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Soccer apparel sales growth strikes past the competition

Soccer apparel and footwear sales outperform those in baseball and football, according to study

Soccer apparel and footwear sales increases have kicked their way past baseball and football, according to research firm NPD Group.

Soccer footwear sales in the U.S. between April 2014 and March 2015 increased 14% over the previous year to $139 million. Apparel sales for men, women and children soared 57% to  $112 million.

The biggest catalyst for soccer-related sales? The 2014 World Cup held in Brazil.

"The 2014 World Cup spurred a big jump in interest in soccer," Matt Powell, sports industry analyst for NPD, said in a statement.

Baseball footwear sales declined 5% from the previous year to $91.5 million, while apparel fell 7% to $163.4 million. Football footwear sales dropped 4% to $83 million, while apparel fell 9% to $163.3 million.

Both Nike Inc. and Adidas AG, the major players in the U.S. soccer market, credited the sport as a sales driver.

In Nike's 2014 annual report, the company listed soccer as one of its top-selling footwear and apparel categories.

Longtime soccer brand Adidas said its footwear sales increased 18% in the first quarter of 2015 mainly due to double-digit sales growth in the running and soccer categories.

All this comes as actual soccer participation declined.

In 2014, a total of 12.5 million children and adults played soccer, down from 12.7 million a year earlier, according to a 2015 report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Assn.

"It's a trend a lot of sports are facing," said Cameron Jacobs, manager of business operations and research at the Sports and Fitness Industry Assn.

But it's not the players who are driving sales -- it's the fans, especially for apparel, Powell said.

"As we are becoming more and more diverse and more people from other countries and regions are here, they bring with them a real love of the game," he said. "The prognosis of participation usage is not good. The prognosis for fans is good."

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