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Leon Hapgood to become NYCFC assistant coach

The technical director and ex-assistant coach of Canadian club Cavalry FC will join Nick Cushing's coaching staff.

NYCFC assistant coach Leon Hapgood when he was with Cavalry FC | Courtesy

Leon Hapgood, the current technical director and former assistant coach of Canadian club Cavalry FC, is set to join Nick Cushing’s coaching staff as an assistant next season, according to a report from The Athletic. (Update: New York City FC have confirmed that report and officially announcedHapgood’s hiring.)

Hapgood is taking over the NYCFC coaching role vacated by Kléberson, who announced his departure from the club at the conclusion of the 2023 season. He’s a 44-year-old Englishman who played professionally for many years in his home country, but since 2008 has been acting as a coach and technical director at clubs in Canada, first with the Calgary Foothills, and most recently with Cavalry FC. 

Cavalry FC, based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was born with the launch of the Canadian Premier League in 2019, and Hapgood has been a part of Cavalry FC since that inaugural season. 

The Calgary club Hapgood leaves behind are current holders of the CPL Shield, their second time finishing with the best record in the top Canadian professional league, and they were also runners-up in the CPL’s championship playoff final in both seasons they won their regular-season shields. 

While reporting the Hapgood hiring, The Athletic‘s Joshua Kloke writes that Cavalry FC “deployed a creative, attacking-focused style of play under Hapgood and head coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr.,” which sounds like the kind of style Nick Cushing and his NYCFC are trying to get back to in 2024 after struggling to be consistently creative, attacking, or goal-scoring in 2023. 

The Leon Hapgood hire is pending receipt of his work Visa, but it fills out a Cushing coaching staff at NYCFC that also still includes Rob Vartughian and Mehdi Ballouchy as assistants. 

A number of coaches have made the jump from the Canadian Premier League to MLS in recent years, as pointed out in another article about Hapgood’s hiring from the Northern Tribune. Hapgood joins the likes of Paul Stalteri, who went from York United to Toronto FC as an assistant coach, Pa-Modou Kah, who left Pacific FC for MLS and was most recently with Charlotte FC as an assistant, as well as York United’s Alex Bizzarri (now with the Vancouver Whitecaps) and Sam Gregory (now with Inter Miami). 

Hapgood becomes the latest to join a growing Canadian Premier League-to-MLS coaching pipeline, and once he arrives, he’ll look to bring some of the success he enjoyed in Calgary with him to New York City.