TOCA, Ventura Form Partnership For Soccer-Themed Entertainment, Dining Venues In Mexico

TOCA, Ventura Form Partnership For Soccer-Themed Entertainment, Dining Venues In Mexico

Surrounded by Monterrey defenders, Cruz Azul’s Augusto Lotti, second left, looks at the ball as he … [+] try’s to score during a Mexican Soccer League match at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Tomas Stargardter)

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TOCA Football Inc., a technology-based soccer training and entertainment company that has raised more than $100 million of funding, has struck a franchising agreement with Ventura Entertainment to open TOCA Social dining and entertainment venues in Mexico.

Ventura Entertainment has committed to open at least 20 TOCA Social venues in the next 10 years, including seven before the 2026 World Cup that will take place in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All told, Ventura said it would invest more than $100 million over the next decade in the venues, where people eat and drink and participate in soccer-themed games.

Ventura, which is based in Mexico, plans on opening the first TOCA Social in Monterrey this year. So far, the only TOCA Social is in London, which opened in August 2021 next to the O2 Arena and drew more than 300,000 visitors in its first year, according to the company. TOCA announced last year that it would open a venue in Dallas this year, too.

Yoshi Maruyama, TOCA’s chief executive, said the company hopes to open at least 75 TOCA Socials across the world. It will own and operate the venues in the United Kingdom and U.S., like it does in London and Dallas, but it will sometimes partner in other companies with local operators via franchise agreements, like with the Ventura deal in Mexico.

“(Soccer is) such an important part of the culture in (Mexico),” Maruyama said. “So given the demographic, given the massive size, given the focus on leisure and entertainment in that economy, Mexico is such a no brainer for Toca to expand into.”

Guido Benassini, Ventura’s chief executive, said the TOCA Social concept is similar to Topgolf, which has more than 75 locations in the U.S. and eight overseas.

Ventura has the exclusive franchise agreement with Topgolf in Mexico. The company opened its first Topgolf in Monterrey in 2021 and plans on opening another in Mexico City. Besides Topgolf, Ventura operates six other attractions in Mexico, including aquariums, theme parks and swim-with-dolphin facilities.

Benassini said Ventura was drawn to operating TOCA Socials because of the company’s experience in the entertainment industry and because soccer is so popular in Mexico. Monterrey, for instance, has a team in the country’s top tier (Liga Mx) and routinely attracts sell-out crowds.

“(Monterrey) is a very prosperous area of Mexico,” Benassini said. “It has a lot of industry. There are a lot of American-based companies. There is a lot of manufacturing facilities there.”

He added: “Soccer is the number one attraction in Mexico by far. And in Monterrey, it’s really kind of a religion and culture. So that’s definitely where we want to start.”

Despite the anticipated growth of its TOCA Social brand, TOCA Football generates most of its revenue from the 37 TOCA sports facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Those facilities offer training programs for children as young as 18 months old as well as games, camps and leagues for older children and adults. Maruyama said he expects TOCA to have at least 250 such centers in the coming years.

TOCA has raised $105 million of funding since its founding in 2016 by Eddie Lewis, a former Major League Soccer (MLS) and Premier PINK League player. In June 2021, the company announced a $40 million Series E round from investors that include WestRiver Group, a Seattle venture capital firm that was an early investor in Topgolf.

Maruyama, who joined TOCA in 2019, claims the company has doubled its revenue on a yearly basis, although the company would not disclose the amount of revenue it generates. Maruyama also said the company is eyeing an initial public offering (IPO) in the next three years.

“We have long stated that our vision, or at least management’s vision at Toca, is to IPO our company by the World Cup, which is 2026,” he said.

In October, TOCA announced a 10-year deal with MLS, which became a shareholder in TOCA. The partnership also includes TOCA integrating MLS content in its facilities and host MLS activities at TOCA Social venues. TOCA and MLS will also develop training programs that will be used at TOCA training facilities and games that will be available at TOCA Social venues.

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