Major League Soccer’s newest franchise, New York City FC, won’t begin play until next year. But Topps, long the leader in collectible sports cards, is banking on its fandom — before it even has any — with the coming issue of MLS trading cards, including Coach Jason Kreis and Director of Football Claudio Reyna.
It’s the first time Topps will have created cards before a team even exists, and with a few innovations, there is potentially a big audience moving forward in the evolution of the card business, according to Zvee Geffen, Topps MLS Brand Manager.
“The growth of Major League Soccer as a League and soccer as a sport are unparalleled in North America over the last decade and we have developed a product that we know soccer fans of all levels will enjoy collecting,” said Geffen. “The league and the game are both gaining tremendous momentum heading into this summer’s World Cup and this is a great opportunity to showcase everything that MLS has to offer. There is something here for everyone.”
But the inclusion of Kreis and Reyna speaks to a forward-looking strategy that has sometimes eluded the industry. Geffen sees a big opportunity.
“It is something new for us,” he noted, “but obviously bringing a second team into the New York City Metro area, it’s very exciting. We though this was a great way to make a splash, to pay tribute to existing stars who have helped make soccer so popular in the U.S. in someone like Reyna, such an enormous name in the 90s and growing the game.”
This represents Topps’ first foray into MLS cards, a domain which rival Upper Deck has dipped its toes in with fairly standard issues, according to Geffen. Topps has experience in the sport, with a successful Premiere League series, but Geffen sees this as a different proposition in many ways.
“We hope to take it further, give the traditional card something more of interest to fans,” said Geffen. “The Premiere League set was a little bit of a different target,” he explained. “It was a higher cost per pack and per card — it was a high end soccer release, targeted towards those with disposable income.”
U.S. soccer fans seem to be hitting a younger demographic, and Topps is aiming at the 12-24 range, according to Geffen.
“They may not necessarily have grown up with the trading cards, they may not have yet experienced that kind of collecting,” he said. “But they are fans of the sport.”
In addition to current MLS stars, the line will feature American soccer legends like Reyna, Alexi Lalas and Cobi Jones and Mexican National Team players, capturing the MLS’s rabid and growing Hispanic fan base.