Today, Racing Louisville announced that their new head coach would be Kim Björkegren.
The Swedish national has been a football coach for over 15 years and has had significant success in his five years of coaching women’s soccer. Most recently, Björkegren coached for Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus. Under his management, they went undefeated in the domestic league in the 2020-21 season which earned him Coach of the Year accolades. Before that, he managed the club Beijing BG Phoenix in the Chinese Super League from 2018-19. In 2017, he managed Linköpings FC in Sweden to the Damallsvenskan championship and, also, to the quarterfinals of the Champions League.
Club Executive Vice President James O’Connor described Björkegren as a coach who has a “burning desire to be successful.” He said the new coach had the right combination of developing players successfully and winning at the highest levels to make him a top choice.
“When you look at the talented players we have here, for me, we have some of the best young talent within the country. We need someone to help guide them, teach them and then enhance that development and fulfill some of their potential,” said O’Connor.
With so many recent coaching scandals rocking the NWSL, O’Connor said Björkegren underwent an extensive background check through the league. On top of that, Louisville also did some additional fact-seeking to verify his character and professionalism. Among those spoken to were former sporting directors at former clubs and former players, such as Spaniard Vero Boquete who played under Björkegren in China and who also has previous experience in the NWSL with the Portland Thorns and the Utah Royals (now Kansas City Current). In Racing’s press release announcing the hire, the team quoted American midfielder Katie Lockwood who played on Apollon last season as saying Björkegren was a great coach to play under.
Said O’Connor, “I think at this point we feel really confident in the process that we followed and that the league followed. And so I think what we feel as if we’ve certainly done as much as we possibly could do to give everyone confidence about this appointment and it was important to us that the players were able to have some time.”
O’Connor said Racing’s players were brought into the interview process once the club had selected the top two candidates. O’Connor says they were allowed to have time with both candidates and ask them questions. The players then met one-on-one with O’Connor to give him their viewpoint and preferences. Björkegren was the preferred candidate.
“I think it was important for us that the players were involved in the process,” said O’Connor, “and that they were given a voice, given an opportunity to share their opinion.”
O’Connor says the inclusion of the players was the “key differentiator” from this hire to the hiring of the team’s previous coach Christy Holly who was fired for cause in September. When Holly was hired back in 2019, Racing hadn’t yet formed their inaugural squad so there were no current players to involve in the process. Being able to talk to players about their coaching preferences and what skills or qualities they prioritized was important in guiding the process.
“It was a pretty long and arduous process,” said O’Connor, “but one we feel really good about.”
As for Björkegren, he says he’s been interested in coaching in the NWSL for some time now and feels ready for the challenge despite entering just before the league’s expansion and college drafts.
“I feel that I am prepared. I’m extremely motivated. I can’t wait to meet all the players and start with the hard work.”