Topps, the creator of the classic Major League Baseball trading cards, released their 2014 (Major League Soccer) MLS trading card set at the end of March to coincide with the opening weeks of the 2014 season. The set contains a total of 200 cards, split between the league’s 19 teams. Any fan that closely follows MLS will be impressed with the detail that Topps has put into its newest product.
Business of Soccer spoke with Zvee Geffen and Justin Kaplan, brand managers for Topps, to talk about the company’s second year partnership with MLS. The agreement between Topps and MLS was finalized in the spring of 2013. Geffen explained,
We first released our first MLS product in the summer of 2013 so we came to market pretty quickly. This year’s product represents a comprehensive offering. There’s a lot in this product. You have traditional autographed cards, traditional relic cards, a 24 Under 24 insert that features younger players in the league, a World Stage insert that features players from MLS that are most likely to play in the World Cup this summer, a US soccer icons set, and there’s new back content on the cards. There’s something in this product for everyone.
MLS supporters will also be happy to know that Topps specifically had supporters in mind when creating this new set of cards.
Kaplan explained the thought process behind the 2014 release, which includes supporter groups.
We think that supporter groups are one of the unique things about MLS that sets it apart from other leagues in the country. We’ve seen it live in person and we think it makes the experience of going to an MLS game unique and fun. When we had the opportunity to feature some of them we jumped on it. The set includes 22 different groups ranging across most of the teams in the league.
Geffen expanded on the supporter groups’ importance in the MLS and to Topps.
People can go to these games and be part of an experience. They’re part of something that’s bigger than the team. MLS has made terrific strides in that area and this [supporters] set is a testament to that.
If MLS fans feared that the cards would have very basic statistics on the back of each player’s card, they will be happy to know Topps utilized its new partnership with Bloomberg Sports to provide the sort of in-depth statistical analysis that fans have come to expect.
Geffen cited the significance of partnering with Bloomberg Sports.
This was an introduction to our partnership with Bloomberg Sports. Bloomberg has a wealth of data at their disposal. If you look at some of the card-backs this year, you’ll see where a goalkeeper was most successful at saving shots; you’ll see how well someone passed from the midfield, passing efficiency, etc. For a few years now the card-back has been for the most part irrelevant and that frustrates us. We put a lot of effort and thought into the card-back. We want people looking at those again. We want that card-back to be a source of information.
With their second release, Topps understands the demographics of the growing status of soccer in the U.S. especially among the younger sports fans, Geffens explained,
MLS attracts a very young demographic and you look at soccer across the country in the age 12-24 demographic, soccer rates as the second favorite sport ahead of everything except NFL. It’s ahead of all of these powerhouse sports. I think that represents a great growth opportunity for us to appeal to a demographic that didn’t necessarily grow up with trading cards and the Topps brand. We feel that level of advanced analytics (on the MLS card-backs) appeals to a younger audience as well.
Soccer is a sport that fits well with the younger sports crowds, boasting a hard time limit to a game, virtually non-stop action, and a rousing party-type atmosphere for the fans, many of whom sing and chant throughout the match. Topps has recognized the partnership that the MLS clubs have with their fans, and have produced a solid product that will interest that fan base. It is a great opportunity for supporters to get in on the ground floor of card collecting, a proven hobby that will be driven by Topps’ card-set releases for each new season. It certainly appears that Topps has done their homework. After quickly releasing a set of MLS trading cards in 2013, they went to work to give fans a product catered to the desires and intricacies of MLS. It is unlike any other product they have created before. While the cards may not meet the same demand as a team scarf you see currently in the marketplace, over time many MLS fans may well wish they had purchased the 24 Under 24 set of trading cards in 2014. Topps’ commitment to produce such a high quality product demonstrates the high profile to which MLS has been raised in the American sports landscape.