New COO Plans To Strengthen UPSL
The United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) is no longer the new league in town. After almost of decade of determination and significant expansion, the brainchild of the league’s founder and president, Leonel Lopez, has secured its place in American soccer. With the guidance of UPSL’s longtime commissioner Yan Swara, UPSL has grown into a nationally recognized league with more than 300 individually owned teams. Clearly the fastest growing soccer league in America, the UPSL believes in promotion and relegation and offers three divisions of men’s soccer as well as a women’s and a youth’s division.
Recently, the UPSL added more business power to its front office. Luin Frazier is the new Chief Operating Officer at the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL).
Headquartered in the Los Angeles area, the UPSL is a national league with over 300 teams. Formerly the Head of Business Development for National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), Frazier was responsible for setting the strategic direction and leading worldwide business development for the NBPA and THINK450. Prior to this, Frazier also worked for Univision.
Frazier, who is based in the New York area and usually travels extensively, looks forward to traveling again to meet the UPSL teams all across America.
SoccerToday Interview with UPSL’s Luin Frazier
Diane Scavuzzo: You recently joined the UPSL and took over as the COO. What attracted you to the UPSL organization?
Luin Frazier: I’m a native of Honduras, which is a very small country in Central America with a population smaller than the state of Louisiana — but while it’s small in population, it has a big passion for the sport of soccer.
I grew up with soccer in my blood, in my veins and I absolutely love it.
When I was younger, I always knew I wanted to work in the sport — I didn’t know if I wanted to own a team or work for FIFA, but I did know I wanted to work in the sport of soccer.
My entire career has been in the sports and entertainment industry, starting early as an intern at the FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida — the annual college football game. I worked my way up to Vice President of Business Development and then joined the NBPA and gained valuable experience working with some of the largest companies in the sports and entertainment industry.
I reached a point in my career where I looked at what I’m really good at, what my passions were, and explored how I could bring these two together. Joining the UPSL has really allowed me to fulfill my childhood dream of working in soccer and lets me tap into my talents on a day-to-day basis.
We have an incredible group of individuals at the UPSL, so for me, my focus is on the business side of the league; our strategic partnerships and marketing efforts — that’s really my wheelhouse. I am focused on how do we increase the business of the UPSL. How do we increase our teams’ revenues? How do we improve the branding of the UPSL?
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you think of the UPSL as a diamond in the rough or how would you classify the UPSL?
Luin Frazier: I classify the UPSL as the biggest diamond in the rough. I think that analogy is spot on.
The number of people playing soccer in the USA is astronomical. It’s no secret that soccer in America has grown exponentially and the UPSL has expanded dramatically as well.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the most attractive quality of the UPSL? Why would a team join the UPSL?
Luin Frazier: Our business model is simple. First and foremost, we want to make sure we keep our costs down so that a club’s participation is not astronomical. I believe that our fee structure is the lowest one in the market. And, we’ve been told by the teams that UPSL’s affordability is definitely part of the attraction.
Second is our approach to local competition and travel. UPSL makes it a point to regionalize our competitions — the UPSL has conferences and divisions all across the country so our teams do not have to travel long distances to play a game.
With 300+ teams, the UPSL has the ability to have teams play games in their local areas — and this is a big attraction.
A lot of our athletes have day jobs, and it is not feasible for these players to have to travel out of their current city for a match.
And third, and it’s just as important as the other two, is the level of competition.
We want to make sure that we create a platform where we’re providing these high caliber athletes the opportunity for them to compete, the opportunity for them to showcase their skills, and the opportunity for them to continue to pursue their dreams.
These three things are very fundamental to who we are as a league. The UPSL’s unwavering commitment to these three key points is our way to ensure that we’re providing the best experience we possibly can, not just for the teams, but more importantly for the athletes.
The UPSL is committed to these three values:
- Local/Regional Games
- Great competition
Diane Scavuzzo: Is the UPSL a pathway to the professional game? Is it possible for an amateur UPSL player to become a professional soccer player?
