MLS: Review of Peter Wilt’s Reddit AMA

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: Chicago Fire head coach Dave Sarachan and General Manager Peter Wilt pose with their first round draft pick Nate Jaqua during the MLS Super Draft at the Convention Center on January 17, 2003 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 17: Chicago Fire head coach Dave Sarachan and General Manager Peter Wilt pose with their first round draft pick Nate Jaqua during the MLS Super Draft at the Convention Center on January 17, 2003 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Peter Wilt has played a crucial part in growing the game in the United States the last few decades, including in MLS. Always a People’s Champ soccer executive, Wilt did a Reddit AMA earlier this week. Here’s a summary for those pressed for time.

Peter Wilt, champion of the game of soccer, reached out to the people during a Reddit AMA earlier this week. The always enthusiastic and insightful Wilt has been direct with the people since his days at the BigSoccer forums. Being given a tour behind the US soccer scenes by Wilt is always informative.

Wilt’s opinions on how to move forward should be treasured advice. His history in growing the game at all levels is arguably unmatched by any. Despite some setbacks, Wilt has always pressed on with belief, and his passion was evident in his answers in the Wilt AMA Reddit thread. 

Wilt caught the soccer bug working for the Milwaukee Wave. Years later, he led the Chicago Fire launch into Major League Soccer, winning the double in their first year. Fans enjoyed being able to put a name, face, sound of a voice, and handshake to their experience with the team’s front office. It was Wilt where ever he went.

Wilt was an engaging presence with the Chicago Red Stars, Indy Eleven, Forward Madison FC, and the Green Bay Voyageurs FC. Starting a new club, in a new league, or both even in the case of NISA, is a daunting task, but Wilt took the challenges. And there were challenges. Replying to A_Quick_Message, Wilt said:

"Starting a lower division club is hard. Starting it successfully is REALLY hard…and you need to have a number of well aligned variables including well located venue, talented, hard-working staff, proper approach and appropriate financial resources. Amount depends on the level, the market and the goals. In general, you get out what you put in. Investment in talented personnel and attention to details are important. Connecting to the community, including them and making them part of the process is critical. It’s not rocket science, but it is a lot of hard work and long hours."

Wilt continued in a follow-up question posed by derek_villa and ThomasRaith:

"Lower division teams need to build loyal audiences locally using well located venues, sound management and community inclusion. This will lead to continued growth both in individual teams and in leagues. The soccer development part is important of course, but won’t mean much without audiences that care about local teams…Short of that it’s crowd sourcing as many aspects of the team as possible, especially during development of the team. It also means active participation in charitable events, other sports teams in town, festivals, cross promotions with social, civic, charitable, sporting, recreational and commercial organizations. Just getting out in the public. Players, owners, organizational leaders and staff……via speaking engagements, town halls, taking influencers (sic) to lunch, having beers with die hard fans, attending youth soccer tournaments and board meetings…..getting engaged."

Tougher questions have been asked of Wilt, largely by billionaires paying the bills. He was forthright and direct in several answers with direct MLS ties. Regarding any Chicago rebrand and move into the city limits, Wilt responded to reddit user intestinal_fortitude question:

"I’m against a potential rebrand for all the reasons discussed on social media. Relocation could be a good move if it includes an eventual move to a team controlled facility with intimacy, amenities and improved public transportation access. The cost/benefit analysis needs to be weighed and include opportunity to improve long term revenues as well as equity value. Good attendance when the team performed well in 2017 demonstrated that the current location can work with improved team performance and continued community outreach."

So, do not rebrand a great club identity. Also, do not use Bridgeview as a catch-all excuse for why the team is probably looking to play within the city limits again. Perhaps market the team and reach out to the community. (Chicago’s 5 part analysis from last year said the same.)

Other notable replies included this economic explanation for some MLS clubs re-branding.

"Obviously MLS missed the mark at the beginning by selling the naming rights of all the teams to its apparel suppliers. Only one of Nike’s six named teams retains the same name today (LAG)."

Lessons learned from his days in NASL:

"I think the value of a strong centralized league office was underestimated as was the importance of working in partnership with other soccer constituencies."

His failures with MLS Milwaukee (“Maybe another day”), promotion/relegation and NISA challenges:

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"There were too many groups/people trying to do similar things in the independent soccer world. I had been asked by a couple of them to start NISA and then I found myself competing with them. It seemed to me that the independent model could proceed better without me. I also was presented with this great opportunity to start a pro soccer team(s) in my home state. Not surprisingly, I enjoy starting teams more than i do starting leagues. I wrote a longer explanation on the (subscription needed for full article): think there is value to incorporating pro/rel at all levels of soccer. The value is detailed in the manifesto. The challenges – mostly financial – exist as well. In amateur or lower division soccer, those challenges can potentially make sustainability tenuous for promoted teams, so that aspect has to be considered and addressed prior to implementation."

And for those just looking for the best burger in Madison, Wisconsin:

"So far I really like the ‘Bou BUrger at the Caribou Tavern, The Plaza Burger (Plaza sauce is delish and the Plaza has bubble top hockey as a bonus), Player’s Sports Bar in Atwood has a great burger and i have a $50 gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket which I may just use tonight, and yesterday i discovered a good one on State St. (though it’s a chain 🙁 ) – MOOYAH, and Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry has great burgers and NO DUMPLINGS – go figure."

Next. MLS: Week 8 Power Rankings. dark

There are plenty more little nuggets in the reddit thread for those with the time. It takes less time than starting a soccer club. But what Peter Wilt has to say is always worth listening to, and this is much of the same.