Cindy Spera Named Managing Director of the NPSL
It is time for new management at the top of one of America’s most well-known men’s soccer leagues. Discover Cindy Spera – a powerhouse in the soccer world with the business background to take a small business to the next level.
Jef Thiffault has recently left the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and the men’s soccer league has named Cindy Spera as his replacement as the league’s new Managing Director.
“We are so fortunate to have within the NPSL family a proven leader who has shown success in both soccer and business,” said NPSL Chairman Joe Barone. “Cindy’s played many, many critical roles in the building of the NPSL so she can fit right in and manage the league accordingly.”
“This is an exciting time to be involved with soccer in this country,” Spera commented. “The amateur game, grassroots soccer, and leagues like the NPSL, will play an important part in the evolution of soccer in the United States. I am excited to apply my combination of soccer and business experience to develop the league and bring it to the next level of success.”
With 98 active members from coast to coast, the NPSL is the largest established men’s soccer league in the United States.
“Right now we’re in transition. I was the director of operations prior, so I know this is a critical time in the season for operations, with the season just starting,” said Spera who is embracing the opportunity to help shape the future of the league. “I have an excellent staff. This job is seriously 24/7.”
“One area of increased focus is expansion. I think we have to look towards different markets that we want to penetrate and determine our expansion strategy,” said Spera.
“And, like any small business, we have to make sure we understand the needs and the desires of our members. Right now, we have a fantastic product in the NPSL business today. We have to be strategic as we review our next moves. Growth is not just about numbers, it is about standards.”
Spera is a passionate soccer and an experienced business person with more than 20 years in the financial industry. She knows that a certain amount of attrition is part of the business and is healthy. Expansion, for Spera, is strategic with analysis on strategic markets and maintaining a level of standards.
“Expansion is about what markets you want to be in and what you want your standards to be. Because, obviously, if you lower your standards, you could have as many teams come in as you want, as long as they pay the fee,” said Spera. “So it’s intelligent expansion and retention. The NPSL is a member-driven league. Our board of directors is made up of members. We have a regional structure — so we have two regional board members per region. It is important that the voice of the members can be heard at the board level.”
“One differentiator is our NPSL showcase,” said Spera. “Which is in the spirit of our development of players. We hold a showcase for our players, it is almost like an all-star tournament, and we invite top coaches to identify players. We also have a TV show called, “This Week in the NPSL — you can search YouTube for “This Week in the NPSL.”
One question that comes up when Spera is interviewed is ‘How does it feel to be a woman, running a men’s soccer league?”
According to Spera, “It feels great. I love the league, I’m happy to be here. I’ve done several interviews and that question has come up. I hope at some point, who knows, whether it’s three years or five years from now, it becomes an irrelevant question.”
“Running a soccer league in a male-dominated world, and it’s a men’s league — but, it’s no different than running any other small business.”
“Basically, that’s what we are doing, running a small business.”
“And there’s a lot of women who are very, very successful business-owners and are CEOs and CFOs of big businesses. So, my primary focus is to just do a good job and be respected within the soccer community,” said Spera.
As a player, Spera had a decorated career that began at Cornell University, where she was part of the women’s soccer program from 1988 through 1991. She received Soccer America Freshman All-American Team (1998), Ivy League Rookie of the Year (1988), First Team All-Ivy League (1991), and Northeast All-American (1991) honors during her time at Cornell.
Spera also played for the Long Island Rough Riders from 1994 through 2002, winning national titles in 1995 and 1997. She was also part of three USASA National Championships with New York Athletic Club as a player in 2007, player/Chairperson in 2010, and Chairperson of Soccer 2014.
Spera has also held high-level positions with a number of soccer leagues and organizations. She served as New York Athletic Club’s Chairperson of Soccer for five years in addition to serving on their Board of Governors from 2015 to present. Spera spent time as the North Region Commissioner for the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and currently serves as a conference liaison. She also served on the Cosmopolitan Soccer League’s Board of Directors for two years. With the NPSL, Spera spent three years on the league’s Board of Directors as Treasurer. She later served as the league’s Director of Operations.
With a distinguished career in banking, Spera has over 20 years of experience in the financial industry. She started her career at Chemical Bank and later joined Morgan Stanley where she remained for 16 years. During her last years at Morgan Stanley, she was the COO of Global Operations for the firm, and part of a team that produced consolidated management reporting for the firm’s Global Technology and Operations areas, which had a combined budget of $4.2 billion.
Photo Credit: Bethanie Dardant/NPSL.com and Scott A. Miller/NPSL.com