SBJ/March 31-April 6, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Supporters clubs make Topps’ MLS trading cards, along with Mexican national team players

The 2014 edition of Topps’ MLS trading cards is giving club supporters groups, members of the Mexican national team and advanced statistics their due.

For the first time on MLS cards, supporters clubs such as the LA Galaxy’s LA Riot Squad and the New York Red Bulls’ Empire Supporters Club will be featured, just as Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry and the other players the clubs cheer for at matches are showcased.

“It was time to honor the fans,” said Topps brand manager Zvee Geffen. “The supporters culture of MLS is a big reason why the league has skyrocketed in popularity over the last five to 10 years. These supporters groups have become big stars around the league, so they deserve the showcase.”

Also among the 22 supporters clubs showcased are the Sons of Ben (Philadelphia Union), the Dallas Beer Guardians (FC Dallas) and two Seattle Sounders clubs: the Eastside Supporters and Gorilla FC. There’s at least one supporters club for each of MLS’s 19 active squads featured.

This is the second year of a partnership between Topps and MLS. The card company signed a six-year agreement with Soccer United Marketing, MLS’s commercial arm, in May 2013 after the league’s prior trading card license expired with Upper Deck.

The 2014 card offering, which will be at retail beginning this week, also will include cards of 10 players from the Mexican men’s national team, which is represented in its business interests by SUM. Among the players will be Javier Hernandez, the Manchester United star more commonly known as Chicharito.

“The Hispanic market hasn’t traditionally been a big one for cards, but we’re convinced there’s a lot of potential for growth,” Geffen said. “With the World Cup a few months away, we know there’s going to be a spike. The age 12 to 24 demographic is big for Topps, and MLS rates favorably with Hispanic markets, and the Mexican national team is incredibly popular across North America.”

Also new for this year’s card set is that the backs of the MLS player cards will feature advanced statistics. For example, cards for goalkeepers will have a graphic of a goal net split into six sections, with the number of saves and goals allowed in each section during the 2013 season noted. Midfielder cards will list stats such as pass accuracy and scoring chances created per game.

“MLS fans are data-driven, and we wanted to embrace that,” said Maribeth Towers, senior vice president of consumer products for MLS. “It was time for in-depth and advanced statistics on the backs of our cards.”

Added Geffen, “We’re trying to make the card-back relevant again.”

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