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Soccer News Website Drinking From Cup

The stories being posted on Soccerly.com last week all revolved around the biggest sport event in the world that started June 12 in Brazil.

“First Hooligan Deported from Brazil.” “With World Cup Ahead, Subway Workers Suspend Strike.” ”Mexico Set to Rely on Skipper Rafael Marquez.”

For the sports-challenged, we’re talking about World Cup, the month-long international tournament involving 32 countries to determine which nation has the world’s best soccer team.

Soccer fans, especially casual ones who may have no idea who Marquez is, will likely view some matches, at least those involving the United States. So will serious fans — those who refer to the sport as footie, futbol or “the beautiful game.”

San Diego-based Soccerly.com, an online soccer news publication, aims to attract as many of all types as possible.

“For us, the World Cup is a great opportunity to capture more of the hard core fans, in addition to the casual fans that will be more around at this time,” said Miguel Ramirez, who co-founded the business in 2013.

Things were fairly hectic at Soccerly last week as the management team was lining up 35 correspondents to cover the performances and stories from all 32 teams in Brazil.

Soccer may not be at the top of most American sports fans’ favorites, but it’s definitely gaining more converts, and Ramirez and his partner, Patricio Villalobos believed the market is expanding exponentially.

“We knew that soccer in the U.S. is a growing market and that the opportunity to build a media destination was there,” Ramirez said.

The Mexican partners created another soccer-focused website called Mediotiempo.com — as in the Spanish word for halftime — in 2000 that eventually became that nation’s largest sport site before it was sold in 2010 to Time Warner.

Ramirez declined to reveal the sale price, except to say that it was “in the seven figures.” The success achieved by the earlier website convinced at least two venture firms, Gerbera Capital and Mexico Ventures, to invest $2 million into the business.

NBCSports Partnership a Boost

In addition to Soccerly, the company operates another soccer website called JuanFutbol.com, entirely written in Spanish and geared more toward younger fans with content suited to smartphones.

Asked the company’s revenue, Ramirez says the site is still in a growth mode and that “monetization will come later.” On a recent visit, the site featured ads from a major cable company and car manufacturer.

“Right now, the site has generated little revenue,” he said. “Our focus is making sure we have the product right and growing our audience.”

That audience numbers about 600,000 unique monthly users, according to Google Analytics, but should be considerably larger as World Cup unfolds, Ramirez said.

The site’s prospects took a huge leap earlier this year when NBC Sports signed a strategic partnership with Soccerly to supply the network’s website, NBCSports.com, with its content.

Kevin Monaghan, senior vice president at NBC Sports Digital, said in recent years the network has gotten more involved in global soccer. Two years ago, NBC Universal signed a three-year deal to broadcast games from the English Premier League for a reported $250 million.

In its second season, the soccer games featuring such prestige sides as Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool have attracted hundreds of thousands of viewers despite the fact that the games are shown in the early morning hours, as in 4:30 a.m. on the West Coast.

Although NBC came late to soccer, it’s committed to building a successful platform that includes games delivered via live streaming, as well as expert commentary, Monaghan said.

NBC Sports liked what Soccerly’s producers were doing, met with the founders and their team, and agreed to put a link to their site on NBCSports’ site.

This will be especially helpful during World Cup, Monaghan said.

“There’s no way we were going to get correspondents to cover all 32 teams and Major League Soccer,” Monaghan said, referring to the highest-level professional soccer league in the U.S., “so it makes sense for us to partner with them.”

Content is King

Matt Marschinke, a digital media strategist in San Diego, said Soccerly has a tough challenge ahead of it because it’s competing with much larger, more established and better-financed sports websites.

Nevertheless, Marschinke was impressed by the Soccerly’s visitor traffic, which he said was better than many other relatively new sites he’s viewed.

Because the site has constantly updated and fresh content, it could grow its audience much faster. Having top-notch content is essential for a website in leveraging its search engine optimization capability so it continues increasing the number of users, Marschinke said.

Soccerly has coverage of every team playing in World Cut, but its main focus will be on the two sides most of its visitors care the most about: USA and Mexico.

Ramirez hopes both teams advance past the first round, even though neither is given much of chance to go far.

“If the U.S. advances to the second round or even further, that’s going to be fantastic,” he said.

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