Atlanta United parts ways with McDonough after Miami investigation

McDonough was Inter Miami COO when MLS found roster violations

Atlanta United parted ways with Paul McDonough following the results of an MLS investigation into signings supervised by McDonough when he was in charge of Inter Miami in 2020. The club announced the move at the same time as the league announced sanctions against Inter Miami on Friday.

Atlanta United issued a statement saying that President Darren Eales will handle McDonough’s role as vice president on an interim basis and that the club is searching for a replacement.

The league announced Friday that McDonough is suspended from MLS-related activities through the 2022 season for his role in not ensuring roster compliance with the signing of several players, including Blaise Matuidi and Andres Reyes, each of whom should have been characterized as Designated Players within the league’s salary structure and would have meant the team had five Designated Players during the 2020 season, as well as undisclosed agreements related to the signings of several more players, including former Atlanta United player Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. The league said none of the players were aware that rules were being violated and that their salaries were being underreported.

McDonough was Inter Miami’s chief operating officer and sporting director when the signings were made. He resigned following the 2020 season and was hired by Atlanta United as vice president of soccer operations in January 2021. He served the same role for the club from 2016-18 before he left to join Inter Miami.

None of the signings made by McDonough during his time with Atlanta United are being investigated because the league believes Atlanta United has complied with the rules, according to a person familiar with the proceedings.

McDonough may petition the commissioner’s office as soon as May 2022 if he wants to attempt to be reinstated.

“The integrity of our rules is sacrosanct, and it is a fundamental principle of our league that our clubs are responsible for adhering to all league regulations,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement from the league. “Our rules will not be compromised. These sanctions reflect the severity of Inter Miami’s violations, should encourage complete cooperation by all parties in future investigations, and will serve as a deterrent for clubs from violating roster rules.”

The league announced in March that it was investigating Miami’s signing of Matuidi for possible violations of the league’s roster rules. A person with knowledge said then that McDonough wasn’t a part of its investigation. That changed as the investigation continued, with the league saying in April that Miami had broken the rules, but wasn’t yet prepared to announce the sanctions.

The sanctions announced Friday included Inter Miami being fined $2 million and owner Jorge Mas $250,000. Mas mostly cooperated with investigators, but was fined because the investigation found that he didn’t disclose his knowledge of the Matuidi violation at the appropriate time required under league rules.

The club also will suffer a reduction of $2,271,250 in allocation money for the 2022 and 2023 seasons.