NEW YORK (TheStreet) - Every four years, soccer fans get their version of the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl, with the FIFA World Cup, soccers biggest tournament. The international tournament is hosted by Brazil this year and starts on Thursday, June 12. Thirty-two teams will try to make it through the month-long event.
Sport-centric brands like Nike (NKE) adidas and Puma have come up with loads of gear to get fans motivated, and with the World Cup just days away from kicking off, fans are stocking up. Sales of merchandise with U.S.A. soccer fan favorite, Clint Dempsey, has spiked over 300% over the past week to make him the top-selling soccer player on Fanatics.com, an online retailer of officially licensed team merchandise that is selling merchandise selection from all 32 teams in the World Cup, the site says. Other popular player merchandise includes Brazil's Neymar, U.S.A's Michael Bradley, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina's Lionel Messi, yet customers from more than 30 countries have made World Cup gear purchases on its Web site over the past week, Fanatics.com adds.
Over the past week, the top five teams with the best-selling merchandise are: USA, Brazil, Italy, Portugal and England.
Soccer is only now starting to hit its stride in the U.S., yet it is one of the largest sporting events around the world. Giving the overall population changes occurring in the U.S., with greater minorities from soccer-loving countries, as well as better exposure of soccer in the U.S. that makes it more accessible to viewers, it's a growing sport that provides significant opportunity for U.S. specialty retailers, says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.
Whether you're watching the games at a bar, a friend's house or at home on your Apple (AAPL) iPad through Google (GOOG) Chromecast, TheStreet worked with Fanatics.com to highlight World Cup gear all fans should sport before they play their caxirolas, Brazil's answer to the South African vuvuzela.
1. Nike USA 2014 Replica World Soccer Home Jersey - White
Nike's Team USA jersey, selling for $89.95, is among the overall top-selling items on the Fanatics Web site this week. Just like in football (that's American football) wearing a jersey (Nike also has an authentic jersey that sells for $149.95), is the ultimate show of fan appreciation and according to Fanatics the only way "to show off your team spirit." The Nike jersey features "Dri-FIT technology for ultimate comfort" and is officially licensed.
2. Puma Italy Ladies Graphic T-Shirt - Royal Blue
Why should only men get to show their soccer spirit? There's plenty of gear for soccer-loving women too. Puma's Italy graphic t-shirt is a great way to show support while still looking fashionable. The shirt sells for $31.95, and is a lightweight ribbed shirt that is officially licensed. The shirt "features a large printed Italy crest on the front," Fanatics.com says. "It's also got a small team graphic printed on the left sleeve. This is a look that'll definitely help Italy rally past the toughest of competition!"
3. Nike Brazil Preschool Soccer Home Performance Kit - Yellow
Supporting your favorite team should definitely be a family event! Nike has created a cute outfit for your toddler, this one replicating Brazil's home team uniforms of yellow jerseys with green trim and blue shorts. The kit goes for $74.95 on Fanatics.com and is officially licensed, according to the description.
4. adidas 2014 FIFA World Cup USA Structured Flex Hat - White
Show your support for the USA team by sporting one of these World Cup Brazil fitted hats by adidas. The USA Structured Flex hat sells for $24.95 and features embroidered FIFA World Cup graphics on the crown and "USA" lettering on the bill, Fanatics.com says.
Whether you're watching the games at home, on your iPad or one of the lucky fans to score tickets, this fitted hat is sure to please even the novelty soccer fan and could even be a great gift for Dad on Father's Day. Sizes are approximate: S/M fits 6 - 7 1/4; Size L/XL 7 1/4 - 7 5/8.
5. Nike USA 2013/14 Supporters Scarf - Red/White/Navy Blue
One cannot be a soccer fan without a scarf representing their favorite team. We, of course, chose USA as our scarf of choice. The Nike-branded scarf, selling for $29.95 on Fanatics.com, features embroidery and woven graphics. It measures 56" x 7".
"For more than 100 years, colored scarves have been traditional wear for fans of association football teams across the world. Organized cheers in which all supporters in a section of the stadium stretch out their scarves above their heads with both hands, creating an impressive 'wall' of color have become very popular," according to Fanatics.com.
A fan said it best in a May 31, 2014 review:
A soccer scarf is a must have accessory for any soccer fan, everyone knows its part of the uniform; and this scarf is superb. It is a perfect blend of stars and stripes, easily my favorite U.S. Soccer scarf to date. Any product from NIKE is always fantastically made and this is no different, I got one for myself and my youngest brother for this year's World Cup, GO USA!!!!
--Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.