Brian Bilello, 40, is president of the New England Revolution soccer team, which kicked off the 20th season in franchise history this month after appearing last year in the Major League Soccer Cup final. Bilello spoke recently with Globe reporter Callum Borchers about gaining a high-tech edge, the club’s plan for a new stadium, and his love of bacon.
1 Bilello doesn’t fit the traditional mold of a sports executive. More nerd than jock, he studied engineering at MIT then worked as a business consultant at Bain & Co., the Boston management consulting firm. But Bilello said he’s less of an anomaly today than he was in 2006, when the Revs hired him as chief operating officer.
“Sports have modernized over the last 15 years,” he said. “Sports are real businesses. A lot of owners know that you need to have the right mix of people who understand sports and people who understand business.”
2 At the helm since 2011, Bilello employs a full-time data analyst who dissects film and attempts to quantify opponents’ tendencies in ways that don’t show up on normal stat sheets.
“Now it’s the coaches’ job to look at the Xs and Os and say, ‘What’s really happening here and how do we exploit that?’ But our analyst can start at a very high level of data processing and say, ‘Here are the things I’m seeing that make this particular opponent look unusual relative to the rest of the league.’ ”
3 Bilello’s interest in soccer is not purely analytical. He played on the MIT varsity and still plays in an over-40 league.
“It’s kind of funny because you’re heavily recruited in your town when you’re turning 40,” he said. “It’s not because you’re good. It’s just because they think you can run still. It’s competitive but nobody’s going crazy. You’re just trying to enjoy the game and not get hurt.”
4 Bilello uses Twitter to talk to fans and answer questions. Last season, he posted a photo of a pregame meal and stumbled into a new digital tradition: #bacongameday.
“I like cooking, but I generally don’t have time during the week, so on the weekends we have a full family breakfast. One day it was a game day, and I was cooking up some bacon and just took a picture of it and tweeted it, saying, ‘It’s bacon game day, people. Let’s go.’ I gave away a couple field passes to the first fan who tweeted back to me with a picture of bacon. Now every game day is bacon game day, and I’ll send out pictures of the bacon I’m having and fans will respond.”
5 Bilello knows fans are wondering when game day will mean watching the action inside a sold-out, soccer-specific stadium in Boston, instead of mostly empty Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. They’re also wondering whether plans to build an Olympic stadium near the Revolution’s favored site could hinder the team’s progress. Bilello said one project does not affect the other.
“We look at them separately. We’re trying to work on our stadium project and we know there are other things going on around Boston. But for us, this is something we’re trying to do and do quickly. The stadium experience is really critical — not to hard-core fans, though it’s great to reward them with a special venue — but to that casual soccer fan who watches the World Cup but may not yet be committed to MLS or the Revolution.”