Offside with Taylor Twellman

Tim Bezbatchenko talks "bittersweet" exit from Columbus Crew

TT - Tim Bezbatchenko - Columbus Crew

Tim Bezbatchenko, when leaving his post as Columbus Crew president and general manager, didn't take the decision lightly.

Bezbatchenko explained his thought process behind his recent departure to Black Knight Football Group on Offside with Taylor Twellman – a role that sees him lead an organization that supports the English Premier League’s AFC Bournemouth, Scottish Premiership’s Hibernian FC and French Ligue 1’s FC Lorient.

"This was an opportunity for me to take on certainly a new role where I'm less, for lack of a better word, 'GM'ing it'. You're not necessarily signing the players directly," Bezbatchenko told Twellman. "You're trying to figure out the best way to develop, move players along the player pathway, leverage the group as a whole to benefit the fans, benefit the players, benefit the coaches, and then ultimately win matches.

"And I felt like it was an opportunity that was bittersweet, no doubt. I was in a fantastic position in Columbus. But we're all looking to stretch and grow and test ourselves. And the opportunity to work for a team that plays in the Premier League is something that I couldn't ignore."

Bezbatchenko crafted a distinguished legacy during his time in MLS, building Toronto FC into an Eastern Conference powerhouse before his wildly successful tenure with the Crew, where the club won two MLS Cups (2020 and 2023) and reached the 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup final.

Asked by Twellman about what aspects of his experience in MLS will transfer to his new role, Bezbatchenko first pointed to youth development.

"What's popping up in my mind is the MLS NEXT, USL and then merged in MLS NEXT Pro transition and then how those players move up from MLS NEXT Pro to MLS," he said. "I think you could say all of the player contracts over the last 15 years at the league office and at the two clubs I've worked for will help."

While departing Columbus was a difficult decision, Bezbatchenko leaves prideful of the strides the club has taken since his 2019 arrival, aided by the guidance of head coach Wilfried Nancy.

"I think it's a commitment from ownership and the project," Bezbatchenko said. "It's not that they didn't have it in 2019. In 2019, it was just an idea. And a belief in the city, in a fanbase that some didn't believe in, in a way. So they committed to it fully. They went all-in on Columbus.

"... And so the difference between then and now is I think just the realization of what they thought could be possible, but then allowing myself, Wilfried and our leadership team all the way down to the academy to do our jobs and to hold us accountable and to challenge us."