Cody Parsons spent his first day at FC Cincinnati driving around the city looking for grass soccer fields for practice options. His second day included negotiating leases for 10 apartments in Oakley. They were still under construction.
This was in September 2015, when Parsons was one of only six employees working for a club that launched a month prior.
Today, he’s the team’s chief of staff and manages the West End Stadium project.
In five years, he’s literally gone from looking at random grass fields for a club without a roster, to overseeing the construction of the next great soccer cathedral.
Not bad for a 27-year-old who retired from playing when he was 6.
Earlier this month, Parsons was named to the Sports Business Journal’s New Voices Under 30 list – an honor awarded to leading individuals across the sports industry. He is the only winner currently working for a Major League Soccer organization.
The winners were selected for their “entrepreneurial spirit, their willingness to take risks and disrupt an industry, their conviction to lift their voices to advance social causes, their talent to make an impact on their organization, and their ambition to reach greater heights in their respective careers.” Parsons will be featured in a special Dec. 14 issue along with the 29 other recipients.
“It’s a byproduct of being around good people and working for a good organization that has ambitious goals,” Parsons said about his recognition. “It’s also a byproduct of trying to do your best every day. It happened as a result of that, but this was never an overarching goal.”
For a club that exemplifies rapid growth and ambitious aspirations, Parsons personifies that upward trajectory. He attests this to his commitment to “keep qualifying for his job,” but it’s his ability to adapt and push boundaries that makes him an ideal recipient of the New Voices Under 30 award.
After studying at the University of Dayton and working for a sports consulting firm, he pursued a job in soccer because of the sport’s rapid growth. That meant job creation, and more importantly, potential.
Before joining FCC, Parsons was a “quasi interim general manager” for the Dayton Dutch Lions. His background in soccer administration – everything from itineraries for team travel, to operations and whatever was needed to host a match – made him an ideal early employee for FC Cincinnati.
But for Parsons, he saw a team that had a strong ownership group with serious potential.
“I knew that great people lead to good results,” he said.
Within months of his administrative job, he wrote contracts for the inaugural signings, assisted with onboarding players and worked with immigration to get players into the country and onto FCC’s 2016 United Soccer League roster.
Following that season, president Jeff Berding approached Parsons about an increased role on the business side of the organization.
“I just wanted to be in the middle of everything and in a high-learning role,” Parsons said.
That meant more work under Berding and overseeing “special projects” on the business side. No special projects could be bigger than West End Stadium, though.
Back when Parsons worked for the sports consulting firm, he spent one summer writing 130 reports about new and renovated sports facilities across collegiate and professional sports. He studied everything from what seating products were used, to how the venues were financed.
“I had a little bit of a head start,” he said about undertaking the role of overseeing West End Stadium become a $250 million, 26,000-seat stadium. (Again, his first day focused on finding local grass soccer fields.)
In addition to his role with the venue, Parsons also oversees meetings with the organization’s owners and senior staff. He also manages the team’s investment banking relationship to raise additional equity.
“Generally, I try to be a helping hand,” he said. “I see leadership as you’re setting other people up to be successful. Given that Jeff oversees everything, I get a little bit of a lot of things.”
As someone who’s been with the club since its inception – he accepted his job offer in early August 2015 – Parson said his main objective is growing FC Cincinnati and creating a legacy. While the club has grown from being a third-division startup into an MLS expansion franchise, employees like Parsons have also seen a meteoric rise in their professional careers.
His “keep qualifying for my job” work ethic has positioned him into becoming one of the most influential leaders for the team. That’s not something he’d ever boast about, but this SBJ award shines a spotlight on an individual who’s often played a key supporting role in building a successful organization.
“What I enjoy most is working with high-caliber people and building something bigger than yourself,” Parsons said. “It’s really exciting, and I enjoy that building process. It’s not for yourself, but for the collective whole.
“Hopefully we can open the stadium with fans in a few months when West End Stadium opens. We certainly have a lot of work to go, not only in the stadium, but as a club. But regardless of what I do, a core tenant of FC Cincinnati has and will always be doing something bigger than yourself for this city.”