Europe, the U.K., and countries like Brazil have long eclipsed America in soccer talent—partly because of a deep cultural affinity for the sport. Another big reason: intensive training systems that develop players from a young age into superstars like Diego Maradona, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, and more.
Today. Major League Soccer and TOCA Football announced a 10-year partnership that could help put U.S. soccer on the front foot—and TOCA’s tech-powered facilities across Dallas-Fort Worth could see a lot of that action.
MLS will become a TOCA shareholder through the deal, which aims “to inspire and improve the next generation of soccer players in North America.”
TOCA will kick things off in 2023 as an official training and entertainment facility partner of MLS. It will integrate MLS content in all its soccer training centers and host activities in TOCA Soccer venues and at MLS team stadium events in the U.S. and Canada.
Together, TOCA and MLS will develop training curricula that leverages TOCA’s proprietary technologies, including its data-capture and analytics.
Seeing North Texas as an important TOCA hub
TOCA, which calls itself the world’s largest tech-enabled soccer experiences company, says this “first-of-its-kind partnership” with MLS aims to inspire and improve the next generation of soccer players in North America.
TOCA has 28 soccer centers across the U.S., including a large one in Mansfield, south of Arlington, and several other tech-driven training facilities in Carrollton, Allen, Keller, and The Colony it expanded to after acquiring Blue Sky Sports Center earlier this year. The company says it plans to “grow significantly over the next 10 years.”
TOCA sees North Texas as becoming an important hub for the company, noting its facilities around the region and its plans to bring its TOCA Social entertainment and dining concept to the Dallas Design District next year. (More about that at the end of this story.)
In June, the company said it’s bringing its TOCA Strikers program, which is designed to get young children interested in the sport, to North Texas.
TOCA-MLS partnership has eyes on the 2026 U.S.-hosted World Cup
TOCA CEO Yoshi Maruyama views the MLS partnership through the lens of what’s approaching America fast—the 2026 World Cup.
“This historic partnership will serve as a foundation for the long-term growth and continued development of soccer in North America,” Maruyama said in a statement, “and is a reflection of MLS and TOCA’s commitment to investing in the sport’s expansion leading up to the 2026 World Cup in the United States.”
“TOCA’s mission is to inspire everyone to play the beautiful game and we’re delighted to be an integral and indispensable part of global soccer,” Maruyama added.
Bringing high technology to soccer training
TOCA and MLS plan to jointly develop training programs for players that leverage TOCA’s proprietary tech—from data-capture and analytics to the TOCA Touch Trainer (above), smart goals, and other cutting-edge solutions.
The TOCA partnership is the latest initiative of MLS Emerging Ventures, which aims to create strategic partnerships “to deliver the next generation of fan experiences, player development, and technology adoption” for MLS, NEXT PRO, Leagues Cup and Soccer United Marketing. MLS Emerging Ventures has also invested in Sorare, Fanatics, and SeatGeek.
“Major League Soccer is excited to partner with TOCA to accelerate the growth of soccer in North America ahead of the 2026 World Cup,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in the statement. “This progressive partnership with TOCA is another important step for our league and sport, and we look forward to collaborating with them for many years to come.
TOCA Social is coming to the Dallas Design District
TOCA isn’t just bringing MLS-enhanced soccer training to the Dallas area. In 2023, it’s slated to open a showplace of soccer entertainment, dining, cocktails and more with TOCA Social—a three-level, 56,000-square-foot venue in the Dallas Design District.
Doing for soccer what Dallas-based Top Golf did for golf, the venue will turn soccer into gamified entertainment, with 27 “TOCA boxes,” a floor for corporate events, and what Zach Shor, SVP of TOCA Social U.S., calls a “really amazing, 5,000-square-foot outdoor patio with bonkers views of downtown.”
The TOCA-MLS partnership will extend to TOCA Social as well. The two will work together to develop branded games for the venues, TOCA says.
Toca was founded in 2016
TOCA was founded in 2016 by two-time U.S. World Cup and former MLS and English Premier League midfielder Eddie Lewis. Its management team and board feature sports industry leaders including Erik Anderson, former executive chairman and CEO of Topgolf Entertainment Group; U.S. Women’s National Champion Abby Wambach; Celeste Burgoyne, lululemon President Americas; and NWSL CMO Julie Haddon.
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