The Deltas soccer team are San Francisco’s newest professional sports team. They’re a startup. They use virtual reality to train their athletes, and matching algorithms to pick your seat. They’re also a dating app and food truck ordering service.
In short, they are a perfect encapsulation of their home city in 2016. Funded by a C-suite of investors and entrepreneurs, the Deltas are scheduled to hit the pitch next year. The team just received permission to move into a 10,000-seat stadium in Golden Gate Park, the former home of the San Francisco 49ers in their early days, to play matches in the North American Soccer League.
The Deltas are largely funded by Silicon Valley investors and employees: alumni of PayPal, Yahoo, Facebook, Apple, Dropbox, Twitter, and Stanford. True to their origins, the Deltas took their name from the ancient Greek letter that means “change.” But the beautiful game itself won’t change much, insists the team’s CEO, Brian Andrés Helmick, an entrepreneur and native of Colombia.
“The key thing to remember is we’re a soccer club first,” Helmick told Quartz. “We want to maintain the purity of game.”
Technology will still play a huge role in how fans experience Deltas’ soccer. Ticket holders can choose an “AI section” where an algorithm uses fans’ preferences to seat them with someone new at each game: co-workers, people from their home-town, Barcelona fans or other singles. Food trucks are being enlisted to feed the masses; fans will vote back their favorites. Virtual reality coaching will be used to train goalies. Ridesharing partnerships with companies like Lyft or Uber are being considered. There are rumors of wearables. Eventually, the team will have its own dedicated app.
Helmick says he wants to run the team like a startup. That means taking risks that other teams avoid and, as is inevitable in Silicon Valley, embracing failure, he said. “We’re in a city where multi-billion companies started in dorm rooms and garages,” he says. “I’ve told the fans we’re going to take risks,” he said, without specifying what exactly that might entail. “I’m not afraid of making mistakes as long as we’re not making the same mistakes.”