Soccer As a Lifestyle
Soccer stars Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic have an apparel brand that’s all about living the soccer life.
Matt Besler and Seth Sinovic had always wanted to incorporate soccer in some other venture off the field. The timing seemed like it was never right for the longtime friends and Sporting Kansas City teammates, but it was something that usually came up in casual conversations.
A couple years ago, those conversations got a little more serious with Daniel Kerley, who also grew up playing soccer with Besler and Sinovic. The idea that emerged was a soccer lifestyle apparel brand called States Soccer that debuted in December.
“Our biggest goal was to find a way to keep people connected to the game,” Sinovic says. “[Daniel] was the target type of person we were looking towards as far as keeping people connected to the game. Because obviously growing up his entire life playing youth soccer, playing collegiate soccer, soccer’s a huge part of his life. And when you’re done playing, you try to play pick-up soccer as much as you can, try to watch as many games as you can. We didn’t really feel like there was a company that was specific to keeping fans and people connected to the game and really giving soccer its due.”
Besler also says that through States Soccer, there’s a concerted effort to give American soccer an identity.
“That’s something we always kept going back to, because from our experience, soccer is, in our country, still relatively young to anywhere else in the world,” Besler says. “Especially with it being a melting pot for so many different cultures, we feel like the American soccer identity is still something that has yet to be determined. And so we want to be a voice for that identity, because Seth and I have lived through it. We currently live it every single day. We breathe it. We experience it. We know what it’s like to be involved at the highest level of American soccer, so we want to try and make it relatable to other people that are doing the same things we are.”
The name States Soccer is derived from an anecdote the guys all remember about their youth soccer coach, Alan Jones, who’s still in Kansas City and works for Challenger Sports. The Welsh-born Jones would always talk about “The States” even though the eight-year-olds he was coaching probably didn’t quite know what he was saying.
“Here in The States, you guys do things differently.” “Here in The States, you guys call it soccer instead of football.”
And when they play around the world, where are they from, in the eyes of international soccer fans? “The States.” They wanted something that best represented American soccer, and States Soccer seemed to fit perfectly.
Besler, Sinovic, Kerley and co-founder Ryan Van Goethen started the designs from scratch, brainstorming all the pieces of clothing they’ve played soccer in or worked out in over the years. Sinovic says he’s worn everything under the sun, from Nike to Umbro to an Italian brand called Lanzera.
From this mental Rolodex of clothing, they determined what they liked about each, what they didn’t like, what nobody’s thought of before that they always think about, and what areas they felt needed to be improved.
There’s already some consensus on which items from the inaugural product line are their favorites. Both Besler and Sinovic single out the long-sleeve off-pitch shirts in midweight ($70) or lightweight ($65). “It’s almost impossible for me to pick a favorite between those two because they’re different,” Besler says, “but the lightweight off-pitch is probably the softest material on an off-pitch shirt that I’ve ever worn. And then the midweight one is a perfect feel and fit.”
Further capitalizing on the “athleisure” trend, States also has joggers in gray and black ($90), a look that PGA Tour star Rickie Fowler recently brought to the golf course during tournament play. “I’m a big fan of those,” Sinovic says. “I’ve got quite a few pairs of joggers that I like to wear, and those two complement my style off the field more than anything. Joggers have definitely come on strong.”
Besler says he was more nervous about the launch of the States Soccer line than he was before a game.
“You put so much time into it and you know that you can only launch once. And you also know that you’re going to be judged,” Besler says. “People are gonna either like it or not like it.
“The feedback has been great, which is a huge positive. Everybody that feels it, that sees it, that tries it on, is blown away. So that’s been great. Now it’s just about exposure. I think that’s really what we’re going to be focused on in 2019, and it’s been confirmed by others that we have a good product.”
One of the biggest challenges that Sinovic and Besler have run into is that it’s hard to stay focused on just one thing. They have so many ideas about what they’d like to add and the possibilities are infinite.
“I think we definitely want to add a women’s line and a youth line in the coming years,” Sinovic says. “Obviously we want to add styles and colors and things like that, but at this point we’re just getting our feet off the ground. We have to start somewhere. We’ve got to understand that we’ve got to grow at a steady pace to make sure we’re doing things right and make sure the quality’s right.”
To be sure, the two Sporting stars are learning about the industry as they go along, but alongside Van Goethen and Kerley’s passion for business, all four guys bring something valuable to the table.
“Yeah, we might be a little inexperienced from the business side, but we are experts in soccer,” Besler says. “That’s what this brand is, and that’s what this company is. It’s all about soccer, it’s all about American soccer. In that regard, we are experts. We know more than 99.999 percent of the people in this country, because we’ve been doing it for so long! I mean, that’s one of the biggest advantages that we have, is our experience and that we are currently professional soccer players. There’s nobody else that’s done this before and that’s tried to do this as current professional players.
“We can use that to our advantage, and also too, I feel like soccer for us is a lifestyle. I don’t know if it’s quite there yet in this country as a lifestyle. I think that most people in our country would view soccer as a sport. You go play soccer, and when you’re done playing soccer, you go back home and you change your clothes and you have a different style. And we are trying to integrate that, because that is what we do as professional players. So it’s not just about the on-field stuff. It is off the field.”