Major League Soccer made improvements in both its racial and gender hiring practices, according to an annual report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.
MLS received an overall grade of B+ with a combined grade of 84.7, up by a significant 1.5 percentage points from the league's 2015 overall grade.
Richard Lapchick, the author of the report, said MLS's improvements are encouraging.
"The league office is doing really in the racial and gender hiring practices and we're seeing some increases at the team level as well, so that's definitely a plus," Lapchick told The Associated Press on Thursday.
Laphchick said that MLS Commissioner Don Garber's office has been the pacesetter with an A+ in racial hiring and an A- in gender hiring and added, "The teams need to follow the League's example more closely."
For its racial hiring practices, MLS earned 88.5 points, up a substantial 2.1 percentage points from 86.3 in 2015. This resulted in a B+, the same letter grade as last year.
MLS received an A- for head coaches, a B+ for team professional administration, and a B for team senior administration and assistant coaches when it came to racial hiring practices. There was a major improvement in the general manager position where four GMs who were people of color were hired, prompting the grade to rise from an F in 2015 to a B+ this year.
MLS earned a B for gender hiring practices, the same letter grade as in 2015. In so doing, MLS remains the only other men's professional league other than the NBA with a B for gender hiring practices.
The most notable achievement for gender hiring practices came at the league office employee level, where the MLS received an A- grade. The team senior administration received a C- and team professional administration received a C+. There was also major improvement for gender in senior administration where the MLS jumped from an F in 2015 to a C- in 2016, although Lapchick said in his report that area remains "a serious concern."
MLS earned an A+ for its outstanding diversity initiatives for the eighth consecutive season.
Some other notes from the report:
— The MLS League Office continued to be the standard-bearer for the entire league with people of color comprising 36.4 percent of all professional positions, while women filled 37 percent of these positions.
— People of color with head coaching positions increased from 10 percent in 2015 to 20 percent in 2016. The Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, New York City FC and FC Dallas were the four MLS franchises led by Latinos.
— Assistant coaches of color decreased by 5.2 percentage points from 18.8 percent in 2015 to 13.6 percent in 2015.
— MLS teams have the worst record in professional sport for hiring people of color as team vice presidents. There was a decrease in vice presidents who were people of color in the 2016 season from 6.4 percent in 2015 to 4 percent in 2016.
— Alex Leitao with Orlando City Soccer was the only person of color holding the position of CEO/president.
— Earnie Stewart, of the Philadelphia Union, was the first African-American GM in MLS since its inception.