(AP) - Major League Soccer received an overall grade of B+ for its diversity hiring practices for the second straight year.
The overall grade of 85.4 was up almost a full percentage point from the 84.6 it received last year, according to the annual report released Thursday by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida.
The league received a B+ for its racial hiring practices. MLS received a B for its gender hiring practices, with a three-percent increase from last year.
Richard Lapchick, principal author of the study and director of TIDES, said he is pleased with MLS Commissioner Don Garber's commitment to gender hiring practices, calling it "the most significant item in the study."
"I think the area that almost all of the leagues have the biggest problem in is trying to improve their gender hiring," Lapchick said. "The fact that Major League Soccer has tried to improve that is the most positive thing we noted. They went down one percent in the racial hiring practices and that is something we take note of. But a variation by that small of a percentage point, we suspend judgment on a year to year basis."
The league office again received an A+ in racial hiring and A in gender hiring. The league's overall grade of B+ puts it ahead of Major League Baseball and the NFL, but still behind the NBA.
However, Lapchick said the MLS continued to fall short when it came to senior administration and head coach diversity, with grades of D and C+, respectively.
Lapchick said there is "room for significant improvement" in those areas.
There are only two minorities who hold CEO or president positions in the league _ Jody Allen of the Seattle Sounders and Jose David of Chivas USA _while Guillermo Petrei of the Chicago Fire is the league's only minority general manager.
Likewise, there are only two minority coaches in the 20-team league _ Oscar Pareja of the Colorado Rapids and Jose Luis Real of Chivas USA.
According to the study, 85.3 percent of the owners in the league are white.
Minorities held 18.1 percent of all team senior administration positions, a decrease of 1.3 percentage points from the previous year. Women held 20.4 percent of team senior administration positions, slightly down from 20.7 in 2012.
"Unfortunately, the thing that has been consistent in the report cards (in all sports) is the positions at the highest level _ the CEOs and general managers and vice presidents _ are positions where representation of people of color and women has not been very good," Lapchick said. "That is a concern to me. And when the coaching number is that low, that is also a concern. That is an area Major League has struggled with the most with over the years."
On the field, the percentage of players of color rose from 50.9 percent to 52.3 percent for the 2013 season, marking the fifth straight year the MLS has set a record for the racial diversity of its players.
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