SFIA at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Baltimore
It was great to spend last Thursday and Friday at the United Soccer Coaches Convention, which took place just up the road from the SFIA office, in Baltimore. We had a great SFIA Soccer Council meeting on Thursday, January 16th, hosting over 40 attendees. We had great brand representation at the meeting, as well as most of the youth soccer governing bodies (SAY Soccer, AYSO and US Youth Soccer). Alex Kerman, Head of the SFIA Soccer Council, led the meeting, covering soccer participation trends and influences, and specific challenges the industry is facing.
One of the biggest obstacles, covered in the meeting and widely discussed on the show floor, was the impact of China tariffs. Many companies shared their struggles with making the decision to eat the extra costs or increase prices, and many had to do both.
Regardless of challenges, the industry is moving forward. The show hosted an Innovation Hub, showcasing 12 companies: Hudl, Beyond Pulse, Mimentor, Tipevo, Techne, Incisiv, CV, Soccerscout, Instat, Stacksports, Playmaker and Playsight. This new addition provided attendees a chance to connect with soccer tech companies, as there were not many tech-focused companies on the rest of the exhibition floor. Unlike most other shows, the Soccer Show was not flooded with sensors and wearable tech. Many of the products on display focused on improving ball handling skills, athletic training and higher-quality apparel and equipment, such as gloves and shin guards.
We also got to spend time with the 11 SFIA members that were exhibiting on the show floor: American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO), BSN Sports, Reusch, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GARED, New Balance, SCORE Sports, Select Sports, SKLZ, SportsEngine and G-Form.
SFIA data shows that, after several years of decline, soccer participation increased in 2019. However, the lack of participation over so many years has led to a loss of over two million players in 10 years, and it seems that it has finally caught up to the industry. Many industry players noted that business was tough in 2019, and it is likely due to years of participation struggles. We are hopeful that the recent uptick in participation is a sign of what’s to come, and soccer continues to grow in the U.S.
It was also interesting to note that industry giants, such as Nike, adidas and Puma, were not exhibiting on the show floor this year. In addition, foot traffic seemed lighter than usual. Regardless, the energy among attendees and exhibitors was great, and it is very clear that the industry is eager to reverse the participation trend and grow the game.
We are excited to see what the next year holds, and will see everyone in Anaheim!