CHICAGO – The U.S. Soccer Federation Friday announced the hiring of Karen Leetzow as its new Chief Legal Officer.

Noting as a result-oriented industry executive, Leetzow, spent 20 years at NASCAR where she most recently served as its senior vice president and general counsel. She will begin her new position in Chicago in early August and is the first executive hire by U.S. Soccer secretary general and CEO Will Wilson.

Leetzow succeeds Lydia Wahlke, who was suspended in March and quit her position May 21 amid an outcry over a court filing that asserted players on the U.S. women’s national team were less skilled than male players. She agreed to act as an ad hoc consultant for the organization until Sept. 15, according to the federation.

At NASCAR, Leetzow directed the day-to-day operations of a 21-person legal department and five-person risk management team. She brings a wealth of legal experience to the federation, including specific skills in collective bargaining, anti-trust and trademark matters, litigation management, sponsorship contracts, intellectual property, employment matters, risk management and management of outside counsel.

“Karen brings a vast amount of expertise and broad legal background to U.S. Soccer, and she’ll immediately be a valuable addition to our team,” Wilson said in a statement. “She has a strategic mindset and a tremendous work ethic, and I’m confident her presence and skillset will further strengthen the foundation of our organization.”

Leetzow lives in Chicago with her husband Brett Scharback, who is general counsel for the Chicago Cubs. Fluent in German, Leetzow earned her J.D. at the American University Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C. and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Vermont.