"We're pioneers in Wyoming, let's do something that will leave a legacy!"
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Hello again and welcome back to AP! I talked to the guys behind FC Wyoming, the first group to ever try and get a non league team playing in the state outside of a local city league. We actually did this interview in March during my vacation in New Mexico (thanks again to my wife for putting up with me reading answers and sending questions on Twitter incessantly) and due to how many clubs completed interviews before, this is when they fell on the release schedule. Anyway, without further ado, start learning about FC Wyoming. Check it out.
Tell readers a little about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, and what your role is with FC Wyoming.
I'm Jason Kintzler and I'm the Founder and CEO at Pitchengine. We're a PR software company based in Wyoming. I'm also a fifth generation Wyoming native. Because of this, I'm heavily involved in business and economic development in our state. I'm also a soccer fan, youth coach and father of 3 little soccer players.
Unlike most teams, we're going to represent the entire state. Home matches will be played in various host cities. We have a small population - about 500,000 people.
A fifth generation Wyoming native? That's impressive. How did you come to be a fan of soccer? Wyoming isn't traditionally known for being a soccer hotbed.
This is true. Funny thing is, I've been a rugby player for 20 years now. The sports are similar to me in terms of worldwide relevance - especially outside of the US. Both sports have an amazing culture, which is what really drew me to soccer.
I've only become a fan in recent years as my kids started playing. We started following the EPL, MLS and then learning about these lower leagues. Fabian Lobera who is part of our owners group, is a lifelong soccer player/coach/ref, he's really the go-to on the competitive side of the business. I'm mostly about building a brand, a culture and a business around this amazing sport in a state that needs more exposure to it!
We want to provide more exposure and opportunities to youth in our state and also develop Wyoming's presence in the sport.
What's the origin story behind FC Wyoming? How has all of this come together?
Wyoming doesn't have a professional sports team that represents the entire state. As an entrepreneur with young kids looking for entertainment, I wanted to change that. While we'll be starting with a lower division like the NPSL, our goal is to create our version of a pro level franchise here. Something that can grow and perhaps become a USL team in years to come.
I was inspired by what Dennis Crowley was doing with Kingston Stockade and by the way clubs are using community groundswell to build culture like LAFC in MLS. I'm used to being disruptive and creating startups, this one just made a ton of sense on a lot of levels.
There are a lot of options for teams looking to join a league now. You've got PDL, NPSL, and UPSL. What are you looking for in a league to join? Is it professionalism, number of teams close by, or something else?
I would say all of the above. We want a league that will be appealing to our athletes, but also professional enough for our brand and investors.
I believe there will be a league that emerges as the leader. It's going to be a combo of great teams/brands, fan bases, technology and the like.
Since Wyoming is a little remote, how concerned are you about things like travel distance and travel cost as you consider what league to join?
NPSL is working pretty hard to develop our region here. So, while it's a concern, I think we'll be able to find plenty of regional competition even if some are friendlies.
You've mentioned wanting to play games across the state. Are there any cities in particular that you'll be looking to play games in?
Yes. There are about 4M people who come to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone each summer. It's a natural fit with international travelers - great for merchandise and a game or two. Also, cities like Casper, Cheyenne, Riverton and Gillette could be great hosts as well. It will depend on how much they want us to be there playing in their City.
On your website you mention being located in Riverton. I know when I think of Wyoming places like Cheyenne, Jackson Hole and Yellowstone are what come to mind. Where in Wyoming is Riverton, and what is it like? How’s the soccer scene?
There's a great youth soccer organization and following here and a few community college teams, but that's about it. We will be as big as it gets in Wyoming. It's a great opportunity for us to grow the sport in the state.
Riverton is in the center of the state, over the pass from Jackson and Yellowstone
Why do think soccer in Wyoming has been on the back burner for so long, other than the small population? Or is the small population the big reason?
You nailed it. The largest city has just over 60,000 people population. It's just really hard to do anything on the professional level or even Semi-Pro and draw numbers.
That's one of the big reasons we're going to have multiple host cities. Wyoming is a beautiful place, so I think teams will have a great experience coming here.
What are you seeing right now that has made you decide now is the time to soccer in Wyoming?
Nothing in particular. That's probably what makes us unique. We're entrepreneurs and love the excitement of building a startup. Matching that with our love of soccer and a need for more entertainment and professional sports in Wyoming makes for a great case in our minds.
I think the athletes are out there and hungry for this next level. So, from the competition standpoint, we're not too worried. Knock on wood!
