Matt Libber, CSEE
, and the Maryland SoccerPlex he now runs have built their reputations in the soccer field for the past two decades. If Libber has his way, larger audiences will soon better know both him and the facility.
Libber, a 2017 Connect Sports Game Changer, assumed the role of the SoccerPlex
’s executive director in January 2019. Sports tourism mainstays may take some time getting used to the familiar face in a different place.
After all, Libber comes to the Germantown, Maryland, facility from Elite Tournaments, a soccer events company he founded with his brother, Mike, and sister-in-law. Nineteen years of all in the family got old, Matt Libber says.
“Working with family can be tough sometimes,” he acknowledges. “It was tough to have a brother relationship with Mike outside of the office.”
Knowing a change was at hand, Libber explored myriad opportunities with professional sports franchises and university athletic departments. He found the right match on the opposite side of soccer than he’s used to. Bringing the planner perspective to the supplier side should bode well for filling the complex’s calendar.
“I can speak the same language with rights holders out there,” Libber says. “I know what I wanted when running events. If we don't have that now, I’m going to find those gaps.”
SoccerPlex isn’t going to get bigger—it is already 24 fields and hosts the Washington Spirit, a women’s professional soccer team. But for all of its praise—Libber calls it a “top five facility”—the complex has room for improvement.
Among the quick fixes will be new technology and upgraded amenities normal for a venue that’s 20 years old. He also foresees improvement to an indoor facility.
Long term, Libber has some bigger ideas. Namely, he wants to attract sports beyond soccer like flag football, rugby and Ultimate Frisbee. The 'plex already hosts one-offs of some of untraditional sports, but Libber aims to make them consistent presences via youth tournaments.
“From a soccer standout, it is well known,” he says of SoccerPlex. “Outside soccer, I don’t know how well known it is. That’s something I want to change.”
There will be a learning curve, particularly on a rights holders’ perspective. Germantown can easily be described as part of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region or as a suburban destination.
Teams won’t be able to walk to the National Mall from SoccerPlex, but are less than an hour’s drive to excursions in the nation’s capital.
Of course, soccer will remain the site’s bread and butter. Some of Libber’s competitors while he was with Elite are now valuable partners. And with a 2,000-person soccer academy on site, SoccerPlex is a natural fit for training camps and events.
It will be a mix of the old and new for Libber. One thing is certain, he’s not looking to make another move for a long while.
“Packing up an office after 19 years took a long time,” he says.