing the number to 27 by 2021, while the hunt continues for the 28th team.
Schmidt’s predecessor, Ordower, joined the league in 1997 and has been executive vice president and GC since 2002, according to his LinkedIn profile. In addition to overseeing the legal affairs for MLS and MLS’ marketing arm Soccer United Marketing during that time, he also created and implemented the league’s substance abuse and behavioral health program and conducted league investigations into tampering and player-related issues, according to the MLS.
In his new role, Ordower will manage and advise on important commercial opportunities for the league and its marketing arm, it added.