Payne was with the club since its inception in 1996 but is leaving the flagship organization after 17 years, reportedly taking on another challenge with a different MLS club.
Payne's 17-year run with the organization concluded Tuesday, as he stepped down from his post as club president and CEO. D.C. United did not name an immediate successor.
“For me, D.C. United has been like my child," Payne said in a team statement. "We brought the team into the D.C. and national sports world 17 years ago and every day since – good and bad – has been a labor of love."
Payne oversaw four MLS Cup championships, including the first two in league history. In 2011, U.S. Soccer honored him with the Werner Fricker Builder award for his extensive work as a leading executive in American soccer.
"This team has provided many great memories of championships and historic accomplishments, but I will best remember the people I've had the chance to meet, to work with, strive with, celebrate with, and sometimes to share disappointment with," Payne said.
According to Soccer By Ives and The Washington Post, Payne will assume the vacant role of president at Toronto FC. Neither the club nor Payne confirmed that in Tuesday's announcement.
“I'm very excited about the next phase of my life, and very excited about the next phase for D.C. United, as well," Payne said. "I know the leadership of the team will take it to new heights on, and off, the field. I look forward to returning to RFK and wish everyone in the D.C. United family the best of luck.”
Payne leaves behind a storied club that reached the postseason for the first time in five years this season and is in the process of trying to secure a new soccer-specific stadium in the nation's capital. New investors Jason Levien and Erick Thohir have joined co-owner Will Chang in the effort.
“Kevin’s lengthy list of accomplishments speaks to his strong acumen as a leader,” Levien said. “His dedication to the organization deserves deep admiration and appreciation. As D.C. United begins a new chapter, Kevin's leadership has helped to prepare us for this important and potential-filled inflection point in the club’s history.”
Added D.C. coach Ben Olsen, who played for D.C. during Payne's reign and was hired by Payne to coach the team on a permanent basis after filling in for the ousted Curt Onalfo in 2010: “Very few people in American soccer have put their stamp on a club as Kevin has with D.C. United. His loyalty to the team and me is something for which I’ll always be indebted.”
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