For more than 10 years, Kris Katseanes has been a first-hand witness to Major League Soccer’s (MLS) unprecedented expansion and rise in fan popularity. He’s seen the league sweep into new cities and go from 10 to 20 teams, with another three on the way. And as the league continues to elevate itself to new heights, Katseanes is 100 percent focused on ensuring his own franchise, FC Dallas, continues to ascend to the next level.
As the VP of Ticket Sales and Service for FC Dallas/Toyota Stadium since 2009, Katseanes has led FC Dallas’ ticket sales team to impressive results. He has consistently grown the season ticket base year after year, achieved all-time highs for home-game attendance and was the key figure behind the club’s adoption of digital tickets – Flash Seats® – in 2015. He realizes that to be successful in this rapidly growing league, innovation and agility are crucial. Here, Katseanes shares how he got started in MLS, in addition to his sales strategy for the 2015 season and his thoughts on where MLS is headed.
How did you get your start in MLS and why did the league appeal to you?
Kris Katseanes: I was fortunate enough to be hired as part of the ticket sales team at the inception of the Real Salt Lake franchise in the fall of 2004, prior to the inaugural season of the team in 2005 when MLS expanded for the first time.
MLS is appealing today for the same reasons that it has been all along…the league is growing so much every single year, and it’s a privilege to be able to do our best to contribute to the growth of the overall product.
What are some of your biggest goals for this season?
KK: The primary goal is always to provide the best experience and value possible to the fans that invest their time and money into the product we offer.
The people on our team and their development as sales/service professionals are key components of achieving this goal. Having good people, who have a good process and can communicate a strong value experience for the dollar, will result in our ability to achieve the overall goal of bringing as many people as possible to the games.
How have ticket sales been this year compared to other years?
KK: For the past six years we have gone into each year with goals for growth. We feel very good about where we will end up this year as it relates to our goals for 2015. Our season ticket base has grown considerably each season and the value of our product continues to increase. We’ve also rolled out digital tickets to season ticket holders and fans, and hope to continue increasing adoption.
How is FC Dallas competing with other teams in the Dallas sports market for fans’ attention?
KK: Dallas is a tough sports market to fight for attention in. Honestly, the best way we can compete is by sticking to the components that we know and can control. The great thing is that we don’t need other teams to ‘lose’ in order for us to ‘win’. There are plenty of sports fans that don’t see being a fan of one team as mutually exclusive to being a fan of another. Our product is unique in ways that others aren’t.
I would argue that we provide one of the most convenient fan experiences in all of professional sports. By combining convenience with the excitement of our game-day experience, we feel very comfortable that those who are coming through our doors are excited to do so again, while also encouraging others to do the same.
Why do you think teams from other leagues are looking to MLS for ideas on innovation and how to engage fans?
KK: I think it’s natural for all of us to look at the entire industry and see what’s special about each subset, and then mirror it however we can.
The difference in soccer is that the fans who walk through the gates are just as integral to the match and the overall experience of other fans as the players – they are not merely spectators. The closest experience to it in sports may be a college football game…there is just an extraordinary amount of enthusiasm and energy that is created by the fans. Soccer is unique because of the uninterrupted flow of the game and the culture that has been created through the history of the game across the world, celebrated in so many differing ways by those of diverse backgrounds. At FC Dallas, we will continue to grow and embrace fan traditions.
Some people still talk about the four major pro sports leagues being the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL. What do you think about that, and how do you change that?
KK: The perception will change over time…it has already started to, and I’m not worried about it. We need to do our part to expedite the process by being the best we can be, but for me it’s not a matter of ‘if it will happen?’ as much as it is a question of ‘how soon can it happen?’
What are your predictions for MLS in the next few years?
KK: MLS is a smart league, making smart decisions for its fans, its business growth, its competitive structure and its development. MLS was described a couple of years ago in an ESPN article as a rocket ship on the launch-pad. Now, I believe it has taken off and will continue to climb.