Atlanta United announced the appointment of Darren Eales as President on Sept. 10, 2014. He joined the club several months later, following a transition period with world-renowned English Premier League team Tottenham Hotspur Football Club where he served as Executive Director. Since joining Atlanta, Eales has twice been named the Doug Hamilton MLS Executive of the Year.
As the first President of Atlanta United, Eales led the club in its record-breaking 2017 inaugural campaign which is widely considered one of the most accomplished seasons in MLS history, both on and off the field. In addition to assembling the club’s front office and the development and integration of the club’s brand identity, Eales led its on-field progression, hiring integral members to join the technical staff, led by Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra. Under this leadership, Atlanta United became the first expansion team to qualify for MLS Cup Playoffs since 2009 and just the second since 1998. In addition, Eales led the club’s development of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground – a $60 million training facility that opened in April of 2017 and is widely considered one of the best facilities in North America – as well as the club’s transition into its new home Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a world-class multi-use sports and entertainment complex.
Following a record-breaking inaugural season, Eales has led Atlanta United to even greater heights both on and off the pitch. The club won its first MLS Cup in 2018 in front of a record crowd of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United continues to set a new standard in attendance, holding the MLS single-game record (72,548) and single-season average record (53,002). The club surpassed the one million mark for fans attending home matches in 2018, while also setting the record for a U.S. Open Cup match with 41,012 fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In MLS play, Atlanta owns each of the Top 13 most attended matches in league history, including each of the Top 10 for regular season matches. Its 2018 average attendance, including playoff matches, was 55,278, which ranked 13th worldwide against the 2016-17 global season, surpassing teams such as Atletico Madrid, Manchester City and Liverpool.
On the pitch, Atlanta United became the earliest expansion team to win MLS Cup since 1998. The club finished the 2018 regular season with 69 points, second-most in MLS history, and recorded back-to-back 70-goal campaigns, becoming just the second team in MLS history to achieve that mark. By virtue of accumulating the league’s highest two-year point total, Atlanta United qualified for the Concacaf Champions League. In 2019 under head coach Frank de Boer, Atlanta won the U.S. Open Cup and became the first MLS club to win Campeones Cup by defeating Mexican champions Club America. The club again qualified for Concacaf Champions League play in 2020.
Atlanta United and Eales were recognized with multiple awards in 2019. The club was named Sports Team of the Year at the Sports Business Awards, while Mercedes-Benz Stadium was named Best Facility. At the World Football Summit, Eales was named Executive of the Year and Mercedes-Benz Stadium won Best Venue. It was the first time a club had won multiple categories and the first time an MLS team had been recognized at the ceremony.
British-born Eales was raised by his father as a Chesterfield FC fan, and was immersed in soccer all his life. After playing in the Academy at Cambridge United FC in England, he moved to the US on a soccer scholarship playing for West Virginia University and Brown University, where he was named Ivy League Player of the Year and NSCAA All-America. Following his university play, Eales remained in the US, playing for the Hampton Roads Mariners and Hershey Wildcats in the USISL, and the New York Centaurs in the A-League.
When injuries cut short his professional playing career, Eales returned to England and earned a MA in Law at Cambridge University. In 2000 he qualified as a barrister specializing in sports law and spent six years practicing law at 2 Temple Gardens Chambers in London, where he is still a door tenant.
Eales served as in-house legal counsel, director and club secretary at West Bromwich Albion Football Club before joining Tottenham in 2010, where he touched on all major aspects of soccer operations. He helped to negotiate and execute player transfers, including playing a key role in the 2013 world record transfer fee sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. During his four-year tenure with Spurs, the team qualified for European competition every season, reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League in 2011, and reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Europa League in 2013.
Eales lives in Atlanta with his wife Faith, and their two sons Edmund and James.