How Wilfried Nancy Became the First Black Coach to Win MLS Cup

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Wilfried Nancy isn’t the first name that comes to mind when discussing French football managers. This should change because he’s making his mark in Major League Soccer (MLS). 

In 2023, he won the MLS Cup and was the first black coach to achieve this feat. His playing career lasted for 10 years, during which he mainly played for French clubs. Here’s his journey.

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Wilfried Nancy’s Playing Career

How Wilfried Nancy Became the First Black Coach to Win MLS Cup
Wilfried Nancy during an MLS game. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Wilfried Nancy is a native of Le Havre. The nature of his father’s job, a Navy officer, meant that he moved around a lot. They eventually settled in Toulon, where he began playing football and later joined the Toulon academy

He began his professional career at Toulon. He spent three years but didn’t get sufficient game time, having only made nine appearances. 

In 1998, he moved to Beaucairois and after one year and four starts, he switched to Raon-l’Étape. He then played at: 

  • Ivry
  • Noisy-le-Sec
  • Châtellerault
  • Orléans.

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Management Career

Wilfried Nancy started his management career as a player-coach in UQAM Citadins. He was named the Most Valuable Player in the league and made it into the All-Star team. He transitioned fully into coaching in 2006. His first club was AAA, which features in the Quebec Elite Soccer League, the top-tier amateur league in Canada. 

Additionally, Nancy worked in the provincial league and as an Assistant technical director of the Association régionale de soccer de la Rive-Sud. The former footballer joined the Montreal Impact Academy in 2011 and worked with the U12, the U16 and the U18.

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CF Montreal 

Wilfried Nancy interview after a game. Video Credit: ASN SPORTS TV

In 2016, the Frenchman was named the assistant coach of the Montreal Impact, working under former France player Thiery Henry. Following his resignation in 2021 from the team, Nancy was given the top job. By this time, the team rebranded to CF Montreal.

The club played in the final of the 2021 Canadian Championship and qualified for the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League. They finished in the 10th position in the Eastern Conference. 

The team posted great results in the 2022 season, finishing in second place. Additionally, he got 20 wins and 65 points, a record for the franchise. In the Champions League, they were eliminated in the quarter-finals and also lost the semi-finals to New York City CF.

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Columbus Crew

Wilfried Nancy talking about the MLS Cup win. Video Credit: Massive Report

Before he left CF Montreal, the Columbus Crew approached his former club, and in the 2023 season, Wilfried Nancy became Columbus’s coach. He led the team to a third-place finish, which saw them qualify for the playoffs. Nancy beat FC Cincinnati and Los Angeles to win the MLS Cup

He became the first black coach to win the MLS Cup. Even though he’s elated by this, Nancy is also aware that there’s a lot of work to be done to make the league more diverse. In 2023, there were only two other black coaches in the MLS – Ezra Hendrickson at the Chicago Fire FC and former Colorado Rapids coach Robin Fraser 

Wilfried Nancy’s story demonstrates gradual progress, consistency and taking chances that come your way. Over the years, he’s proven himself and now his team is reaping the rewards. The MLS is ever-growing; if he keeps producing such results, he might get an opportunity to work in Europe.  

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