Football is a near religion in Texas, and increasingly, so is futbol.
AT&T Stadium, home to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and the biggest pro-football shrine in the Lone Star state, just signed a deal to host Mexico’s national soccer team for a series of annual games starting in 2019.
It’s the biggest testament yet to the growing purchasing power of Mexico’s soccer fans. The partners, which in addition to the Cowboys include the Mexican Soccer Federation, the Dallas Sports Commission, and local Major League Soccer team FC Dallas, are not saying how much they expect to earn from the deal. Profits will likely be juicy. El Tri, as the Mexican team is known, attracts an average 50,000 spectators per US game.
The team has been touring the US for years. The new deal will make the Dallas area a designated annual stop until 2022. The games will be preceded by a week-long soccer extravaganza culminating with the “AT&T Futbol Fiesta,” all of which should provide ample opportunities for sponsors to get brands in front of fans. (There will also be other Hispanic-themed activities, including a bilingual childhood-reading program.)
The partnership’s gung-ho embrace of Mexico and Mexicans is a practical response to the US’s rapid demographic transformation—one that’s in sharp contrast to the anti-immigrant sentiment promoted by Donald Trump and his followers.
Texas’s Hispanic population is growing at a fast clip, particularly in big metro areas like Dallas. Latinos—who make up nearly 40% of the state’s population, up from just over 30% in 2000—are set to become its largest population group by 2022.
The Cowboys have been using soccer to court Hispanics for years. In 2009, El Tri played in the team’s brand-new Cowboy stadium even before the home team, filling it with 85,000 fans. The NFL team also actively tries to recruit new fans with events such as its annual Hispanic Heritage Celebration and by booking Latino acts to perform at halftime. Its outreach effort stretches across the border into Mexico, where the Cowboys already have a large contingent of supporters.
A spokesman for the team declined to comment on the marketing strategy behind the latest deal. In any case, the Cowboys simply are confronting an inescapable Texas reality: It’s tough to fill an 80,000-seat stadium without Latinos.