There’s no question about it: Trading cards are back and more popular than ever thanks to a resurgence sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stuck at home with many sports shut down for significant portions of 2020, these cards provided a simple, stay-at-home hobby that kept people connected to the teams and players they loved. As a result, sports cards have been flying off the shelves and analysts are now predicting the market will grow by nearly $7 billion between 2021 and 2026.
For growing sports entities like the National Women’s Soccer League, the trading cards market is also a major opportunity. One of women’s soccer’s biggest selling points is its high level of engagement with fans. In a digital world, physical trading cards satisfy an innate human desire to own a tangible piece of history around the teams and the players they support.
“It’s romantic,” Parkside Collectibles co-founder Matt Peek tells The Equalizer about the experiences surrounding trading cards. “It is one of the most pure and wonderful exchanges that can happen.”
In 2020, Parkside Collectibles became the first company to produce a series of cards dedicated solely to women’s soccer when the company released a limited run commemorating the inaugural NWSL Challenge Cup. Companies like Topps and Upper Deck had included special inserts for major U.S. women’s national team players in runs of men’s soccer cards over the years, but no one had ever attempted anything to the scale or with the singular focus that Parkside did.
All 3,000 sets of that original Challenge Cup run sold out quickly despite only being available on the fledgling company’s website. Once Parkside proved the market existed, the company followed up with vastly expanded series in 2021 and 2022, each featuring hundreds of player base cards and numerous special inserts like glossy and signature cards. New distribution deals with Amazon, Walmart and Target also massively increased accessibility.
The fact that these cards can now be found in major retailers all over the United States, hanging next to huge brands like Topps and Pokémon, is unprecedented. Despite exponential growth in recent years, women’s soccer merchandise remains hard to find. What little is made is often extremely limited in variety, like the U.S. women’s national team Funko Pops featuring only four players. Products are also limited in quantity as manufacturers perpetually underestimate demand.
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