New Mexico United Vice President of Sales & Partnerships Ron Patel poses with the USL Cup at the club's launch in June, 2018. | Photo courtesy Bryan Spurlock / New Mexico United
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – “Perception is reality.”
So says the entrepreneurial mind of Ron Patel, who has helped manifest expansion USL Championship club New Mexico United into what it is today alongside NMU Owner Peter Trevisani as it approaches its inaugural season next month.
While Patel can still recall the early days of working out of a warehouse during the cold winter times of Albuquerque, his perception of New Mexico United is that it will become far greater than just a soccer team.
“New Mexico is proud to be brought together and New Mexico deserves a seat at the big table, and we are hopefully going to be a part of bringing that seat to the table,” said Patel. “My one wish would be to remove that and replace the negativity and reinvigorate that pride that exists in every New Mexican, that would be my wish.”
Patel’s grand wish for the club does not come empty. Along with his vision, it follows more than a decade-long period of experience in building businesses while also serving the community. His food delivery business creation was acquired by GrubHub, a Chicago-based national online, mobile food-ordering company.
More recently, he stepped down as president of USL League Two club Albuquerque Sol FC, which he co-founded more than five years ago. That experience has been a major plus in placing United in the New Mexico marketplace, which has quickly found a foothold in not just Albuquerque, but across the state it represents.
“There is something to be said for having a knowledge for the customer in your market place, and knowing what people care about, what they are passionate about and really knowing how it appeals to different kinds of consumers,” said Patel. “Just knowing this whole thing is about community. It was about that with Sol, it is about that with New Mexico United. Sol is, and will continue to be, the developmental path for young players.”
Patel’s wisdom speaks for itself through New Mexico United’s success so far. As the club approaches its inaugural home opener, the club has more than 2,000 season-ticket holders, a number that continues to grow by the day, and a number that particularly stands out for an expansion team. It’s an achievement that Patel is particularly proud of, as is his association with the USL as it has grown exponentially since the Sol first kicked off in 2014.
“What the USL is doing for the growth of the game in our country cannot be measured right now,” said Patel. “We don’t even know the impact, because, you look at communities like New Mexico that six years ago didn’t have anything, didn't have [League Two], didn't have USL. And now you’ve got so many people that are fans of the game here.”
New Mexico United's Ron Patel greets guests at the club's launch. Since that unveiling, the expansion side has sold more than 2,000 season tickets for its inaugural season. | Photo courtesy Bryan Spurlock / New Mexico United
The limited time-frame marked by March 9th, the start of 2019 USL Championship season, shows the demand for adaptability while working in Patel’s position. As the Vice President of Sales & Partnerships, Patel has been charged with building a strong, long-term platform that is aiming to mirror the business success of its new Western Conference rivals Sacramento Republic FC, Phoenix Rising FC and San Antonio FC.
It’s a job that can be challenging, but Patel’s experience has the club moving strongly in the right direction.
“We are at first a soccer team, but we are also a start-up,” said Patel. “I’ve been around a lot of different start-ups, both my own and other people’s and I think with a team like this you’ve got to be agile, you’ve got to be able to pivot, got to be able to swivel.”
Reflective of their innovative spirit is how New Mexico United has developed so far.
Before the club had a name, it had a player. In fact, the team announced Albuqueque native Devon Sandoval’s signing during its official unveiling as the newest member of the USL Championship last June. It has since made other moves that have turned heads, like partnering with an art collective Meow Wolf as its primary jersey sponsor, one of the most unconventional moves the league has seen but one that drew national headlines.
Ahead of this innovative curve is Trevisani, and it seems as though agreeing to a sharp shift from being his only boss for 12 years to now having someone determine his work flow turned into a smooth run for Patel’s career in soccer.
“Peter Trevisani is crazy, and I love him,” Patel said with a smile. “He demands excellence, you know, in a way that I’ve never seen before, a way I’ve never been led before. It helps you bring your ‘A’ game, because your ‘B’ game is not going to fly here.”
Acknowledging that what the club aims to do is much bigger than the game itself and that soccer is merely the club’s vehicle to fulfill the mission of bringing New Mexicans together – which brings comparison to the resounding success of Sacramento Republic FC since its launch earlier this decade – the value placed on bringing passionate people on board is placed at a much higher rate than simply functioning to compete in the market.
“We don't just hire based on skills, we hire based on passion, and ability, and we hire based on the person,” said Patel, who has dedicated his success to a consolidated team effort.
Those efforts are paying off handsomely so far for the club. By aiming to bring people together in ways that they haven’t been before, New Mexico United has already partnered with over 17 organizations so far. Placing a value into the community, the club’s partners include numerous local hosts such as Positive Energy Solar, Abrazo Homes, New Mexico United Orthopedics, Elevate PHW, and more.
Ron Patel (second-right) and his New Mexico United front office colleagues give Digital Media Manager Lukas Cash a lift at the club's official launch last June. | Photo courtesy Bryan Spurlock / New Mexico United
As the USL Championship continues its exponential growth, with USL League One and League Two alongside it, Patel believes the league’s organization has never been better positioned to allow clubs like New Mexico United to thrive both locally and nationally.
“The USL has grown by leaps and bounds. I was talking with Jeremy Schultz from Fresno FC,” said Patel. “We were joking about a conversation from five years ago at my first [League Two] conference and how much the league has grown and how we’ll probably sit down 10 years from now, sit down and have a beer and talk about our first couple of years in the USL with Fresno and New Mexico United.”