World Cup Boosts Emerging Soccer Market

Article excerpt

Producing an American soccer magazine has so far proved to be like trying to traverse quicksand on a pogo stick. But now, inspired by a participatory boom and the awarding of the 1994 World Cup Games to the United States, a new crop of daredevil publishers has emerged. Chief among them are Tom Mindrum, of the one-year-old Fairfield, Connecticut-based Soccer Jr., and Azi Khan, of the Titusville, Florida-based Soccer, a bimonthly that launched in September.

Khan expects Soccer's circulation to top 100,000 within three years, and for the magazine to publish monthly in less than two. Mindrum reports that the bi-monthly SJ is one-seventh of the way toward its goal of 300,000.

Each has a cover price of $2.95; Soccer's subscription price is $14.95, SJ charges $16.97. Soccer's first issue carried about seven ad pages; SJ's September/October issue showed some 17.5. Mindrum says he anticipates between 20 and 26 ad pages per issue next year.

While the World Cup is certainly a promotional plus, it is hardly a panacea. Both magazines plan to publish a special issue for next summer's events, but a steady audience isn't guaranteed. The Soccer Industry Council of America claims that there are more than 15 million U.S. players. More realistically, there are about 2.5 million dedicated participants, few of whom have displayed an inclination to watch others play soccer, or read about those who do.

The ideal registry would be of season-ticket holders, but the United States has no bona fide pro league. Player rosters aren't readily accessible, because, as Mindrum has discovered, several state youth associations are run by volunteers. "They don't market their lists," he laments. Despite SJ's direct-mail response rate of 5 percent, Mindrum relies on youth soccer-team administrators as well as on camp and tournament directors for controlled distribution.

The most successful soccer magazine, 25-year-old Soccer America, published by Berling Communications in Oakland, California, boasts only 25,000 subscribers. Having witnessed "literally dozens" of failures over the years, publisher Lynn Berling-Manuel notes, "Almost none of them knew what they were getting into. …