Prospects Cup to Kick Off in Kissimmee, Florida

Prospects Cup Kissimmee Florida
The inaugural Prospects Cup Youth Soccer Tournament will be played in Kissimmee, Florida this December. Rick Alessandri, executive vice president of enterprise development and head of UCI Live—a new events division of Univision—sees the tournament as the first step toward becoming akin to the Little League Baseball World Series. Not shy about his grand plans, Alessandri, who previously ran the X Games at ESPN, makes the World Series comparison several times when describing his vision. For now, it will be a 12-and-under boys-only tournament with 16 teams—eight domestic, eight international—who Alessandri promises will be treated like the superstars they may grow up to become. The world will have a chance to see how the tournament plays out on Univision Deportes and an as-yet-unnamed English-speaking TV channel. As Kissimmee lays the groundwork for the first-time event, we talked to Alessandri about his plans to develop the Prospects Cup.

Why in the world do we need another soccer tournament?

Because one hasn’t been done the way we are going to do this. There are lots of great soccer tournaments out there, no question, but we haven’t seen something that captures the essence and emotions Little League has been able to do during the summer with the Little League World Series. Our company thought if we brought our broadcast resources to it to air on Spanish-language Univision Deportes and on some English-language platform, we could make it something unique and differentiate it in the market. Our initial thoughts about this were justified when we went out with the RFP and saw all these cities respond with their interest in hosting.

Who’s going to play in the Prospects Cup?

We eventually envision a qualifying system of some kind, but you’re not going to build that out of the gate. This year, it will be an invitational. We’re going to be naming a select group of soccer experts in the youth and amateur space to help us identify the right teams. Those could come from club teams, academies and a variety of sources. Our goal is to put together a compelling and competitive event.

How will you convince teams to play in the first year?

We’re basically going to say, “Would you like to participate in a tournament that will be on the No. 1 sports network for Hispanics in the U.S? We’ll have a global English distribution as well. We’ll travel you for free and treat you like world-class athletes. Would you like to come?” I don’t think it is going to be that difficult.

How big can the Prospects Cup get?

If you look at Major League Baseball and who played in the Little League World Series and what impact it had, I think down the road you’ll see some of that here. Whether or not the clubs we pick will have the next Lionel Messi, I don’t know, but the likelihood is if we get the right teams that are recruiting and identifying these kids early on, we might. We do envision having conversations with some La Liga clubs. We may be able to say a few years down the road we have Chicharito before he was Chicharito. It’s exciting to be at the ground floor of this thing.

How will you ensure the event will continue for years?

We have to have a terrific event for these kids and for the community and sponsors. If you have a terrific event, you’ll find a way to come back for year two. We have a long-term vision for this property. Little League World Series is 70-something years old; we envision that becoming our reality down the road, but it’s going to take time to grow and build into it the infrastructure, qualifying system and the awareness.

The Little League Baseball World Series stays in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Will the Prospects Cup stick to one city or move around?

I think taking it from community to community to build awareness of the property is faster than putting it in one city. I would envision, at the onset, ideally staying in one market for two years and then taking it to the next market. Down the road, I do envision this becoming a global property; this is not something that is going to be exclusive to the United States. This event could be held in Mexico, Spain, Germany, Italy and Brazil. What is so beautiful about soccer is that it is a global sport. It can translate to any country in the world.

What can you tell us about UCI Live?

We are an experiential marketing group responsible for building new live event properties; this is the first one we’re building from the ground up on the sports front. Univision owns the Onion, the Root, Gizmodo. There is an incredible platform of brands to build out our live events.

How does the Prospects Cup fit in?

We are committed to building properties that appeal to young America; not young Hispanic America but young America. This fits the bill for both because it crosses over so well. I think Univision has the brand equity, as well as the credibility to put its stamp on youth soccer. And Univision Deportes is the home for soccer in the U.S., so we’re the right company to do it.

Does your research show ratings will justify airing the cup on television?

Ratings are something everyone always thinks about, but in today’s environment, ratings are a factor of a lot of different things including aggregating social media views. I don’t think the consumer of this content will be limited just to television platform. The goal is to build content that lives across everything—whether it’s PlayStation, Snapchat or Instagram.