Innovation, branding and a mission to grow American soccer | Image Credit: Brooklyn FC
BROOKLYN, N.Y. - It was this past summer that the United Soccer League awarded a USL League One franchise to Brooklyn, N.Y. and North Sixth Group as part of the league's ongoing expansion plans.
Led by Matt Rizzetta, founder and chairman of the North Sixth Group, Brooklyn FC will begin competing in the league in 2025 and represent 77 neighborhoods and a community 2.6 million people strong.
"Brooklyn is a brand," said Rizzetta. "We're looking at Brooklyn FC really as a platform that represents the identity of Brooklyn not just on the soccer field but the identity of Brooklyn in every aspect of the culture."
Through his NY-based family company, North Sixth Group, Rizzetta brings years of fresh experience accrued within the Italian soccer pyramid as chairman and owner of fourth-division club Campobasso FC and as investor of Serie B side Ascoli Calcio.
With the recent founding of "Club Underdog," aimed at encompassing the company's soccer holdings, North Sixth Group's portfolio was recently expanded to include Swiss side FC Locarno.
But where does an expansion team like Brooklyn fit in a portfolio featuring three centenary clubs from southern Europe?
Everywhere and nowhere.
Take Campobasso FC, for instance. Its city and region located in central-south Italy are one of the most overlooked territories in the country, totaling a population of about 300,000 people. Despite this and the team's results in the lower waters of Italian football in recent decades, they are a club and a place with historic traditions.
Brooklyn, on the other hand, is a city and a brand recognized globally by itself and a cosmopolitan community like no other.
Yet, Campobasso and Brooklyn have never been closer.
While in the geographical, social, economic and cultural nature of things these clubs are distinctly and inherently different, they are part of a vision.
Through Club Underdog, Rizzetta's group seeks to invest in lower-tier clubs at a time of growth opportunities and competing multi-club ownerships investing in global soccer.
"When you go into a place like Campobasso, even though we had to restart from the bottom essentially, you're going into a region that has a rich footballing tradition," said Rizzetta. "In Brooklyn, it's almost the opposite where it's so well known internationally, but doesn't have a rich football tradition - at least at the professional level.
"Campobasso has tremendous international potential because there's something like a million expats from the Molise region in North America, so that was obviously a big part of our strategy."
A well-established global brand like that of Brooklyn to build a tradition and its history for soccer versus a centenary soccer club in Italy striving to establish its global brand while returning to the professional game.
"The cool thing for us is that we're going to be able to leverage synergies from both clubs. Campobasso can help Brooklyn, Brooklyn can help Campobasso," Rizzetta said. "It's really kind of beautiful in that respect, because who would ever think that a city as well known and as big as Brooklyn would need a little city like Campobasso? But Brooklyn needs Campobasso just like Campobasso needs Brooklyn.”
Within the United Soccer League, Brooklyn FC found the perfect platform to make the jump in a crowded professional soccer space, targeting a market where 2.6 million people and 77 neighborhoods were left without professional soccer.
"I think there's incredible room for innovation in the New York City soccer market," said Rizzetta. "We felt like the USL was the perfect league to partner with for that where we could operate our club with a little bit more entrepreneurship and a little bit more independence and freedom."
Following this summer's club announcement, BKFC recently revealed its club identity centered around the diversity of its neighborhoods and its iconic bridge.
Rizzetta envisions a young, international club representing the nationalities of the community while building its academies and continuing relationships with youth teams previously present in Brooklyn.
"If you look at Brooklyn, it's obviously a melting pot market and we're going to be a melting pot club," Rizetta added. "We're going to get in there and we're going to be really positive members of the local communities."
Off the field, the club will operate on a more European model with the awareness and experience the ownership group earned in Italian soccer.
"First and foremost, the European model and promotion and relegation teaches you that you have to be on your toes at all times," Rizzetta said. "You need to earn your right not just to win the league, but to stay in the league, to maintain your position in that tier, that category.
"That's going to be the thing we take with us to Brooklyn that's going to help us the most."