By Joe Streeter, Insider Sport — MLS has experienced a significant surge in recent times with the entry of Lionel Messi to the league and the formation of David Beckham’s Inter Miami.
We spoke to Eddie Lewis, a former teammate of Beckham at the Los Angeles Galaxy, to discuss his company TOCA, a technology-driven football entertainment company that has garnered over $100M in funding for expansion
InsiderSport: Thanks for joining us Eddie, can you tell us more about TOCA and what led to its formation?
Eddie Lewis: TOCA Training originated from my personal journey as a player. Facing technical challenges, I embarked on a quest for solutions, starting with a humble tennis ball. Today, TOCA is a cutting-edge soccer-specific training environment, fostering players’ technical skills and awareness.
Beyond our core TOCA Training, we offer diverse programming for all ages, making us the largest operator of indoor soccer centres in North America. TOCA Social has taken our technology to new heights, creating the first-ever soccer entertainment and dining experience.
You were a teammate of David Beckham in LA, what impact has he had in growing the engagement and the level of the sport in the US?
I played in the inaugural MLS game and have been deeply connected to the league’s evolution over the years. The MLS has seen solid progress, but there have been some defining moments along the way. Bringing David Beckham during the early days of the MLS was a pivotal moment.
The league, which faced challenges, witnessed a seismic shift with David’s arrival. His star power not only brought global recognition but transformed the MLS into a household name worldwide. David’s influence extended beyond the pitch – he’s a top-tier ambassador for the sport. His dedication, on-field prowess, and off-field charisma elevated the league’s status and drew attention from every corner of the globe.
Will Lionel Messi joining the league be a watershed moment for the league and its growth, how can the MLS build on this?
I think so, like David, Messi is an unparalleled ambassador for the sport, embodying the love for football. At 36, he still possesses the magic that has captivated fans for two decades. Off the field, Messi’s impact could extend to shaping the future of soccer in the Americas, encouraging top young talents to view the MLS as a bridge to European football.
Can you tell us more about the TOCA collaboration with the MLS and how has this boosted fan engagement for the league?
Our 10-year partnership with the MLS focuses on fan engagement and player development—core strategies for both TOCA and the league. With nearly 40 centres and growing, we aim to quadruple our reach in the next decade. Every visitor to our centres becomes a new or more engaged MLS fan. It’s a perfect alignment, creating touchpoints for fandom and engagement that benefit both TOCA and the MLS.
Are you able to provide an update on engagement heading into the MLS playoffs and what can you do to maximise engagement as the league’s ending becomes streamlined?
As we head into the MLS playoffs, TOCA is creating robust and differentiated experiences within our centres. Watch parties and MLS-branded events are just the beginning. We’re maximising engagement, providing fans with memorable experiences as we streamline towards the league’s thrilling conclusion. Stay tuned for exciting developments.