“The beautiful game” meets experiential retail: TOCA Social's entrance into the U.S. market

Earlier this year, news broke of a new entrant in the ever-expanding experiential retail sector – TOCA Social announced plans to open their first location in the U.S. in Dallas, TX in early 2023.
“The beautiful game” meets experiential retail: TOCA Social's entrance into the U.S. market

Earlier this year, news broke of a new entrant in the ever-expanding experiential retail sector – TOCA Social announced plans to open their first location in the U.S. in Dallas, TX in early 2023. With one existing venue in London, TOCA Social has been described as a concept akin to “TopGolf for soccer”. Experiential offerings like golf, skydiving, and pickleball (paddle tennis) that have been tailored to more traditional shopping center settings have been a hit with consumers while proving attractive to developers and landlords as a unique anchor tenant with considerable trade area draw.

It’s certainly hard to argue with the timing of TOCA’s planned market entry stateside:

  • While there is conflicting data on sports and popularity, recent surveys and reports indicate that soccer has surpassed hockey to become the fourth-most popular sport in the U.S., and is nipping at baseball’s heels to enter the top 3 behind football and basketball (let’s see if MLB’s new pace of play rules that go into effect in 2023 have an impact on baseball’s standing)
  • One leading indicator of the growing popularity of soccer can be found in youth sports participation – estimates are that nearly 7 million kids in the U.S. between the ages of 6-17 are now active participants in outdoor soccer, trailing only basketball and baseball
  • A survey from April of this year indicates that 47% of Gen Z adults in the U.S. (those born in 1997 or later) identify as being soccer fans, trailing only football (NFL and college) and basketball (NBA)
  • As the U.S. readies for a return to the FIFA World Cup stage next month in Qatar, in combination with building excitement surrounding serving as a host nation for 2026, the increased spotlight and focus on soccer is likely to spur further momentum in the sport’s growth domestically

TOCA Social has indicated that it plans to have upwards of five locations open by the end of 2023 between the UK and U.S. In terms of buildout in the states, TOCA already has indoor soccer training centers deployed in 8 markets (Dallas-Fort Worth, Seattle, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, Orange County CA, and Madison WI). Add in 17 additional U.S. markets where Major League Soccer will have a team in 2023, and a logical near-term venue development roadmap emerges.

Plans for the forthcoming Dallas location call for a multi-story layout featuring 34 “boxes” (areas where consumers will play/engage in virtual soccer) totaling ~57,000 sq ft – for comparison, the brick-and-mortar portion of a typical TopGolf prototype is between 55,000 – 65,000 sq ft, albeit with a significantly larger number of bays (70-100+).

While it remains to be seen whether TOCA Social will achieve the same level of success as TopGolf, let alone other emerging experiential operators like Chicken N Pickle, soccer’s ascending trajectory in the U.S. should provide TOCA with a solid foundation upon which to compete with more established quasi-competitors.

 

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