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Sunday, April 21, 2024
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Jessica O’Neill’s Journey From Ticket Sales to Team President

  • O’Neill went from head of ticket sales at the Carolina Panthers to team president of the Houston Dynamo and Dash in just three years.
  • ‘I don’t seek chaos, but I enjoy being challenged and being in new experiences,’ she says.
Jun 12, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash president Jessica O'Neill poses for a photo prior to the start of the match against the Portland Thorns FC in a NWSL match at PNC Stadium.
Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout Women’s History Month, The Come Up will highlight women in positions of power across sports.

In 2013, Jessica O’Neill sat in what she described as a “windowless pit in the back of the ticket office,” along with a small group of men, calling Carolina Panthers fans all day.

“I almost didn’t take [the internship] because it had an end date,” O’Neill tells Front Office Sports.

She hated her yearlong internship for the first few weeks, but after making her first sale and getting paid commission, she was hooked. One of her coworkers left, so O’Neill, in her early 20s at the time, asked her boss what she would have to do to become a full-time account executive. He set a lofty sales goal, which she hit, and the job was hers.

O’Neill worked her way to the top of the department, eventually becoming the Panthers’ director of ticket sales. Then she started hearing about the “Other Football Project,” the code name for what would eventually become MLS’s Charlotte FC. Leading a ticketing team during a pandemic was hard, and she was “captivated” thinking for the first time about soccer from a business perspective. She told the club president to keep her in mind, and he soon asked her to be his “right hand” woman as the team’s director of marketing and communications.

While gearing up for Charlotte FC’s inaugural season and less than a year after leaving the Panthers’ ticketing department, a call came from Houston. It wanted to interview her to become president of their NWSL team, the Dash. She’d never been to the city, but after visiting and touring the stadium, she knew it was the right decision.

O’Neill and her husband relocated to Houston for the Dash job in the spring of 2022. This past December, the Houston Dynamo Football Club announced O’Neill as its next president of business operations, which oversees both the MLS and NWSL teams.

“I don’t think I ever wanted to be a team president,” O’Neill reflects. “I didn’t consider getting out of ticketing until experiencing what it was like to lead a ticket sales team during COVID.”

O’Neill will lead her soccer town as it prepares to host seven matches in the 2026 World Cup, including two knockout games. And a decade since her internship, she’s still focused on ticketing: This season, O’Neill said she’s continuing last year’s goal to build value for season-ticket holders and to get first-time visitors to come back for more matches.

As her career has changed drastically in just three years, so has her personal life. O’Neill has an eight-month-old daughter, who she brings to every soccer event she can on weekends. She also has a rule that she doesn’t want to miss her daughter’s bedtime, so barring a game or event, she has a hard deadline to leave the office.

“It’s the best time of my life personally. It’s also the hardest time of my life, which,” she says, “is aligned with the hardest time professionally. … I don’t seek chaos, but I enjoy being challenged and being in new experiences. I will forever be a better leader because I’m a mom.”

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