Interview by Datti Jinkiri
Ever since Brilla’s inaugural season in 2007, the staff has been a fixture at the USL Winter Summit. Every meeting has been a little bit different than the next. I was able to interview Scott Taylor and Rusty Bryant about their experience at this year’s summit. Here are their responses.
DJ: Where was the summit held?
Scott Taylor: “The Winter Summit was held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Clearwater, FL. This is the 4th or 5th year since they moved it out of downtown Tampa, and we enjoy it a lot more on the beach! (Although we don’t have time to actually set foot in the sand.) The USL’s offices are in Tampa, FL, which is only about 20 minutes away.”
DJ: Give me a quick overview of the summit. What topics were discussed?
Scott Taylor: “This was our 10th annual trip for the PDL league meetings and sometimes it’s hard to get excited about all the seminars because usually we’ve felt like we’ve heard it all before, but PDL Director Todd Eason did a great job mixing it up this year. The meetings that we attended, for the most part, we all very informative and helpful. They ranged from us getting a chance to see the PDL rebrand before it was made public, a seminar on best practices for live-streaming our home matches, a seminar on game day promotions and entertainment, and the always exhilarating seminar on insurance. (Not a fun one, but a very necessary component.)”
“We also had breakout sessions with our own conference. Without giving to much away, we’ll be seeing some new faces this season, so it was good to be able to meet the people we’ll be playing against this season.”
“We also had an extra meeting that was very beneficial to us, because we qualified for the US Open Cup this season. Adrian Garibay from US Soccer walked us through a new player registration process to make sure we get all of our guys eligible to play for the US Open Cup. This is a very prestigious event and it was exciting to hear from the guy who organizes the tournament.”
“The Summit finished with what everyone is looking forward to but also dreading: Scheduling. All the teams meet in one huge room sitting at a table with their own division members, and it’s like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. People are waving their hands and yelling over each other trying to make sure they get the best schedule possible. While we can’t talk about our schedule until the USL releases it, we feel like we put together a pretty good schedule.”
“The time spent outside of these meetings is just as valuable. Since we’ve been in the league for nearly a decade, we’ve made a of friends. We get to hang out with them, go eat dinner, or just sit around an catch up. This is the part I look forward to the most.”
DJ: Was the Blue Battalion discussed?
Rusty Bryant: “I cannot begin to tell you the positive impact that our new supporter’s club, The Blue Battalion, had on our organization in 2015. We have been hoping this group would form for a number of years, and they did not disappoint in their first year. They added to the game-day atmosphere in ways that nothing else has done since we entered the league in 2007.”
“Although, the Winter Summit did not mention our Blue Battalion specifically, there is always a lot of buzz about supporter’s clubs. In fact, they typically have seminars that address the importance of having a strong supporter’s club. In years past I would sit through those meetings thinking, “I wish…” Now I am proud to say that we have the Blue Battalion. I can’t wait to see its growth in year 2.”
DJ: How do you feel about the prospects of the PDL? USL in general?
Rusty Bryant: “The Premier Development League is one of the top leagues in North America, and we believe the future is bright for the PDL. The league has a rich history and has proven to be one of the best paths to the professional leagues. The MLS SuperDraft annually consists of 70-75% of the drafted players coming from the PDL. Now that the MLS is directly affiliated with the USL professional league, it should only improve the pathway since the PDL is a part of the USL.”
“The United Soccer Leagues has grown and improved exponentially since its partnership with Major League Soccer a couple of years ago. It led to a complete rebranding of the league, and that has allowed the USL to soar to new heights. The PDL launched its rebranding at the Winter Summit, and we expect the same positive impact over the next couple of years.”
DJ: Can the fans expect big things from Brilla this season?
Rusty Bryant: “We always expect big things from Brilla each year, but I believe that the fans can expect something really special in 2016. We had a strong season in 2015, falling in the playoffs in penalty kicks. However, I believe that Coach Mark McKeever now knows exactly what it will take to win the league, and I would not bet against him! He is already working hard to bring in a quality side that will be even stronger than 2015. On top of that, we are already working diligently to make 2016 the best fan experience ever. We are ready to kick-off the season!”