/ 3 Business Takeaways From an MLS Team’s Success

I am a huge fan of soccer and a proud supporter of my home club, Real Salt Lake. It wasn’t until 2005, when RSL became a new expansion club in Major League Soccer, that I developed a love for the sport. I attended the first ever RSL home match out of pure curiosity, and by the time RSL scored the game winner late in the match, I knew I was hooked.

RSL has been the most consistent winner in MLS since 2008—winners of the coveted MLS Cup in 2009 after only four seasons of existence. They are fixtures in the MLS Playoffs every season and other domestic and international club tournaments.

How have they achieved so much success despite receiving only a fraction of the revenue other clubs generate annually? Here are three principles that have made RSL winners, and what business professionals can learn from them:

1. They were intentional, proactive and consistent in their processes.

At an Executive level they researched, analyzed and determined what metrics were critical for their own success, and found new ways to win. They created customized processes; then they executed their plan. They did not try to compete with bigger clubs with bigger budgets through traditional means.

Real Salt Lake plays in the smallest market in the league, but their pattern of consistency has placed them ahead of the pack: the leader in a league that includes clubs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Dallas.

Key takeaways:

  • Intentionally and proactively define and execute a customized plan that works for your formula of success. Be consistent in your processes. When others look at your company and ask, “How did they do it?” they should immediately see your consistent pattern of success.

2. They couldn’t win on size or budget, so they changed the game.

RSL developed a method of scouting players that no other team had. Front office management developed a scouting system and found players in places no one else was looking. Coaches analyzed players, using data and evaluation processes to identify players who fit the team culture. They developed a formation on the field that defines them, and they do not deviate from it often. Salt Lake became a destination club for players instead of a stepping-stone to New York or Los Angeles. In business terms, they changed themselves from a cost-center to a revenue-center as a franchise.

Across the league, the consensus is that RSL plays the most entertaining style of soccer, which provides value to its fan base.

Key takeaways:

  • Be the standard bearer of success in your industry. Use data to both mine for opportunities that are there and to create new opportunities that will come through consistent ROI-centric processes.
  • You have data coming in from many sources. Use it. Don’t rely on old data, incomplete data, out of context data. Find value in the data that no one else sees and use it to find solutions no one else has found.

3. They built an irresistible culture.

Coach Kreis developed a very specific and unique culture under the mantra “The Team is the Star.” What he did from day one was win.

The coach and his staff intentionally sat down and developed the RSL way of winning and proactively went out and built a culture that would define the club and change the way teams do business in the league. It started with a coach. In 2007, team captain Jason Kreis stepped off the pitch in the middle of the season and into the role of head coach. It was an unprecedented move in the league; a move that had never been conceived: a bold experiment for a club just trying to stay financially solvent at the time.

Executives at other clubs have publicly stated that RSL is the model club around which they can pattern their own club policies and procedures. They have become the standard bearer for other clubs, maintaining their core roster of proven leaders and winners.

Key takeaways:

  • Success and distinction for your business should be intentionally defined and developed with clear metrics of success.
  • Culture is critical. It affects your business processes and the talent you are able to attract to your company. Find the best, and KEEP the best. The team is the star, so listen to everyone on your team, value their input, and you will build sustainable success.

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