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FC Edmonton to add some MLS experience

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Michael Hitchcock
FC Edmonton announced Thursday that it will partner with U.S. based marketing firm Playbook Marketing International (PMI) to develop customer-service strategies and spur season-ticket sales for the club’s first NASL season.

PMI is run by former FC Dallas general manager Michael Hitchcock, who spent four years at the helm of the club, amassing a 48-47-27 record over his tenure. The team decided not to renew his contract in 2009.

Before stepping into the FCD front office, Hitchcock made a name for himself as a ticket-selling wizard, able to market soccer in places where “football” is usually equated with field goals and end zones.

After two years with the sales team at D.C. United, Hitchcock won back-to-back Sales Director of the Year awards with the Colorado Rapids, and boosted the team’s average attendance to over 20,000 a season. After that, he went to the Galaxy, where he got the team’s average attendance boosted to over 24,000 per game by the 2005 season.

“PMI is excited by the great opportunity to work with FC Edmonton on their inaugural NASL season,” Hitchcock said in a release. “Under the leadership of owner Tom Fath, we believe FC Edmonton will be a huge success on and off the field while becoming an integral part of the community. PMI is honoured to be a part of it.”

Edmonton, of course, is a city where soccer has failed to gain traction in the past. A USL team birthed in 2004 went bankrupt midway through its inaugural season. The league operated the team for the rest of the 2004 campaign before pulling the plug for good.

Edmonton, because of time zones, doesn’t have a strong soccer-pub culture. The main Premiership schedule kicks off Saturdays at 8 a.m. local time, far too early for the pubs to open their doors and be viable. And it’s a city where any sport other than the big three — hockey, Canadian football and curling — has a tough time entering the mainstream media.

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