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Sporting Kansas City Makes the Stadium More Like Your Couch

Kansas City’s soccer franchise is the model for connectivity—and personal data collection
“Guys—my phone says beers are two for one at halftime”
“Guys—my phone says beers are two for one at halftime”Photograph by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

When Robb Heineman took over as chief executive officer of the Major League Soccer franchise in Kansas City, in 2006, the team barely registered even in its local market. Despite reaching the MLS championship game a couple of years earlier, the Wizards had the league’s worst attendance, often filling fewer than 10,000 seats at 77,000-capacity Arrowhead Stadium, also home of the NFL’s Chiefs. A dot-com private equity veteran, Heineman wasn’t an obvious savior. His last gig in sports had been tearing tickets as a teenager for a minor league basketball team in his hometown of Sioux Falls, S.D. Shortly after taking the Kansas City job, he wrote on fan forum BigSoccer.com: “Please help me, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Seven years later, Sports Illustrated calls Heineman the “Mark Cuban of MLS.” His team, now called Sporting Kansas City, has a waiting list for its 14,000 season tickets and has sold out 27 games in a row, packing an average of 19,709 people into a new stadium that seats 18,467. (Some tickets are standing room only.) That success is due in large part to the club’s reputation as one of the world’s most tech-savvy teams, which has attracted interest from other sports franchises concerned that live games are becoming a tougher sell for fans who can see much more action and replays on TV.