Cameron embraces groundbreaking role with Sporting KC

In this Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 photo, Meghan Cameron, Sporting Kansas City's assistant director of player personnel, poses for a photograph at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. Cameron is settling into her job at Sporting, the first woman to manage player contracts, salary budget, and acquisitions for a Major League Soccer team. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
In this Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018 photo, Meghan Cameron, Sporting Kansas City's assistant director of player personnel, poses for a photograph at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. Cameron is settling into her job at Sporting, the first woman to manage player contracts, salary budget, and acquisitions for a Major League Soccer team. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Meghan Cameron didn't go out looking to break barriers. Instead, Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes came to her.

Cameron is settling into her job as assistant director of player personnel with Sporting, the first woman to manage player contracts, salary budget, and acquisitions for a Major League Soccer team.

Her role will move into another uncharted area for a woman in MLS: She'll evaluate prospective players for Vermes, as well as for the Swope Park Rangers and the organization's academy.

"Peter Vermes just called me," the longtime MLS front office executive said about her new job's genesis. "Obviously it's humbling to be the first. But for me it doesn't matter if I'm the first or the last or the 101st. Peter called me to do a job, it wasn't because I'm a female. He knew what I could bring to the table. I do hope this opens the doors for others moving on, but I don't consider myself a trailblazer. I'm just doing a job."

Like all coaches, Cameron said Vermes has specific ideas about player characteristics and qualities. Cameron will be working with Director of Player Personnel Brian Bliss.

"The plan is that I'll be learning what it is in each position that they're looking for in players so that I can assist in the scouting side as well," she said.

Cameron's new job with Sporting — she started last month — comes as women are taking on greater roles in pro soccer in the United States and abroad. And not just with women's teams.

Two women — Kathy Carter and former national team goalkeeper Hope Solo — are among the eight candidates running for president of the U.S. Soccer Federation. Only four countries — Liberia, Turks and Caicos, Burundi, and Sierra Leone — have ever elected a woman to head their soccer federation.

Chan Yuen-ting became the first female coach to lead a men's team to a title in a top-flight league in 2016 when she guided Eastern Sports Club to the Hong Kong Premier League championship.

Corinne Diacre served as manager (coach) of a second-division French men's team, Clermont Foot, for several years until becoming head coach of the French women's national team in the run-up to the 2019 Women's World Cup.

And last year the Bundesliga's Bibiana Steinhaus became the first female referee in a top-flight European league. There were a record seven female officials at the men's under-17 World Cup in India last year.

Carter, who is on leave from her position as president of Major League Soccer's marketing subsidiary, Soccer United Marketing, had high praise for Cameron. Carter noted that there aren't all that many women in the sport's boardrooms, but they're even rarer on the technical side of the sport.

"I think Meghan is going to get out there and build on uncharted territory, but I think she's up to the task," Carter said.

Cameron's current job has been the culmination of a life in soccer. Cameron was a standout at Rutgers — Vermes is also an alum — and was on the 2002 Scarlet Knights team that reached the Sweet 16.

"I played soccer since I was 3, so it's always been a passion of mine. It's been kind of a piece of who I am. I played soccer at Rutgers but unfortunately my career was cut short and I only got to play three seasons because of injury," she said. "So at that time I kind of reevaluated and thought, there's a different way for the sport to be a part of me, and that was working in the front office."

She worked for eight years as senior manager in player relations in the MLS league offices. Her job was to help teams manage rosters and budgets, while also approving player acquisitions and trades. But she also had a hand in non-financial duties, like youth coaching initiatives and the league's Rookie Symposium.

"For a long time I've been the only female in the room. And it has never been an issue for me. I've had the respect of everyone around me, and I respect them. I think as long as you can handle yourself, and it doesn't matter that you're female, you'll get the respect that you deserve," she said. "As more women move through the ranks and into positions like coaches, it won't be, 'Oh, they've got a female coach,' it will be, 'Oh, they've got a new coach.'"

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