Well surprise, surprise faithful readers! This week's interview is coming out early! Why is that, you ask? Because I will be on vacation the rest of this week, that's why! And keep your eyes open, the next edition of #FromTheVault on Non League America comes out tomorrow.
Now, this interview is a little bit different for several reasons. One, Gerald Brunner not only runs the Storm, he also works as the Western Conference Manager for the United Premier Soccer League. This also makes Santa Clarita the first UPSL team to ever be interviewed on American Pyramid. Check it out.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you're from, what your role is with the Santa Clarita Storm.
I’m Gerald Brunner, born on March 21, 1954 in St. Louis, Missouri along with a twin brother, Jerome Brunner.
At the age of 5 we moved to Venice, California and from there to the San Fernando Valley where I lived until after I was married in 1976 and in 1989 moved to Lancaster California. I have two Children Zach and Erica. My wife is Toni. I have six grand kids from the ages of 3 to 14.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and helping run a soccer team in particular? Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or have you always been into soccer?
I first got interested in soccer when my son at the age of 6 joined AYSO and through him I became more and more involved. He played for over 20 years.
Can you recap the history of the Storm for me?
In 1995 I spent 7 years operating a 32 team non-profit recreational youth soccer league in the City of Lancaster. The Nonprofit league provided playing opportunities for over 375 youths ranging in ages from 6 years to 19 years old. In 2002 I acquired and maintained a youth soccer coaching license for coaching youth soccer. I coached in both the American Youth Soccer Organization (A.Y.S.O) as well as the Coast Soccer League until 2006, when I decided to purchase the team franchise from the United Soccer Leagues. Acting has the General Manager for the organization, overseeing the operation for United Sports International’s Men’s Pro/Am soccer team since its inception in 2006. The team began in Lancaster, California & was known as the Lancaster Rattlers of the United Soccer League (U.S.L) Premier Development League until 2011, when the organization decided to change their hometown to Santa Clarita & re brand under the name of Futbol Club Santa Clarita Storm. We are competing now in the United Premier Soccer League.
I moved the team to the City of Santa Clarita in 2011 because of the lack of support in the Antelope Valley for our team. We meant with the City of Santa Clarita expressing our interest in coming to the city. They welcomed us with open arms and became our first sponsor in our new city.
The City of Santa Clarita is a beautiful City very well managed, and well landscaped and maintain city and private facilities. City officials and business are friendly to you when you meet them and make you feel at home.
What was it about San Clarita that convinced you it would be a good place for a team?
There was no men’s team in the city that played at our level, there was a women team a semi pro team nothing to offer the talent that was on the men’s side.
Tell me a little bit about the league you're in, the United Premier Soccer League. What kind of advantages does it have over other leagues, like the NPSL, that you may have looked at when forming the team?
The United Premier Soccer League(UPSL) we joined from the NPSL. In 2006 when the team was first formed in Lancaster I bought a franchise in the USL PDL, so I’ve belong to most all of the top level amateur leagues in the country.
We moved to the UPSL after spending time in the two other leagues because the UPSL offered local travel and was headquarters in Torrance, Calif unlike the USLPDL that was out of Florida and the NPSL did not have a league office it was run from the president’s office in New York, shortly after the president took over the board released the commissioner so then the president was running it from his home office. With the USPL it is a very much an up and coming league to the same level of both other organizations. The UPSL had 20 teams with I joined in 2014 now has over 40 in Sothern California plus team in Arizona and Nevada. It’s a lot less money to operate and the competition is no different than the other leagues. They the other leagues operate a very short season pending on what part of the county 10 to 14 games and the coast to belong and operate is at least 10 to 12 times more than the UPSL. We may travel a couple of hours to a game, where in the other leagues I traveled as far as 18 hours for one game. In the UPSL we play two season our regular Fall/winter season 20 to 22 games and then a short summer season of 16 games more on a professional schedule in the UPSL. That was a big reason for the move, twice as many games 10 times less the cost.
Does the UPSL have a long term vision for their league and your teams role in that future?
The long term vision for the league is expansion in other states with the same format of play keeping expense for the ownership down with limited travel and at the same time create a stage for the talented players to be seen the professional levels. NASL, MLS, USLPRO. The league is a developmental league, that means its purpose to run a professional league with the purpose of giving advantages to the players to have the opportunity to be seen by those at the next level. The league has a vision of creating an environment of professional soccer with players that have the dream and desire to progress to the professional game. They will be the only (that I know of) that will have a relegation format like the EPL starting next season. It will have two divisions in the conferences and teams will be promoted up or relegated down.
What does your role as Western Conference Manager typically involve?
My role as manager is to oversee the operation of the conference as far as operation of the games to scheduling of the officials to the games themselves. I put out the schedule for the conference, then distribute it to the teams with the game day operational standards, then each week I follow up to assure the schedule is ok and no changed to make before the weekend. The teams text the scores to me then I forward them to the league.
I also handle the Card violations and their suspensions. I also hold a responsibility to make sure we (the league) maintains a good retention rate for teams returning and to review and examine of any new teams looking to join the league.
Why should the average soccer fan, both in California and across the US, care about your team?
Why should the average soccer fan both in California and across the US care about your team?
Well I do not know If the average soccer fan would care about the Storm across the US, but locally, like anywhere with any team, it has to win. Fans love watching success, that's how you get attention to your players to assist them in getting to the next step. Winning and playing exciting soccer.
Cast a vision for me: Where do you want to see Santa Clarita Storm in 5 years?
My Vision for the next 5 years. Well I have been thinking about this for a while, reason is this is my 10th year of doing this. I would like to take on finical investors and take the team to the next step and that is operating more on the professional level. In a lot of our ways of operation. I have a vision of a soccer only stadium where our team can play and train have a home, a real home, our own stadium where we could hold international games and play exhibition game with USL, NASL and MLS teams. In the past in Lancaster we held 5 or 6 international and MLS games with great success for the team. But Field availability at the time with the expense is making it harder and harder to do. Also not to keep repeating an old saying, but fans will come and we will have more fans with our own field.
Bonus Questions: What's your favorite book, regardless of genre?
Favorite book – Think and grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
The Choice – Og Mandino
Favorite soccer player. One past, one present.
Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
Can’t remember the name but it is about the Cosmos. (Twice In a Lifetime)
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch?
EPL and MLS. I like watching both.
What would you like to say to the people reading this article about why they should get out and support the lower levels of American soccer?
Supporting the lower level of soccer is important in this country. We need support from the fans. The lower level of soccer in this country is where the growth of the game is coming from. Local home grown talent that has come up to the big leagues played in the lower level of soccer in this country. It’s the passionate lower level team owners who need the support of the fans to continue providing a stage for this talent to be seen. The lower level owners (most) spend thousands and thousands of dollars that are never recovered for the love of the game and the satisfaction in knowing they might have had a small part in some kid’s success to a career in the sport and the opportunity to live the dream.
The Storm is proud to of provided that for a few individuals that have had the chance of making their dreams come true.
We have a player in the Professional league of Mexico whose contract was purchased from an NASL team. He also has several trip and caps with the US National Team, and we also have a player that went to the NASL, who has now signed a better contract with a USL team. And we have another player who just signed with a NASL team that is going to MLS along with players who have signed professional contracts in Sweden.
Gerald, thanks again for your time and doing this interview with me. If you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not. Make sure to spread the word. Share interviews, tell friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without YOU. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.