Robert has reported for a variety of international publications including the Associated Press, The Guardian, Vice, and Decrypt. Current areas of interest include the political economy of technology, cryptocurrencies, and privacy. Robert has a Bachelor of Science from UCL, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford's Internet Institute.
Ever traded soccer cards? Then soccer tokens should make sense to you. They’re a fast-growing network of blockchain-based trading cards and fungible team tokens that you can often trade on secondary markets, just like any other cryptocurrency.
The point of using blockchains, and the reason why these tokens are a worthy competitor to their paper-based equivalents, is that they’re digital and player-owned. While paper can wear away, get torn apart, or be copied into obsolescence, cryptocurrencies can be unique, can’t be rescinded by their creators, and live on for as long as the blockchain on which they are based continue to exist.
Plus, you can do things with these tokens. A club token might, for instance, grant you the right to buy tickets ahead of everyone else. A soccer trading card could be used as part of a virtual fantasy soccer league—with real money for prizes.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and over a dozen other cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
And unlike, say, digital equivalents on soccer games like FIFA, you own these tokens. Blockchain-based fantasy soccer trading game Sorare could create a game that no longer uses your versions of the token, but it couldn’t take away or delete your tokens, and someone could always create a rival game that supports your crypto soccer cards.
Moreover, Sorare’s tokens don’t just trade on Sorare. Cryptocurrencies are not the “walled gardens” that tech companies of the 2010s built up around their products. While you can only trade digital FIFA cards within FIFA games, Sorare’s tokens trade on an innumerable number of decentralized exchanges and NFT marketplaces.
There are, broadly speaking, two types of soccer tokens. The first relies on NFT technology and is a closer analogy to soccer trading cards. The second revolves around fungible tokens: Millions of interchangeable tokens that represent ownership in a club or a player’s career.
Soccer NFT tokens
Sorare, the game just mentioned, is the most popular version of the NFT soccer game. NFT means non-fungible, and the idea is that, unlike coins like Bitcoin or currencies like the US dollar, where each unit of the currency is indistinguishable from the last, NFTs are one-of-a-kind and provably unique.
Sorare’s tokens are based on Ethereum, the most popular smart contract blockchain platform. This means that they function just like any other Ethereum NFT token and are compatible with Ethereum’s smart contracts. Smart contracts are bits of blockchain code—they power decentralized applications.
Sorare has partnered with 180 soccer clubs, including Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich. Some cards are rarer than others: There’s just one Robert Lewandowski card, which represents the sole claim to use the 31-year-old Bayern Munich striker in a fantasy soccer league.
There are a lot of Sorare NFTs on the market. OpenSea, an NFT exchange, lists 329,383 Sorare tokens, with a floor price of 0.02 ETH (roughly $60 at the time of writing).
NFT data aggregator site CryptoSlam records Sorare as the fifteenth-most popular NFT project of all time. About $150 million in sales have been processed on the platform from January 2021 through September 2021, according to TechCrunch.
There are 600,000 registered users and 150,000 monthly active users. A Series B funding round in September 2021 led by SoftBank raised $680 million, bringing the total valuation of the company to $4.3 billion.
While Sorare may be the largest NFT platform for soccer tokens, it is far from the largest sports trading card game. That title goes to NBA Top Shot, an NFT trading card game licensed by the National Basketball Association that runs on the Flow blockchain.
Unlike Sorare, Top Shot tokens must stay within the Top Shot ecosystem and can’t be traded on other marketplaces. Despite this limitation, NBA Top Shot became immensely popular in the first half of 2021, and has generated $723 million in sales as of September of that year, according to data from CryptoSlam.
This makes NBA Top Shot the fourth-most popular NFT project of all time, after generative art project Art Blocks, the 10,000-strong profile picture collection CryptoPunks and Pokémon-inspired monster battler game Axie Infinity. By way of comparison, Axie has hit $2.1 billion in sales, making it more than twenty times as successful as Sorare in terms of sales volumes.
