The Business of Playing Soccer: Interview with Carey Talley

TalleyThe life of a professional athlete is a mystery to many fans.  We thought it would be interesting to chat with some former MLS stars to find out about life as a player from a business perspective.  Here is part I of our chat with former MLS stalwart Carey Talley.  Mr. Talley made more than 300 MLS appearances and won an MLS Cup with DC United.  Thanks to Carey Talley. You played more than a decade in Major League Soccer.  During that time, did the League or any of your teams provide any guidance or pointers on post-career financial planning?

Carey Talley: Good question. Unfortunately there was not much, if any, formal education provided to the players regarding financial planning. There were occasions where financial advisors were brought in to talk to the players, but that was usually done at the request of one of the players who had a friend in the financial field. These discussions were certainly helpful but occurred infrequently. Looking back I realize now the value of such conversations and I hope the league can take a greater interest in assisting players with this type of forward thinking.

FB: What opportunities were there during your career for players to earn money outside of their regular salaries? Were these options made available by the team?

CT: There were always opportunities to do team appearances on behalf of the club and you could earn an extra $250 for an hour’s worth of work. Also, people in the area were always trying to get you to come out and train their youth teams. There were lots of opportunities to pick up some extra coaching contracts, since many of the ticket guys in the front office were frequently dealing with the youth teams. In most of the teams that I played with, doing youth coaching was actually frowned upon by the coaching staff. And rightfully so, since the coach’s job depended on your ability to play at a maximum level and if you were exhausted because you were coaching then you might be drained at team training, especially during those hot summer days. So yes, there was additional money to be made, but I typically shied away from it most of the time, or at least the coaching opportunities. I figured I had a limited time frame for being a player and that I would have plenty of time after retirement to focus on coaching.

FB: Similarly, what type of sponsorship/commercial opportunities were available to you during your career.

CT: There were plenty of opportunities for endorsements, especially in the smaller markets for which I played such as Kansas City and Salt Lake. I was sponsored by adidas for 11 years and had a great relationship with that organization. Times have changed some since my playing days and it seems like there are even more sponsorship opportunities for players, which helps drive even more name recognition and awareness with the public. This then allows for even more sponsorship opportunities for the players. So it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling cycle, and its great for the current and future generations of players.

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