San Diego Surf Sports partnership with NFL star Drew Brees portends expansive role for storied soccer club

Drew Brees (center) pictured with Surf Sport's National Sporting Director Josh Henderson and CEO Brian Enge
(Courtesy Surf Cup Sports

One of the nation’s most storied soccer clubs could soon become a destination for athletes in other sports.

Surf Soccer Club in July announced a partnership with former San Diego Chargers quarterback Drew Brees in a deal that portends an expansive role on the local youth sports scene for one of the nation’s most successful soccer clubs.

Brees has made an investment in Surf Cup Sports, the storied San Diego Surf Soccer Club’s parent company. In his new role, Brees is now a board member and sits on the leadership team.

The relationship between Brees and the soccer club began in the spring of 2018, when Brees was looking for fields for Football ‘n’ America, the coed youth flag football organization he founded and leads.

The extent of Brees’ investment wasn’t disclosed by Surf Cup Sports, a privately held company which described the investment as “significant.”

“My goal is to impact the lives of kids through sport,” Brees, a father of four, said in a prepared statement. “Sports have played a huge role in my life and I’m thrilled about joining and sharing my energy and experiences with the leadership team at Surf Sports.

“Surf Sports is the perfect partner for me and my family, and I believe our impact and reach will extend well beyond our local community.”

Surf CEO Brian Enge said the possibility of branching out into other sports will be one of the critical issues facing the company’s board. Surf Sports is also considering expansion into lacrosse and beach volleyball.

Surf Cup Sports operates high-quality facilities in Del Mar (Surf Cup Sports Park) and Oceanside (SoCal Sports Complex) featuring up to 22 full-size fields on grass. The club has won 11 national championships since it was established in 1977 and boasts some of the nation’s most impressive scholarship numbers.

The potential of expanding the club into other sports is consistent with the company’s stated mission of impacting the lives of youth through sports, Enge said.

“We’re going to look to see how we can expand that to see if we can impact more kids,” Enge said.

“If we can expand that into more soccer, we may do that. If we can expand that into more sports, we may do that.”

Surf Cup Sports has 1,000 athletes in San Diego and 16,000 in the nation that play under the Surf brand.

The club hosts four major national tournaments each year that bring in tens of thousands of athletes across the country. The tournaments are scouted by virtually every major college program.

Surf has an unheard-of 98 percent scholarship conversion rate for its girls’ program.

The boys’ program has a 75 percent conversion rate, partly because under Title IX there are more scholarship opportunities for female athletes, Enge said, noting the pursuit of professional opportunities not available to women is a factor, too.

But beyond the numbers, Enge said in meetings with Brees last year it became apparent that they shared a vision of the role of sports in youth development.

It’s a vision that both share through personal experience.

Sports opened up opportunities for Enge that were unimaginable as a youth growing up in Bakersfield, where a successful high school soccer career led to a scholarship to Harvard.

Enge eventually graduated from Harvard Business School.

“It literally changed my life, and it changed Drew’s life too,” Enge said.

The alignment of values became apparent almost immediately when Brees approached Enge about the possibility of using the facility for his flag football league.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that negotiations between the two parties led to the partnership.

“What we realized after a couple of meetings was there was a real, special alignment, with how we believed in youth developmental sports,” Enge said. “The practical part of it was the facilities, the soulful part of it was just how we believe in the power of using sport as a tool to develop the best kids and the principles of executing that.”

Surf is known for its philanthropy, funding over $8 million in charitable contributions over the years. Brees’ involvement in charitable causes throughout his career is legendary.

Brees was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated in 2010 for his role in leading the city of New Orleans’ recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

He founded the Brees Dream Foundation, a charity that cares for cancer patients and provides education and opportunities for families and children in need.

“He brings an understanding of the path of an athlete from a different perspective than anybody else can bring,” Enge said. “You’re talking about a kid who grew up playing a bunch of sports who ends up being a (likely) Hall of Fame quarterback and Super Bowl champion, so just his perspective alone on what the athlete journey can do for him and others is at a level that none of us can compete with and none of us can offer.”

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