As MLS at 25 Starts, Signs That Soccer’s Coolness Is Becoming Hotter
By: Tanner Simkins
From the highest levels to the grassroots, it is shaping up to be an interesting year for soccer in North America.
We have MLS expansion, and the addition of new business partners as the league hits 25 years old, the NWSL continues its resurgence fueled by investment of brands like Anheuser Busch, US Soccer continues to push its revamped lineup amidst calls for change, and you have any wide number of global soccer clubs, as many as 30, who now have put down roots in the North American marketplace looking to mine the fertile fields of interest in both corporate and consumer businesses as spring starts to set in.
Then you also have the grassroots, which still sees numbers rising in play for both boys and girls, as well as deeper investment in other soccer related businesses, one of which is Philadelphia Union co-owner Richie Graham’s $50 million startup “For Soccer Ventures,” which made its own noise this week in an area ripe for growth, soccer as a lifestyle platform.
The company announced its first three purchases: FootyCon, a soon to launch consumer facing convention series celebrating soccer and culture for the American soccer community, The Association the first and only soccer league in the United States driven by taste-making brands, creative individuals, and social media influencers with companies like SpaceX, Beats by Dre, Red Bull, Guess?, Complex, and others involved, and Kicks to the Pitch one of the premiere online and social sources pushing the conversation of the connection of soccer with sneakers, art, music and fashion.
What all three are NOT; is the traditional soccer business. What they are, are a signal that “soccer as cool” is ready to ride a wave of change where culture expands beyond the game like you see in the rest of the world.
“These acquisitions represent For Soccer Venture’s ambition to prop up the best-in-class operators that are advancing the sport of soccer in America,” Graham said in a release Tuesday. “As part of The Soccer Collective platform, these properties will serve to connect brands to the American soccer community through sneaker culture, music, fashion, and more. We are committed to not only investing in the American soccer community, but also growing it. For Soccer Ventures believes that these businesses uniquely celebrate soccer fandom in the U.S., and are positioned to draw new fans and brands alike to the sport.”
Now where this goes is still open for speculation. MLS has grown beyond just viability into a vital piece of the sports business fabric in the United States; it is no longer an afterthought in the minds of marketers, and the grassroots of soccer has long been coveted as the area where clubs from around the world can build fans for life. Graham’s venture is seeking to straddle all those areas and become the clearing house for hip and cool and the beautiful game. What they have; dollars tied to good ideas that connects casual fans is really the sweet spot. Now they need to turn those sweet opts into businesses, and that will be the challenge.
Hip and cool they have, let’s see where the next step goes.