Hobby Musings: Soccer Cards UnitedHobby Musings: Soccer Cards United – While the soccer card market has some of the biggest stars in the world, it doesn’t always get the same press and love as sports like football and basketball. Jason Flynn and Enzo Patriarca of Soccer Cards United have made it their mission to change that. Having the chance to catch up with them at last month’s National Sports Collectors Convention, the two talked about the market and their hopes for the future.

Hobby Musings: Soccer Cards UnitedKS: How did Soccer Cards United get started?
Soccer Cards United started one afternoon in 2020. Enzo walked into my kitchen and starting telling me about soccer cards and how he had recently gotten into them. He was actually there to record an episode of an old podcast we used to do. As he was telling me about soccer cards and where they were at, it seemed to both of us that what was missing within the soccer hobby was a full knowledge of the sport. There were a lot of collectors out there that were spending a lot of money on cards of players that they had maybe been misinformed on, and maybe had been hyped up a little bit too much. So, we figured there might be an opportunity to create a podcast which allowed soccer fans to learn about the hobby, as well as allow hobby fans to learn about soccer. So we ditched the old podcast to start recording Soccer Cards United. Pretty instantly, we found a community and we’ve done a few hundred episodes already.

Hobby Musings: Soccer Cards UnitedKS: Soccer cards have a pretty big market internationally, but seemingly not as much in the United States. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s a mix between a lack of people that follow the sport in the US, which is changing of course. There’s such a huge domestic market for basketball, baseball cards, and that’s where a lot of the focus is. The United States men’s team on an international level are not the top of soccer at this moment. They are in the women’s game. From my point of view, It’s essentially just a matter of time before it will happen.

The boom of soccer cards and sports cards in general because of the COVID pandemic resulted in a lot of new people getting in, as well as a lot of awareness to sports cards that a lot people didn’t have. That’s why we’re getting the international boom of soccer cards. People didn’t know that there were sports cards in Europe and the rest of the world. A lot of people in the states probably got involved in soccer cards as a speculative venture versus actually knowing and enjoying the sport. A lot of them thought along the lines of, it’s a hot market and we can flip it. That will eventually dwindle down, because people are going to get burned if they don’t have a knowledge of the sport.

I think soccer cards aren’t huge in the States now, but it’s just a matter of time. Within the next decade, if the Unites States men’s national team continues to get better and keep producing quality players, which we’ve been seeing in the past three or four years, that can only help.

JF: For a sport like the NFL, if you want to collect Patriots cards, you typically start with the quarterback or some other superstar player that everyone knows. Most teams have one person, one guy that you can start collecting and focus on. In the NBA, there’s only 10 guys on the court at any given time, so it’s easy to pick out individuals. For soccer, there’s 11 a side. Defenders and midfielders score goals. It’s not just one league as every country has its own different league. Soccer is a more complex sport and is just not as tailor-made for card collecting, but it’s getting there.

KS: Who are the most collectible soccer players on the market today?
There are four players that would generally be considered historically to be the best. While some would argue, the four that we think of with soccer are Diego Maradona, Pele, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Walking around the National, those are the players we saw at tables. Messi and Ronaldo are still undervalued in our opinion.

People often ask us who they should be buying. I guess they want to hear us say guys like Erling Haaland, or other young players and prospects. At this stage, I don’t think soccer is a prospecting sport for the hobby because the GOATs are still undervalued. Soccer as it is in 2022 is a much less complicated market than people talk about. If you bought every high-end Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi card in the room at the National right now and waited 10 years, you’d be so far up you wouldn’t even believe it.

KS: Who’s an under-the-radar soccer player that collectors should be keeping an eye out for?
There was a rookie class in the 2020-21 season that is unbelievable. We’ll never see its like again in soccer, because we had all these young players lined up. The likes of Pedri for Spain, Jude Bellingham, Karim Adeyemi and Youssoufa Moukoko. If you want to know who are the hot prospects, look at the rookies in Topps Chrome 2020-21 for the UEFA Champions League. Those rookies are as good a rookie class as you’ll ever get for soccer.

KS: What would you like to see the card manufacturers do to further the soccer hobby in the United States and internationally?
We’re based in Ireland, and we’re trying to grow the market in Europe. For us, European exclusives are important, because we have lower priced boxes on our website in the $80-$120 range. They sell very well internationally, because if you’re looking at an environment that hasn’t really heard of the hobby before but is trying to dip their toe in, a price point of around $300 is a complete barrier to entry. We’d like to see some European exclusives that have hits in them. Sometimes manufacturers will bring out a European exclusive and it’s unnumbered parallels, or they call it a European exclusive, and it never turns up in Europe. So a more strict and targeted approach would be good.

KS: What is your hope for Soccer Cards United in the future?
We’d love to host an event like the National in Europe, and we’d like to grow the European hobby.
EP: At the minute, the plan is to keep doing the podcast and growing. We want to build a much bigger domestic market in Ireland. We want to get more products onto our store, get them as cheap as we can and get them into the hands of collectors.

In Dublin, we want to host what we’ve coined as the international sports card show convention. I think that would be a great place for people from the states and UK to come. In the near future, we’re going to be hitting all the European card shows. There are shows in Paris, Copenhagen, and Munich. We go to London every now and then when there’s a show. This is our first time at the National, and we expect to be here again next year. We essentially want to be at the forefront of soccer sports cards, because we believe in it long-term. We’re building up our YouTube as well in an effort to build the overall brand.

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Kelsey’s ability to bring hobby coverage to the mainstream sports fan has been a true asset. GTS is happy to feature his thoughts on collecting in Hobby Musings. The opinions expressed are his and do not necessarily reflect those of GTS Distribution.
Kelsey Schroyer

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