Darrius Barnes Named 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year 


Crown Legacy FC President Honored for Leading Club’s Launch and Successful Inaugural Season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK (December 5, 2023) – MLS NEXT Pro announced today that Darrius Barnes, President of Crown Legacy FC, has been named the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year for his role in leading the launch of Charlotte FC’s new MLS NEXT Pro team in 2023. Crown Legacy FC excelled on the field – going undefeated at home on the way to earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference and tying for the best record in the League – and off the field, enjoying a strong turnout from local fans at home matches.

With Barnes’ direction, Crown Legacy FC built a diverse and talented technical staff and roster. Head Coach José Tavares helmed a roster that combined international players – like Serbian International Nikola Petkovic, who was signed with an MLS NEXT Pro-record transfer fee – with domestic and Homegrown players. Rising stars Patrick Agyemang, Brandon Cambridge and Andrew Privett advanced along the player pathway, earning consistent minutes with Charlotte's first team during the season. Additionally, Homegrown standout Nimfasha Berchimas made his debut for the USYNT, scoring three goals in two matches for the U-17 team at the 2023 FIFA U-17 World Cup.

“Under Darrius’ leadership Crown Legacy FC quickly established itself as one of the premier clubs in MLS NEXT Pro, both on and off the field, connecting with local fans and creating opportunities for their players and staff,” said Charles Altchek, President of MLS NEXT Pro. “Darrius - and by extension, the Club - exemplifies the core principles of our League and has been a tremendous representative of MLS NEXT Pro.”

Off the pitch, Barnes has fostered a culture of innovation and collaboration, both central tenets of MLS NEXT Pro. Crown Legacy FC has fully integrated itself into the local community, giving back through charitable work with local and national organizations through the Legacy Donation of the Month initiative. The Club has seen the community embrace it in return, as evidenced by the loyal fans attending home matches at Sportsplex at Matthews. An emphasis on personal relationships with the community has resulted in initiatives such as the Legacy Lawn, where players sign autographs and greet fans after games.

“I am extremely proud of what we accomplished at Crown Legacy FC this year and honored to receive the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year Award,” said Crown Legacy FC President Darrius Barnes. “This award recognizes the effort and dedication of everyone within the Charlotte FC organization that worked tirelessly to make Crown Legacy a success on and off the pitch in its inaugural season. We’re humbled to have received this honor and look to build upon this success in 2024 and the years to come.”

Barnes’ contributions to the larger Charlotte FC organization go beyond the field as well. He is a leader in their African American Employee Resource Group, Stride, and has been an advocate of the MLS Advance program. He is also an advocate of Tepper Sports and Entertainment and Best Buddies Partnership, which promotes inclusion and provides occupational opportunities for individuals with disabilities and integrates them into the workplace. Additionally, Barnes is a member of the MLS NEXT Pro On-Field Innovation Committee.

Barnes was named President of Crown Legacy FC in March 2022, after originally joining Charlotte FC’s front office the year before. Prior to that, he spent three years at the MLS League Office, after his eight-year playing career in the League. Barnes played his entire MLS career with the New England Revolution following a successful college career at Duke University.

The Executive of the Year was chosen by a panel of League front office executives from nominations submitted by Clubs, based on on-field performance and off-field impact. Finalists for the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year were: Brian Crookham (General Manager, Colorado Rapids 2), Chad Emerson (Managing Director of Business Operations, Huntsville City FC) and Corey Wray (General Manager, Columbus Crew 2).

MLS NEXT Pro Executive of the Year Winners

2023: Darrius Barnes, Crown Legacy FC

2022: Corey Wray, Columbus Crew 2