Fan tokens explained
The second major offering within soccer’s burgeoning crypto economy is club or fan tokens. Unlike NFTs, where each token is unique, these tokens are fungible, meaning that each one represents an equal share of its economy.
Practically, they represent something akin to a small ownership stake in the club; fan tokens launched by Manchester City and AC Milan let holders take small decisions in their club. They’re big business: When Lionel Messi signed on to Paris St. Germain, his “welcome package” is thought to have included about $29-35 million worth of fan tokens.
A lot of these tokens, including the PSG token, are based on Socios, a platform for creating fan tokens. Take the PSG token as an example: According to its site, fans can “help Les Parisiens make the right decisions, access VIP experiences, earn official products, and more.” So far, token holders voted on a message for the Captain’s armband (they chose “ICI C’EST PARIS,” which means “Here is Paris” in English). They voted on the cover of the fan edition of Fifa 2021 and voted on the best goal of the season.
These choices may seem like small potatoes, but the coin also has real value. As of September 2021, the market cap of $PSG is $75.6 million, and its fully diluted market cap—the value of all the tokens that could ever be minted if they were pushed into circulation today—is $486 million.
The value of these tokens can be highly volatile. $PSG swang from highs of $56 on April 26, 2021, to lows of $11.69 towards the end of June. Then it shot back up to $49 on September 8, before sinking right down to $24.3 on September 30. When $PSG launched at the end of 2020, it was worth $5.6.
These tokens also trade on secondary markets. Since they’re fungible tokens, they trade on centralized cryptocurrency exchanges. The most popular trading venue is Binance, whose PSG/USDT pairing accounts for 21% of all volume. USDT, or Tether, is a stablecoin backed by the US dollar. Binance doesn’t operate in Ontario.
How to buy soccer tokens
How to buy soccer NFTs on Sorare
Since NFTs are non-fungible, you can’t trade them on regular cryptocurrency exchanges, such as Binance or Coinbase. Instead, you trade them directly on the platforms’ marketplace, or, if the project permits, on third-party NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, SuperRare or Rarible.
When you sign up on Sorare, you receive four free “common” cards and get another pack of five for entering your first league. You can enter these cards in fantasy soccer leagues, and the top performers receive rewards.
Each card has an average score, which is based on their performance in their last five games. These scores range from 0 to 100. Then there are bonuses, which can boost the performance of the player and earn you additional points in leagues.
You can’t sell common cards that you earn for free. You can only trade Rare, Super Rare, and Unique cards on Sorare’s marketplace, or on a third-party marketplace like OpenSea. To trade on Sorare, you’ll have to create an account and fund your Web 3.0 wallet with cryptocurrencies, or pay with a credit card or bank transfer through Ramp. Then, enter a price and place a bid or a direct offer for a card.
On OpenSea, you’ll have to connect a Web 3.0 wallet like MetaMask and deposit cryptocurrencies you’ve bought on an exchange. Remember that although OpenSea is not regulated, Sorare has a verified marketplace on the site, and you buy and sell NFTs using a non-custodial wallet that OpenSea can’t access.
How to buy Socios club tokens
Buying a club or fan token is a little different. The ones that appear on Socios are fungible ERC-20 tokens, and you can buy them on regular cryptocurrency exchanges. Check a site like CoinMarketCap to work out which exchange lists your token—larger tokens are generally listed on major exchanges.
The process for buying a fungible club token is as follows: sign up for the exchange and submit any identification it requests, like a passport or driver’s license. Once verified, fund your account with cryptocurrencies or regular money.
You can usually deposit regular money with a bank transfer or credit card purchase, or deposit other cryptocurrencies by sending to a crypto wallet associated with your exchange account. Note that different exchanges charge very different fees, and what’s cheap or free on one exchange may not be so cost-effective on another. Also, note that many cryptocurrency exchanges are sparsely regulated.
Once you have the relevant token that’s paired against your desired club token, you can buy the club token. You can then withdraw the tokens to a cryptocurrency wallet or use them to vote on minor club decisions laid out by the soccer club.
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