As with most new ventures, the genesis of the idea to bring an NPSL club to New Haven started with an idea to try something new. That idea, which was agreed upon over coffee in the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre in late 2012, was to invest in the Brazilian sports sector, specifically the world of soccer. And so it was that the company K2 Soccer SA was founded.
After having gathered key insights from hundreds of informative meetings with various stakeholders in the Brazilian (and global) soccer ecosystem, the K2 Soccer SA executive team decided to take the plunge and invest in a club. In December 2014, K2 Soccer SA acquired 50% of a small yet well-known Brazilian club: Internacional de Lages (based in the state of Santa Catarina). Inter de Lages, as it is known, competes in the state’s first division.
In early 2015, K2 Soccer SA’s management team decided that it wanted greater control over a club, to ensure that it could freely test out new ideas and concepts in Brazilian soccer. The firm subsequently acquired 99% of a second, small Brazilian soccer club, Clube Atlético Tubarão, based in the city of Tubarão (also in the state of Santa Catarina). Over the following nine months, K2 Soccer SA succeeded in converting the club from a non-profit to a for profit club—thereby empowering management with additional control and the necessary freedom to run the club in line with its vision and core values: innovation, professionalism, and transparency.
At present, C.A. Tubarão features four teams: U15, U17, U19 and its professional team, which competes in the second division of the state of Santa Catarina. The club’s facilities include one main pitch, two practice fields, lodging for 100 players and related infrastructure.
One of the primary reasons why K2 management decided to focus on the city of Tubarão was because a large university, UNISUL, is located in the same city. Soon after inking the deal to acquire the club, K2 management engaged in numerous conversations with UNISUL’s educational leadership, and subsequently signed a memorandum of understanding whereby professors and students from various UNISUL schools (nutrition, nursing, physical therapy, business management, and others) were authorized and encouraged to test out theories and ideas at the club. The club benefits because it receives know-how from a variety of professors and students. The university benefits because its professors and students can bridge the gap between theory and practice by simply going across the street to the club.
In addition, K2 Soccer SA has an office at the incubator (Incubadora CRIE, in Portuguese) located on the UNISUL campus. By having this presence on campus, K2 Soccer’s professionals have the ability to draw on the expertise of UNISUL’s business and strategy professors, not to mention the opportunity to rub elbows with fellow entrepreneurs – thereby exploring ideas together and benefitting from the externalities of having other start-up founders in the same place.
The club’s for profit status, its ties to UNISUL, its links to the campus incubator and above all else K2 Soccer SA’s thirst for innovation in sport help to explain why C.A. Tubarão has come to be known by many as “the first start-up soccer club in Brazil.”
While K2 Soccer SA focused its efforts in 2015 on ensuring that its new Brazilian club got off the ground, it also set its sights farther afield: to the US market. In 2015, the firm established a sister company, K2 Soccer USA, which was tasked with the mission of exploring sports-related business opportunities in the US. The objective was never as one-dimensional as to try to “bring Brazilian soccer to the US.” Instead, the idea has been to encourage an exchange of knowledge between markets and to seek out avenues for the cross-pollination of soccer ideas, coaching techniques, player exchanges (in both directions), and the like.
K2 Soccer management has been exploring the US soccer market for the last 18 months. After careful analysis, K2 Soccer management reached consensus in seeking the creation of an NPSL club for a number of reasons: the business-friendly nature and collaborative spirit of the NPSL and its club owners; the manageable investment level; the ability for K2 management to try new concepts on a test case basis; and most importantly a convergence of necessary “ingredients” in the city of New Haven, and more broadly in the state of Connecticut, to create a successful and sustainable soccer organization.