We recently caught up with Brian Budzinski, president of the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Missouri Comets and the newly founded FC Kansas City club, which will begin play next Spring in a brand new (but not yet named) professional league for women.
Following is our chat
Equalizer: When the league was announced last week you were the franchise that took the most people by surprise. Can you take us through how your participation came about?
Brian Budzinski: From the outside perspective we might be the surprise team, but in reality we have actually been involved probably from the beginning with Mike Stoller (Breakers) and Arnim (Whistler, Red Stars), and Western New York, Jersey, Bill Predmore’s group, and Bill Lynch with D.C. United. We were originally looking at creating our own league in the Midwest through the W-League with five or six franchises and run that out of Kansas City. When some news started to leak out about this, I reached out to Peter Wilt to chat with Arnim and the rest is history.
Equalizer: As one of the few brand new teams in the league, will you be hiring all new staff?
Brian Budzinski: We have a staff of about 12 that are just on the Comets. And that is ticket sales, sponsorship, PR, graphic designs, business manager, and the whole thing. So essentially that staff will just do both jobs. The seasons don’t really overlap too much. So our staff will remain the same or it might grow a little bit. From a technical side it will all be brand new staff.
Equalizer: You mentioned the technical side. Is there a timetable for naming a coach and GM and unveiling a logo?
Brian Budzinski: We should be announcing our coaching staff Friday. Our logo and website should be the middle part of next week. From a GM standpoint, I don’t know that we will have a GM. We will probably operate it the same way we do with the Comets where the coaches and myself kind of work together a little bit on player acquisitions. We don’t have a GM, per se on the Comets side, and I don’t know if we need one on this side.
Equalizer: And what about a venue for the team?
Brian Budzinski: We are evaluating quite a few spots in Kansas City. I would say that is probably another two weeks out. We’ve got some attractive places that we’re looking at. Everything that we’re looking at is a minimum 5,000 seat venue.
Equalizer: What, if any, relationship is there with Sporting Kansas City?
Brian Budzinski: We have a good relationship with Sporting. Some of our players train with Sporting. Their assistant coach used to be the head coach of the Comets (Zoran Savic, 2000-2005). Their players and their staff come to our games, same with ours (and their games.) It’s a real good working relationship. And I think they’re excited about this, and they’re going to help this process as well.
Equalizer: Sporting has done an incredible job of rousing the soccer passion in the city over the last few years. How much was that a factor in your decision to start a women’s team?
Brian Budzinski: Kansas City has been an interesting dynamic. The Comets, the indoor team that we had, were one of the premier teams of the MISL in the early ’80s. So we were kind of the boom back then. And then the Wizards came along and had some good years. But they were playing at Arrowhead and the environment wasn’t the best. And then when Robb Heineman and his group changed that brand and built LIVESTRONG Sporting Park, it’s put Kansas City from a culture stand point, they build a great venue, and then they won, and they’re very tied in with their fan base, and (just like that) they got success. So to answer your question it played a little bit into it, but I think that we would have been doing this anyway. It’s just a matter of everything going together.
Equalizer: Looking through the national team pool it seems like there are players with automatic connections to every city in the league besides Kansas City. Is that a concern at all?
Brian Budzinski: That’s not really much of a concern. I see what you’re saying on the senior side. But if you look at the U-23s there are three girls that are from Kansas City. So it might not be that your Hope Solo’s or Alex Morgan’s are familiar with Kansas City, but the next wave of those girls we think will put us in a really good position going forward where girls will want to play here. We’ll have one of the top training facilities and coaching staffs. So we’ll be right up there with everybody else. I think it’s just a matter of us getting information out there to everybody. But I know what you’re saying there’s not a ton of ties between player X and Kansas City, but there doesn’t mean there might not be a player Y that is very connected to Kansas City and will vouch for us to player X.
Equalizer: This will be the third women’s league to launch in 13 years. The first two never saw a fourth season. What do you say to fans who really want to support the new league and FC Kansas City but are wary about backing something that will be gone in a few years?
Brian Budzinski: I’ve read a ton of articles and I’ll agree with what everyone else is saying. When you have these three federations behind you, from a money and resource standpoint and from a management standpoint, they want to win the World Cup in 2015. And what’s the best way to do that? To have a domestic league where these players are competing against each other on a day to day basis. From a financial standpoint, when you have seven of your 20 players paid for by the federations, that’s a huge chunk of payroll that’s wiped out. It’s a model that’s very economically viable. And that is ultimately what attracted us to pull the trigger on it.
Equalizer: When we chat again a year from now, what will have happened between now and then for you to be able to say year one was a success?
Brian Budzinski: We would like to sell out our home opener. I would like to average over 4,000 people per game. And hold the trophy up at the end of the year. And then honestly, what we really want to have happen is we really want to impact the Kansas City community, for young kids that are playing the sport, and female athletes to let them know that there is an option out there for them. It’s a shame that some of the best players in the world at 22 or 23 years old are completely done with their professional careers. On the men’s side that’s not the case. So we’re doing this because it’s good for Kansas City, and also because it’s good for women’s soccer.