fb-pixelMeet Brett Luy, Rhode Island FC’s president - The Boston Globe Skip to main content
RI SOCCER

Meet Brett Luy, Rhode Island FC’s president

The Rhode Island FC soccer team logo.

Brett Luy jokes that he is trying to bite off as many huge life changes as he can in as little time as possible. He is taking on a new job, selling his house in Florida, and trying to find a new one in Rhode Island to prepare for a new job as president of Rhode Island FC, the second-tier men’s professional soccer team that’s aiming to kick off in 2024. All with a 3-month-old daughter, Mila, and all while the men’s World Cup came to an operatic crescendo.In recent days, Luy attended Rhode Island FC-affiliated World Cup watch parties at area bars and restaurants, where the fledgling team was trying to hype up interest and move merch, while also spending time with a real estate agent to find him and his family a place to live.

Rhode Island FC President Brett LuyHANDOUT

In recent days, Luy attended Rhode Island FC-affiliated World Cup watch parties at area bars and restaurants, where the fledgling team was trying to hype up interest and move merch, while also spending time with a real estate agent to find him and his family a place to live.

“A glutton for punishment, I suppose,” Luy said in a phone interview from Tampa.

Advertisement



To people who know him, like his old college soccer coach, it’s not really a surprise. As a midfielder at Illinois Wesleyan University, Luy wasn’t a highlight reel, YouTube compilation type player. But he handled anything that came his way.

“He was one of those players you had to have on the field — you could count on that position,” Ryan Lakin, now at Aurora University in Illinois, said in an interview.

Luy, who is 35 and grew up in Decatur, Illinois, has been playing soccer since he was 3 years old. After college, he stayed involved in the sport, getting a bit into coaching and then much more on the administrative side. It has led him into a big role in Rhode Island’s professional soccer team, which is set for a 2024 kickoff in the United Soccer League Championship.

Advertisement



If you’ve been following the Rhode Island FC story, you’ve likely heard of another Brett: Brett Johnson, the founder and developer behind Rhode Island FC.

Brett was one of Brett’s first hires.

“You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has better experience and knowledge of the soccer ecosystem than Brett Luy,” Brett Johnson said.

The Bretts have known each other for years. Luy — pronounced LOO-ee — had worked in the Tampa-based USL offices, including as executive vice president of league operations. Johnson had founded a USL team in Arizona. When Johnson launched the Rhode Island team, Luy reached out to express his interest. It was a no-brainer, Johnson said.

“He’s unflappable,” Johnson said.

Rhode Island FC (the FC stands for “football club”) will play its home games in a to-be-built stadium at Tidewater Landing, a formerly polluted site on the banks of the Seekonk River in Pawtucket. The state and city of Pawtucket are providing tens of millions of dollars in public support to help construct the most expensive stadium in USL Championship history. Public funding will represent $45.5 million of the stadium’s $124 million cost. Meanwhile some skeptics have signaled concerns about whether other pieces of Johnson’s broader development vision, like housing, retail, and commercial space, will actually occur. Johnson promises they will.

Advertisement



The stadium deal did not poll well among the public, and became the frequent subject of attack ads against Gov. Dan McKee, who cast the deciding vote in its favor. But McKee ended up winning his election by a scoreline reminiscent of Germany vs. Brazil in the 2014 World Cup, and as RI FC scarves and stickers start to proliferate in public, the project is now transforming from political punching bag to practical reality (while still taking blows from critics).

Luy said the team will work to prove the doubters wrong on and off the pitch, doing it the same way other USL teams have been successful — getting involved in the community. One example of that is the headquarters lease that Rhode Island FC is taking out at 175 Main St. in Pawtucket; the team has also been involved in Project Goal.

“Hopefully over the course of time we can win those naysayers over when they see us engaged in the community,” Luy said.

Even as the stadium is being constructed, though, Luy has to help construct the team. To Luy, that means a winning team, and although it’s not the largest metro area in the USL, Luy said they’ll have the facilities and culture to bring trophies to Rhode Island.

Near the top of the priority list: Rhode Island FC will need to lasso in a new head coach, who, along with Luy, will become a face of the team. Though the team isn’t set to kick off until the 2024 season, a coach could come much sooner, maybe in the first half of next year. Then they’d help build out the team.

Advertisement



Which means players. The league doesn’t have an expansion draft, so they’ll hit the free agent market, with an eye on young, hungry talent with eyes on bigger competitions. Matt Turner, the US men’s national team starting goalkeeper who now plays professionally for Arsenal in the English Premier League, once played for the Richmond Kickers in the USL when he was on loan from the New England Revolution.

“I would love for none of our players to retire as Rhode Island FC players,” Luy said. “That should be part of our attraction to players as a club — players can come here and cut their teeth as professionals and hopefully advance their careers.”

Which brings us to the fans. Where will people be able to watch the games? Well, they’ll be able to go to the stadium, assuming all goes according to plan, and plenty have signaled their willingness to put down a $24 deposit to do it. The team has sold nearly 3,500 season ticket deposits, Luy said, for a stadium with a projected capacity of around 10,000. The team hasn’t announced ticket prices.

For broadcasts, USL currently has a deal with ESPN, which sometimes means ESPN channels but also on the streaming platform, ESPN+. The league is in negotiations for a new broadcasting rights deal, so things could change by the time Rhode Island FC kicks off. It’s also possible a local channel or regional sports network gets the rights to broadcast games.

Advertisement



Even the formation of the league itself is still in flux. The USL Championship will have 24 teams as of 2023, in two conferences. When it starts in 2024, becoming at least the 25th team in the USL Championship, Rhode Island FC will play against the likes of teams from Tampa to Tulsa.

But the USL has grown considerably in the past few years, with eyes on even more. It’s possible someday it will have a promotion-relegation system. The USL already has another league below the Championship, called USL League One. But in the future, the league could promote or relegate teams within the USL system based on performance, perhaps even by adding another tier. Luy was deeply involved in USL’s internal discussions on promotion-relegation; Johnson, the owner, is one of its most enthusiastic proponents.

“I think it’s a really unique opportunity that we have in the USL landscape, and I would love to see us capitalize on that,” Luy said.

It would bring American soccer closer to the model in places like England, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and Portugal, where soccer is the dominant sport. It’s not the dominant sport in the US. But it’s proved plenty popular here in Rhode Island, with the Providence TV market regularly near the top of the ratings for the English Premier League. That trend continued through the World Cup, and the fact that the 2026 World Cup will be in North America, including up the road at Gillette Stadium, could help accelerate things here in Rhode Island, RI FC supporters said.

“We’ve always known that the interest in the market was there,” Luy said. “We just needed the right opportunity and the right group, to put a club together so that they can rally behind it. And I think we’ve got the opportunity to do just that.”


Brian Amaral can be reached at brian.amaral@globe.com. Follow him @bamaral44.