- Updated: April 12, 2017
Welcome to the very first edition of “Hello Neumann,” a new column in which former Revolution midfielder Steve Neumann will regularly offer his thoughts on the latest buzz surrounding MLS and American soccer.
By way of an introduction, Steve was the fourth overall pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, and appeared in 23 games during his rookie season – a season that featured the Revolution’s first run to the MLS Cup final since 2007. He played three years in New England before calling it a career after the 2016 season. Prior to MLS, he played four years at Georgetown University, where he was a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist (2012 & 2013) and BIG EAST Offensive Player (2013).
In this entry, Steve talks about his decision to retire from soccer at 25-years-old, what he misses the most about being a pro soccer player, and what new and exciting things he’s got on his plate these days.
NESoccerToday: First of all, thank you for your willingness to offer your insight and thoughts here at NESoccerToday.com. It’s something I know our readers will certainly enjoy. With that in mind, I think I’m speaking for a lot of people who’ve followed your career when I say the decision to announce your retirement from pro soccer came as a bit of a surprise. What factors led to the decision to hang up the boots?
Steve: To begin, thank you for having me on board as a guest columnist. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in New England and I’m happy to continue to be involved in some capacity.
As for my decision to retire, believe me, hanging up my boots wasn’t an easy decision to make. I wasn’t just forgoing a paycheck, I was walking away from the sport that I had dedicated my whole life to. Ever since I was a kid wearing diapers, my goal was to become a professional soccer player. After achieving that goal and playing three seasons with the Revolution, I found myself at a critical point in my life: continue to pursue this goal or start a new journey.
My decision ultimately came down to the fact that I have many other interests and goals in my life that I want to chase. It wasn’t a decision based on monetary considerations or a cost-benefit analysis of my earning potential. It wasn’t a decision based on a decreased desire to compete. It wasn’t really a decision about soccer at all. It was a decision about on my future.
I wanted to fully dedicate myself to something other than playing a sport. I wanted to go back to business school and fully immerse myself in a learning environment where I didn’t have to sacrifice my class or study schedule because I had athletic obligations. I enjoyed every second of my soccer career, but there is inherently an expiration date on all athletic careers.
While I was playing on the Revolution, getting involved in projects outside of soccer such as aiding the MLS Players Union in CBA negotiations and taking part in community service initiatives always seemed to energize me and left me wanting more. I started to think about the business side of MLS, its marketing campaigns and how the league could capture a large portion of American sports fans that are already loyal to football, baseball, basketball or hockey.
These business problems fascinated me to the point that when I was faced with a decision of whether to keep playing soccer or move on to the next phase in my life, I could move on knowing that I had exciting adventures ahead that I could passionately leap into.
Now that a few months have passed since the decision, what’s keeping you busy these days?
Steve: I’ve been working for the past 4 months in the DC area at a sports marketing firm called Team Services LLC. Team Services specializes in developing and selling naming rights, sponsorships and providing strategic consulting services (my alma mater, Georgetown University, is actually one of our consulting clients). I’ve really enjoyed taking a deeper dive into the sports industry and learning the processes behind executing corporate partnerships in the sports industry.
Beyond that, I am also preparing to enter an MBA program in early August. I went through the intensive process of filling out applications, writing essays, taking the GMAT and doing interviews. I’ve narrowed down my choices to a few programs and should be deciding soon. My long-term goal is to apply what I learn in an MBA program on a larger scale to continue to grow MLS in America so it can eventually become one of the top soccer leagues in the world. But one step at a time…
How much of an adjustment has it been going from pro soccer player to the “real world,” so to speak? Is there anything you miss about playing the game for a living?
Steve: I’m loving it. Being able to challenge and express myself in different ways has been extremely rewarding. I’ve enjoyed putting myself in situations that are out of my comfort zone and learning as much as I can along the way. It’s also fun being on the other side of the TV set and watching former teammates and opponents compete.
The aspect I miss the most about being a professional soccer player is the camaraderie. I’ll miss being a part of a locker room like the one in New England that was filled with characters that could make me laugh all day. But I keep in close contact with most of my teammates and social media makes that even easier.
What was your favorite memory during your time with the Revs?
Steve: First, signing my first professional contract was a dream come true. I know that phrase probably sounds cliché but it really was my dream for as long as I can remember. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifices.
Moreover, I was lucky to have been drafted to such a talented, close-knit team my rookie season. Making it all the way to the MLS Cup (we won’t talk about the result) was an incredible experience to be a part of.
I think one thing that differentiates MLS from other soccer leagues around the world is its playoff system. A magical playoff run like we had in 2014 is exciting to experience as players and attracts a ton of viewers from a TV and attendance perspective.
While we’ll certainly miss watching you play, we’re absolutely thrilled to have you here as a guest columnist. Which topics pertinent to MLS and American soccer interest you the most?
Steve: I’m very interested in all things MLS. Recently, I have been keeping a close eye on the race for the next expansion teams in MLS. You know it’s an exciting time in MLS when there are 12 cities with robust ownership groups willing to put up substantial capital to earn a spot in the league.
I think the number and quality of expansion bids is really a testament to how much the league has grown in recent years and how much people project it to continue to grow in the future. I really do believe the league is on the verge of squeezing its way into the top 4 sports leaguesin America (if it hasn’t already).