Luin Frazier: Yes, absolutely.
Every year we have athletes that are playing in the UPSL who advance to play professional soccer.
Whether it’s a Division 2 team in Greece, a pro team in Costa Rica or Portugal, or maybe even are signed by an MLS team UPSL players can and do become professional soccer players.
One of the things I really want to start focusing on is marketing our athletes. I want to make sure that we’re celebrating the UPSL athletes, and celebrating the journey.
Come to the UPSL, work on your craft.
If you’re still chasing your dream to play soccer professionally, well, the UPSL is a great training ground for you.
The UPSL is a great place for players to gain experience and perfect their craft and showcase their skills — so they could eventually sign professional contracts somewhere in the world.
There are so many amazing stories in the UPSL — with over 300 teams, almost 10,000 athletes. Maybe it’s a player who didn’t train at an MLS Academy or even play varsity soccer but he’s developed over the years and still dreams of becoming a pro player or a collegiate player who still wants to advance and reached the level of success he has always wanted.
We also have professional athletes playing in our league like a former defender for Arsenal who loves the game and wants to mentor younger players — the UPSL has great player stories to celebrate.
Diane Scavuzzo: How would you compare the UPSL to the other leagues in America?
Luin Frazier: We don’t compare ourselves to other leagues. We respect all other leagues and we know America is big enough for soccer to be played in every corner of the country. At the UPSL, I want us to stay solely focused on our mission. I want us to be the very best version of ourselves.
In order to do so, we need to make sure that we understand our goals and what we’re trying to do. Everyone has a different business model.
Diane Scavuzzo: In the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic do you think we can use this hiatus in our soccer world to best use?
Luin Frazier: That’s a tremendous question. I know for a lot of our athletes it’s been a challenge for them to keep training and stay in shape during the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.
Working out during quarantine is not the same as working out with your team.
We know a lot of our UPSL players are maintaining their conditioning by doing push-ups and running around their neighborhoods.
For us as a league, we recognize that after this period of social distancing is over, communities all over the country will want to want to reconnect.
It is this idea of social reconnecting that we at UPSL take seriously.
We need to make sure that we’re doing everything within our power to ensure that we can safely host games, once our government and medical officials tell us that we’re ready to do so.
This is also a great time to reflect on how we can improve — What can we do better? How do we strengthen operations of the league during this down period? How can we help our teams be more successful? What advice can we share to help secure sponsors and generate additional dollars?
Diane Scavuzzo: When we are allowed to restart soccer, it probably will happen on a regional or state by state basis. Will that be hard for you as a national league?
Luin Frazier: We know there will be different start dates in different states, so we are standing firm in our commitment to host the spring 2020 season — as long as our federal officials and the medical professionals tell us that it’s okay.
If they give us the green light, we’re going to play games — if we feel it’s safe.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the fate of the spring UPSL season?
Luin Frazier: Well, the spring season unlike by definition, although it starts in spring, it goes into summer. We’ve already agreed as a league that we hope to start UPSL games in May or June, and extend the season all the way through summer with the potential of having our finals pushed back from the first week in August to potentially Labor Day if need be.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are UPSL’s safety recommendations?
Luin Frazier: Our number one priority is making sure that we’re providing a safe platform for these athletes who are going to want to play after this is all over — and a safe environment for our fans to come out and watch great soccer.
There will be changes — absolutely.
We are deciding our protocols now but most likely there will be no pre-game or post-game handshakes, our athletes will not be allowed to share water bottles. We know that we hold a big responsibility, not just for our players in our leagues, but for the communities that they represent. So we want to be and will be good citizens of all of our communities.
On a final note, no matter how much our country is suffering, no matter how much hurt is being caused by this terrible virus, we know that we as a country are resilient.
We’re a resilient country. We know that we as a league have to re be resilient.
We know that we have to be strong and we really look forward to the day that we can all get back on the field and enjoy this beautiful game that we all love.