“To be a good strategist, forget about yourself,” says Brian Bilello, chief operating officer of the New England Revolution, the Major League Soccer (MLS) team based in Foxborough, MA. “Good strategies develop from considering the viewpoints of everyone who will be affected by the decisions.”
Bilello, who has been cited as “the next Theo Epstein” by Bostonmagazine, hopes to score big with his latest strategy to increase the Revolution’s ticket base and to see a New England soccer stadium built and opened within a few years.
Although U.S. soccer has not enjoyed the colossal popularity of baseball and football, let alone that of soccer in other parts of the world, Bilello sees a new era for the sport. “We’re poised for growth,” he says, asserting that a new soccer age was already under way by the time English superstar David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007. “Beckham sees something exciting here. MLS has a solid infrastructure of ownership groups, strong players, team-owned stadiums, and a history of managing teams.”
Bilello joined the Kraft Sports Group in 2003, serving the New England Revolution, the New England Patriots, and Gillette Stadium in a variety of operational and strategic roles before becoming the Revolution’s COO in 2006. From 1997 to 2002, he was a management consultant at Bain in its San Francisco and Boston offices.
A lifelong soccer enthusiast, Bilello has played the game as long as he can remember and now participates in an over-30 league. He played varsity soccer at MIT, where he also discovered a new love: business. “MIT was an overwhelmingly positive experience for me,” he says. As he gained problem-solving acumen through engineering studies, “I saw those strategic skills, combined with a minor in economics, as the most exciting combination for me. I knew I wanted to go into business.”
Bilello, his wife Vanessa, and their toddler daughters–three-year-old Samantha and one-year-old Madison–frequent zoos and museums near their home in southern Massachusetts. Vanessa plans to return to her career in education soon. And Samantha, reports Bilello, “is starting to kick the ball around.”