Gotham FC hires ex-NYC Marathon CEO Mary Wittenberg as president

Building NY/NJ Gotham FC into one of the biggest and best women’s soccer teams in the world is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

Fittingly, the National Women’s Soccer League club has turned to the woman who helped build the New York City Marathon into the biggest race in the world.

Gotham FC will hire Mary Wittenberg as president, sources have told The Post.

Gotham FC president Mary Wittenberg
Gotham FC president Mary Wittenberg
Devon Cafaro

The former New York Road Runners CEO was the first woman race director of any of the world’s major marathons, and built New York into the planet’s top race.

Can she guide Gotham FC to the top of the NWSL, both on and off the field?

“There are so many parallels. We want to be loved at home, while achieving the very highest levels of recognition and impact globally,” Wittenberg told The Post. “We do that by really being part of the neighborhoods, really welcoming people. The world lives here, and we can connect with our players, bring people in and they feel at home whether they’re from here or from Spain or Brazil or Nigeria.

Gotham FC huddle together after defeating the Orlando Pride
Gotham FC huddle together after defeating the Orlando Pride.
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

“Here’s what I see is still similar. What makes the New York City Marathon the greatest in the world? The fans … you feel that in every way when you’re out there. That’s the kind of role this team can be: A perennial contender in the best soccer league in the world. We can be whichever your favorite men’s football teams are — whether it’s Barcelona or Real Madrid or Chelsea — we can be them. And our fans can come and be part of it, and are going to be so critical to that.”

In a decade overseeing the New York City Marathon, the innovative Wittenberg not only partnered to create the World Marathon Majors Series, but spurred New York past London and Chicago to be the biggest marathon, with 98,247 applicants in 2017 and 53,640 finishers two years later.

It also drew record TV ratings.

She’ll need that same golden touch with Gotham FC, which is averaging just 6,255 fans at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J. Granted, that’s up 42 percent from last year, when they were next-to-last in the NWSL.

Mary Wittenberg
Mary Wittenberg
Devon Cafaro

After finishing last in the league in points, goals and goal differential in 2022, resurgent Gotham FC is second in the East Division at 2-1-1.

With six players at the FIFA Women’s World Cup — including USWNT stars Lynn Williams, Kristie Mewis and Kelley O’Hara — there is talent to go from cellar to contender.

”We’ll keep working, we’ll get new partners who can help. But while we block and tackle and make sure we have the right base to make sure people know about the World Cup, storytelling is a big part of this that can help people know. There’s an awareness that we need to build of the team in their backyard. Some of the best players in the world playing in a uniquely Gotham way,” Wittenberg told The Post.

“The tactics include making the most of this World Cup, so the World Cup return is big. We’ve got three games in September and October, getting people connected that we’ve got [six] World Cup players from four countries around the world, including the U.S. So we’ve got to make the most of that … we’re right now on a path to the playoffs. If we were to be in the semifinals [Nov. 4], and if we host the game, it’s Marathon weekend. How amazing would that be?”

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
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