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By ESPN Staff

MLS earns high marks again for diversity

NEW YORK -- Major League Soccer once again earned high marks for its racial and gender hiring.

The league received its third consecutive A for racial hiring on Tuesday from the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. Its gender grade improved to a B from a C-plus last year and a D-plus in 2007.

"The sport of soccer is such a diverse sport between our athletes and fan base," MLS executive vice president JoAnn Neale said. "We're really striving to make our front offices reflective of that diversity."

The league office's A-plus for gender countered a D-plus for team professional positions and a C-minus for team senior administrators.

MLS's combined race and gender grade of B-plus was the same as last year, but its points total increased to 86.5 from 85.7.

White players increased from 59 percent in 2007 to 62 percent in 2008, while African-Americans dropped from 22 percent to 20 percent.

There were four minority coaches among the 15 teams in 2008 -- Denis Hamlett, Cobi Jones, Juan Carlos Osorio and Fernando Clavijo -- but only Hamlett and Osorio held onto their jobs for part of 2009. Minority assistant coaches declined from 17 percent to 9.5 percent.

Three teams had minority presidents or chief executives in 2009, the same as the previous year.

The percentage of women among the professional staff in the league office rose to 48 percent from 42 percent, while the percentage of minorities remained at 43 percent.

Among team vice presidents, women rose from two to three and Latinos increased from one to two. The percentage of women among team senior administration went up to 24.8 percent from 20.4 percent, but the percentage of minorities declined from 20.5 percent to 18.9 percent.

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