Dec 14, 2021 - Sports

A Charlotte native and “icon” of professional soccer retires, but his fight for representation continues

Photo: courtesy Brandon Miller

Photo: courtesy Brandon Miller

Long before his 10-year professional career as a goalkeeper, long before he became one of the top voices for increasing Black representation in soccer, Brandon Miller was just a 5-year-old boy in a church league in Ohio, making his dad smile.

Brian Miller was the one who encouraged him to play the sport in the first place. In those early days, Brandon wasn’t playing in goal; he was scoring goals.

  • “I always loved to look over my dad and see how happy he was every time I would score,” he told me.

Brian died in a car accident when Brandon was 6, and Brandon and his mom Valerie moved to South Charlotte. He kept playing to feel connected to his father.

  • “I’ve always wanted to make him proud, in that sense,” Miller said. “I guess that’s one big part of who I am and who I am as a soccer player.”

What’s happening: After a decade, Brandon Miller, who considers himself a Charlotte native, is retiring from professional soccer.

  • He certainly left his mark.
Brandon Miller and his father Brian Miller. Photo: courtesy Brandon Miller

On the field, Miller had 43 regular season shutouts, second all-time in the United Soccer League.

  • He earned goalkeeper of the year in 2015 and won the league title with Rochester.

Off the field, he became a leader and an advocate for Black players, co-founding the USL Black Players Alliance during the summer of 2020, pushing for Black representation on coaching staffs and in the front office.

  • He also co-foundedAnti Racist Soccer Club, a coalition fighting racism in soccer.
  • Over the last decade, he’s definitely been one of the icon players throughout the league,” said Hugh Roberts, Miller’s teammate in Charlotte and co-founder of these initiatives.
Photo: courtesy Brandon Miller

In a way, Miller’s role as a goalkeeper almost feels connected to who he is as a person and losing his father as a child. He’s a guardian of sorts, protecting not just the goal, but those around him.

  • He’s quiet and guarded when you first meet him, but ask his childhood coach, Bobby Rosario, whom he considered a father figure, and he’ll tell you Brandon was destined to become a leader, and that he has a great sense of humor.
  • Ask Bob Lilley, who coached him in Rochester, and no one is surprised with how he emerged during the summer of 2020 as an advocate for Black players in American soccer, let alone that he lasted a decade as a professional.
  • All of this ties back to a young boy who stayed with the game to keep his father’s memory alive.

“Soccer is one thing, but what is more impressive is who he is as a person,”  Rosario told me.

Said Lilley: “What he’s done is important for the future the league.”

What’s next: Miller told me not a lot will change for his schedule, other than having a few extra hours in the morning when he would have been at training, and he’ll continue to focus on his brand Prime Focus Goalkeeping.

  • He’ll still play pickup games on occasion, but his focus will shift to earning an MBA in business entrepreneurship online from Bellevue University.
  • “The main focus for me right now is to to get involved on the business side of things to see how I can make a greater impact for players and learn as much about the business so that I can one day become an executive and slide into the positions I continue to advocate for,” Miller said. “I want to be the representation we talked about we don’t see a lot.”
Photo: courtesy Brandon Miller

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