Sports have been a big part of Brandon Raphael's life ever since he can remember, and he is building a career on his passion.

"I feel as though, regardless of what you do, you have to do something that you are passionate about," Raphael said of working in sports business. "I love getting in my car and driving to work. There are so many people that I talk to that don't like what they do."

Raphael recently joined Chivas USA, as director of sales for Major League Soccer's Mexican-owned team. The job has been a real eye-opener.

"A soccer team is a huge difference for me," he noted. "My background is in baseball. I love soccer, though. The passion that the fans have is phenomenal."

After Raphael graduated from Maryville University of St. Louis with a degree in business management, he was hired by Las Vegas-based Mandalay Sports Entertainment, which owns and manages pro franchises in several sports, as a sales rep. Eventually, he would advance to a new job and new location within the company, overseeing the training of salespeople in Frisco, Texas, for three minor league baseball teams.

Raphael left the world of sports for a time, taking a job at a marketing company, but it didn't last long. He found that he didn't enjoy his work as much. He quickly returned to Mandalay, working as national sales manager until his jump to Chivas USA.

"The biggest difference as far as responsibilities go is that I'm now representing one team, not several teams," said Raphael of working for the Carson-based soccer club. Another plus is he has one sales team to focus on, while at Mandalay he would only get to meet with each sales group about once a month.

The focus of Raphael and his Chivas USA sales team is to nurture appreciation of the United States by getting people to attend games.

"Soccer happens to be the fastest growing sport in the United States," he said. "When you come and see the team play, it's not just a soccer game, it's an experience."

As he gets ready for the kickoff of Chivas USA's season April 5, Raphael also has his hands full at home. His first child, son Caden, was born Jan. 5.

Raphael lives in Torrance with his wife, Kathy, and their newborn. His hobbies revolve around following pro sports teams.

Gabriela Gonzalez

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