The project will launch later this summer with two shows. The group is currently in talks with other hosts and plans to spend six figures building out the network.
The investment combines two items For Soccer Ventures believes are on the rise—podcasts and soccer in America. The $50 million fund launched in 2019 with the goal of helping grow the sport in the U.S. in the run-up to the country hosting the 2026 World Cup. Its investments so far include a 5-on-5 league and a soccer convention business.
The group sees podcasts as another way to serve soccer fans across the country, according to Chief Business Officer Marc Horine. It’s also an opportunity to test formats, topics and hosts in a relatively low cost environment, before possibly taking those ideas to much pricier types of content like documentaries, digital video series or TV.
“We can use podcasts to test-drive formats,” said Horine, who spent over a decade working on audio at ESPN. “The barrier to entry is low from a cost perspective. It’s really about finding the right format, the right hosts, the right chemistry.”
Podcasts have mushroomed into big business. In February, Bill Simmons sold podcast heavyweight The Ringer to Spotify in a cash deal worth $196 million, and Barstool Sports’ recent $450 million valuation was also built largely off its audio empire. Podcast ad revenue is projected to grow 14.7% this year, according to a recent report from IAB and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
That said, For Soccer Ventures is jumping into an increasingly crowded space. Former NBA star Baron Davis recently invested in Blue Wire, a network of more than 90 sports podcasts. Last August, the Athletic announced plans for more than 40 shows, and Amazon is reportedly interested in sports podcasts to put under its Prime service.
“While the sports podcasting industry has exploded in recent years, it hasn’t translated to the fragmented American soccer fan community. Honestly, it just hasn’t,” Horine said. “We see an opportunity to bring a diverse set of voices together.”
The first two shows will be Orange Slices, hosted by former U.S. national team defender Heath Pearce and emerging Philadelphia Union star Mark McKenzie, and a reboot of The Best Soccer Show with Jason Davis and Jared DuBois. Both are set to launch later this summer.
In addition, For Soccer Ventures is also partnering with Girls Soccer Network to collaborate on podcasts, videos and other commercial opportunities surroundings female fans and female soccer players.