Klein: As MLS moves forward, Galaxy must lead the way
CARSON, Calif. – Chris Klein's fast-track to the LA Galaxy presidency has been a product of his business acumen – he was known for that long before he hung up his boots little more than two years ago – and his knowledge of the game, bolstered through 13 Major League Soccer campaigns and 23 caps with the US national team.
It provides him what he terms a “unique perspective,” which he hopes will enable his guidance of the Galaxy to further heights: on the field, to be sure, but more so in a leadership role as MLS seeks a spot among the world's finest soccer leagues.
Klein, 37, whose promotion from Galaxy vice president was announced last week, says his “specific responsibilities” aren't necessarily changing. He has not been handed “specific mandates” by club owner AEG, but he is pushing forward as the club seeks to realize its vision – as a business and on the field.
That includes broadening the season-ticket base, continuing to win championships and setting the standard as “the best organization in Major League Soccer.”
“The vision that we've had since last year stays the same,” Klein told MLSsoccer.com. “We've progressed our organization significantly over the past year, in terms of season tickets, in terms of how we're building the business of the Galaxy, and that vision will stay the same. ... We want to continue to be the flag-bearer for MLS. We were the first to sign a Designated Player. We've won back-to-back championships. On the field we've been innovative. We've helped drive this league forward.
“Our league has the goal of being among the best leagues in the world by 2022. To do that, they need the Galaxy to lead the way.”
David Beckham's presence since 2007 “helped us achieve so that we could reach our potential, so we could be on our way,” Klein said, but Beckham’s departure hasn’t left a dent in the business yet.
“We haven't seen a drop-off. ... One thing we've learned is that people came out in the end to see the Galaxy,” Klein said. “David Beckham was certainly a part of that, but we have not seen fans that have gone away. In fact, we continue to add to our season-ticket base.”
Boosting season-ticket sales – and what fans who purchase season tickets can expect in return – is crucial to the club. He said LA's total grew from 4,000 to nearly 8,500, and the goal is to expand that to “close to 9,500” this season.
The Galaxy sold out only six of 17 regular-season MLS home games in 2012 – plus three of four home playoff games, including the MLS Cup final – and regular sell-outs “is where we need to be,” Klein said.
“We feel pretty confident that we could fill the stadium every night, but we want to do it the right way,” he said. “Where we take care of our season-ticket holders, where we provide a product to our fans and with the game entertainment we have that keeps the fan coming back game after game and year after year.”
Southern California is a challenging market, with a nearly unlimited number of things vying for people's attention.
“Anywhere in LA, people want to be at something that is cool, I guess,” he said. “And we feel we have something that is cool. The atmosphere that is created in the Home Depot Center, that you had in the final against Houston, is something that you see in Europe.
"We want to create those types of experiences for our fans, and when they come and when they commit to us, we want to understand that value and work with them to make them feel like they are getting something different by being a season-ticket holder rather than just purchasing a ticket to come and see one game.”