As you prepare to launch this team, what are two or three things you feel need to be accomplished before the team takes the field to ensure it’s a success?
We'll need to build support from the soccer community and Wyoming residents as a whole. It's important that's we're able to touch everybody who might be able to contribute to our success.
We need a solid foundation to build on and that means the business model has to be solid. We're spending a significant amount of time and resources on that piece because we want FCWYO to be sustainable for a long time.
Finally, we have to put a great product on the pitch. We've got to assemble a competitive team and create a fun, entertaining experience for fans.
I think in 2018, people are craving experiences, especially live ones. We're competing with the allure of staying home and watching Netflix or video games. It's just so important from the business perspective, that we don't lose sight of that.
Have you started looking at players yet, or is that a little further down the road?
Not yet, although people have already started reaching out. Can't wait to get to that point though!
That’s good! How would you describe the soccer scene in Wyoming as whole? You’ve mentioned some college programs already, but I wonder what you see being in the ground.
Definitely developing, but passionate and taking hold. 62,000 affiliated players and families just looking for a team to rally around.
62,000 players? For a state with a population of a little over 500,000, that's phenomenal. How do you hope to appeal to such a large potential fan base, other than playing games in different cities?
62K - that's players and families. Just gotta foster that culture. ;) Wyo is a big little state. Excitement travels fast. We'll be at all the existing soccer events. Already partnering with the youth programs. Getting the biz community involved will be the fun part.
Any way in particular you're going about reaching out to the business community? I know that's something a lot of teams struggle with, and any strategies or tips you might have are always appreciated.
Since Wyoming doesn't have a professional sports team, we get to play a pretty unique role. Providing them exposure and tying their brands to something unique and exciting. Traditional advertising is dying, brands are looking for unique experiences and I think soccer clubs at all divisions have a great opportunity to do that...to plug brands into a culture with a strong following. Not only that, the fans will actually wear your logo!
That’s a good point. Since you’re in the early stages of really laying a foundation for the clubs future, are there elements of other clubs around the world that have inspired you?
We're of course fans of all leagues everywhere. However, we took a lot of inspiration from what Dennis Crowley was doing with this Kingston Stockade. We're not doing it exactly the same, but the ability to have insight into the operations was very beneficial.
As far as competition goes, it's too early to tell what we're going to be able to put together. But, I guess that's part of the excitement of it all.
Let's start wrapping this up with some short questions. What's your favorite league and/or team to watch for fun?
EPL, Man City has been fun to watch, but Tottenham is my fav. I take my boy, who's 8, to MLS games. We've become fans of LAFC and it's been fun to watch that org come together. We like how they make it about the community.
Fabian, our COO's family is from Argentina. His soccer roots run deep. He grew up watching the Washington Diplomats. He watched guys like Pele!
The Dips? Wow! Who are your favorite players, one past, one present?
Here, Fabian Lobera steps in. Fabian Lobera: El Pibe de Oro (Maradona). Watched in '79 ARG vs. NY Cosmos. Lately, on a Mohamed Salah kick. I like the small creators (e.g., Suarez, Hazard)
Season tix holder for the Dips from 75 to 79. Best moments with my dad. #thebeautifulgame
Do you have any books or podcasts, soccer related or otherwise, that you’ve enjoyed and would recommend?
JK: I'm going to let Fabian answer that one!
FL: I love the Secret Footballer books. Even better in audio form. Life as a pro in the EPL.
Pep Confidential, also an outstanding read. And any videos with Thierry Henry providing analysis of match play is enthralling.
If you could meet one person from world soccer, past or present, who do you meet and why?
FL: Cruyff - Saw him play live numerous times. His accomplishments and quotes paint him as the genius of the modern game. No match for his legendary status both on the pitch and on the touchline (coach).
Where can people find out more about the team online?
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and fcwyo.com.
Closing question: what would you say to someone asking you ‘why should I get out there and support my local team, like FC Wyoming?’
I think for us, the answer is pretty unique to Wyoming. Get out in the community, spend some time connecting with fellow sports fans, and get behind something different. We're pioneers in Wyoming, let's do something that will leave a legacy!
Jason, Fabian, thanks again for taking the time to do this interview, I really appreciate it. Remember, if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, please consider supporting us on Patreon by Clicking Here. Or you can click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. Make sure to spread the word by sharing these interviews, telling friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.
Read last weeks interview: Community Project: Jake Morrison of JASA RWC