Friends, I am honored to have been invited to exclusive meetings with the executive team behind the newest and arguably most successful MLS expansion franchise in recent history. In fact, the meetings and interviews went so well, and were so long and insightful, I was able to use the quotes to fill an entire article.
And this is that article.
First, of course, a defense of this feature. I will note that this is not your run-of-the-bill puff piece that is little more than P.R. for a for profit corporate entity. Rather, I dare say it, this is Pulitzer-quality journalism and the MOST SOURCED ARTICLE in history. I didn’t just double-source the facts for this piece. Not even triple-source. Quad-source? FUCKING AMATEUR.
Everything in this piece is quintuple-sourced, just like they teach at J-school. Don’t believe me? Seething with jealousy? Well, here is a list of my sources aka the people I was able to line up and interview:
-CEO dash President,
-General Manager dash Technical Director,
-Social Media Producer,
-Social Media Assistant,
-Deputy Social Media Assistant Producer,
-Scantily-clad Brand Ambassador(ettes),
Okay so maybe the club has not yet hired brand ambassadors, but they are hiring cheerleaders with whom I plan on speaking as part of my longform follow-up reported feature in a year or two. They also don’t yet have a coach, a single player, or a stadium. Still, they were very generous with their time and shared with me some really important insights into how they plan on achieving their goals.
First things first, I met and spoke with the head honcho. So, like, no stadium exists yet, hence the team headquarters are in this pretty nice office complex in the suburbs. It’s a mixed wooded-running trail-park-concrete building development, so you can see oak trees amidst the pretty new structures that are basically all window.
What most struck me as I set up my audio equipment in the meeting room was the quality of the mahogany table. Let’s be real – there’s mahogany, and then there’s, like, MAHOGANY. I ran my hand over this table’s surface and edges. It was legit. Call it “mahogany-mahogany.” The numerous leather chairs around the table were also a nice touch. And there was a mini-fridge with bottled water.
One of the perks about my three hour chat with the President is that he didn’t take pauses to go off the record. This was all access, bare it and bear it, shining light on truth journalism. The CEO told me that “soccer is fun” and his goal is for the future fans to “have a good time at the stadium.” He wants to build something “the whole city can be proud of.”
He then sketched out for me the key club core values that inform all the decision-making from top to bottom. Of course, I didn’t just sit and listen. Like any journalist worth his or her salt, I poked and prodded for key facts. Here are some highlights from this vanguard club leading the wave of MLS 3.0.
1) Hire the best people. But, like, everybody says that. Isn’t that just first semester MBA drizzle that will run out your nose all day? I asked this dude straight up: if the best people aren’t available, what do you do? Do you hire nobody?
No, that’s not an option. Somebody has to do the job. So, like, do you invest significant resources in hiring a kid out of college and training them? No, apparently that’s too expensive and kinda risky. Luckily, this situation leads to the second key core club value informing everything and anything.
2) The perfect is the enemy of the good. When you are starting something like a soccer club, you need to build momentum and fast. Thus, you can’t always sit around and read every single resume of a job applicant and then call every single reference for a job applicant. Sometimes you have to go with your gut and then, if the candidate who was a friend of a friend turns out to be a registered sex offender, you just have to pivot and demote them to some menial task.
3) Don’t be afraid to innovate. In the 21st century with the Snapchat and the Twitter, you can’t afford to be another stick in the mud. While the club does not “technically” field a team yet, that hasn’t stopped them from selling season ticket options for their maiden season. And here’s the novelty: because that season could be next year, the year after, or two years out (depending on the stadium situation), the club realizes fans are paying for something that is not necessarily fixed.
Thus, they are the first and only MLS franchise expansion club to offer extra games in the event that they don’t field a team as early as they’d like. If the team kicks off in 2018, you get your MLS season tix PLUS a ticket to an international friendly. If the team kicks off in 2019, you get your MLS season tix PLUS playoff tickets if applicable and CONCACAF Champions League tix the following year if applicable.
Is it any surprise that their season ticket preorders are already approaching the four digit range (including giveaways to corporate sponsors)?
The other cool thing they did was an online poll for both the team name and crest. Not only did their fans serve up some cool names – Juicero FC – but the process of engaging the fans also engaged fans. Which is a key metric or something. No other MLS expansion franchise club had ever done an online poll for both the name and crest, so fuck off Mt. Everest. The flag has been planted!
4) Don’t reinvent the wheel. This is ever so easy in theory, but really difficult in practice. Who hasn’t stared at a wheel and thought a few hundred times: what if this part here was a bit rounder? Or maybe with just a less round edge here, this thing could spin better? Yet MLS Expansion Club pointed out that soccer clubs have existed for over a hundred years, so they plan on relying on best practices that have seen clubs succeed.
For example, they plan on buying the best players available, but not paying too much for these players. Makes sense. They also have formed a committee to evaluate possible coaching candidates and purportedly a spreadsheet has had data entered in more than a handful of columns and/or rows.
This last fact really impressed me. If they have already basically hired a world class coach a few seasons before the team even kicks a ball, then by the time they get that public money to build a stadium, the sky is the limit!
I also spoke with the VP and some other management dudes, but they just spit boring platitudes at me. Not hard, solid facts. And their PowerPoint presentations got a little boring around slide 25 to be honest. In speaking with the social team, apparently they’ve had quite a few likes on Facebook. Also, a Tweet featuring a GIF of a kitten trying to open a glass jar was a modest success. They are still “finding their feet” in Snapchat Discover and Insta Stories, but hope to maximize engagement as much as possible.
AND YOU READ IT HERE FIRST.