Governing Body Spotlight

Governing Body Member of the New York CIO Community

John Sullivan


Major League Soccer

AS CIO of Major League Soccer, John Sullivan leads the League’s strategy on technology as it applies to enterprise infrastructure, cloud, networking, business solutions, project management and Information Security. He also partners with stakeholders across the league and manages their sporting technologies including sports data, sports management applications and the in-venue systems used to manage the game.

In addition, John manages relationships with key technology partners, manages enterprise technology budgets and focuses on building high performing teams of technologists. As the League continues to grow across North America, his team is actively deploying next-gen capabilities across all aspects of technology. He has been at Major League Soccer for 20+ seasons and could not be more excited about its future and the teams they are building. 

Learn more about the New York CIO community here.

Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.

With over 20 years of experience, my path to CIO was supported by having the opportunity to work, develop expertise and build strategies in a wide variety of areas. Prior to MLS, I started my career in help desk and system administration and then moved on to network engineering where I worked in the highly complex industry of energy and commodities markets. My role then, as lead network engineer for Kiodex/SunGuard, was to securely connect the world’s leading energy providers into our trading exchange. I worked with some of the biggest energy providers in the world and their technical teams, and this experience instilled in me the concepts of risk management which is a core foundation of how I create strategies today.

When I joined Major League Soccer in 2002, I was its sole technical employee. I quickly became responsible for everything from help desk, networking, systems, applications, digital, info sec, event technology and budgets. Over the years, I have been creating detailed technical and organizational strategies for each of those areas. I have also been fortunate to gain a very unique perspective of the enterprise, by the different reporting structures I have had over the years. I have worked directly for the CFO, then the Deputy Commissioner and most recently the CAO. Those reporting lines have helped me develop a deep understanding of the enterprise outside of Technology. That knowledge has enabled me to generate strategic plans that incorporate financial goals, ownership priorities and organizational structure into my planning.

What is one of your guiding leadership principles?

I have a few key principles that guide my leadership style but picking the right team members is at the top of the list. Ultimately, it’s the “team” that gets that work done so building a good team, with good people is first and foremost. I look for the right blend of skills and personalities when hiring. How well people work together makes all the difference in whether projects are successful or not.

With disruption being a key theme of recent years, where do you see the CIO role going in the next 1-2 years?

Technology will continue to be a key pillar of enterprise decision making. In addition, technology is at the forefront of growth in key areas such as player development & game operations, e-commerce, fan engagement, productivity and collaboration; technology is involved in all aspects. Over the next few years, more time will be spent building strategies around automation and data usage which will also put a greater emphasis on our infosec program.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out as a CIO?

The key piece of advice I have is learn the business inside and out. I believe that is how you can be most effective. You need to understand what drives the different areas of the business in order to provide them with strategic technology recommendations.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.

  1. I’m married with 4 kids and a dog named Ted.
  2. I am an avid hiker covering over 1200 miles in 2022 and on track for 1400 in 2023. 
  3. I own and run a men’s competitive soccer team with my son, Whitestone FC.

What is the value of joining an Evanta community? 

Connecting with the CIO community in the NYC area has been great on many fronts – meeting new people, sharing best practices and getting new ideas. All around it's a great community!

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