A Soccer Card Collector’s Guide To World Cup 2022

The World Cup is rivaled only by the Summer Olympics as the world’s most important and widely watched sporting event. Indeed, the last World Cup final was viewed by over 1.1 billion people.

Compare that to the Superbowl. Yet, despite its massive profile in the United States, less than 200 million watches that game globally. An event with this level of viewership and interest will inevitably significantly influence the value of soccer cards.

Therefore, we present you with the soccer card collectors guide to World Cup 2022.

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Which releases will accompany World Cup 2022?

As always, Panini has the rights to collectibles related to the FIFA World Cup. It is such a cornerstone of their identity and portfolio that if they ever lose it to Topps, their entire business model will be in trouble.

Their releases focus on two products. First is the traditional sticker and album release, which Panini has issued without fail for every tournament since 1970. It is already out. The format is simple and evergreen.

The album has pages for each team, usually three pages. There are numbered slots for stickers in them. Kids collect the stickers until the album is complete. The albums and stickers are already out, and you can get a starter kit with an album and 18 sticker packets from Panini directly for $24.

Since 2014, the company has also issued a Prizm release aimed primarily at American collectors. You can check out my review of that product, which is hitting the shelves on November 2, 18 days before kickoff. There are also lots of rookies in the set.

In October, Panini also released the Panini Mosaic Road to World Cup Soccer.

Why will the World Cup 2022 affect soccer card value?

The World Cup is the traditional site for the emergence of the biggest global stars. There are two reasons for that. First, as we have already mentioned, there is a massive and highly attentive global audience.

People everywhere cheer for their national teams. But they stay tuned for the big games involving other countries. As a kid in Israel, I always watched every tournament game. Taping it if I had to. I did so, even though my mediocre home country had not qualified since 1970 (and no, I am not that old).

The trend goes both ways. When a big star has a mediocre tournament, it lessens their cache. Fans of any American sport can probably understand why. Think of an NBA player who always bombs in the Finals or a great quarterback who never won the Superbowl.

A great soccer player who never played well on the biggest stage is a bit like that. A superstar. Sure. But with a pretty significant caveat to their claim to legendary status. 

What impact will the World Cup 2022 have on soccer card value?

The impact will be felt throughout the gamut of soccer cards. Honestly, every active player will be affected to some extent. The players representing countries that did not qualify, those who are injured or stuck on the bench, will all suffer a decrease in value. Meanwhile, the stars can see their prices vault overnight.

Having said that, most of these changes will be temporary and fade within a few months. So, it almost goes without saying that you need to differentiate between those on a better career trajectory and those receiving a temporary boost. The former is helpful for a quick pump and dump. Meanwhile, the latter are strongholds.  

So if you are a soccer collector, get ready to buy and sell quickly. The World Cup offers more opportunities for pickups and sales than any other period. And you won’t get another chance like it for four years.

Players who will not appear in the World Cup

The World Cup is the highest level of soccer. As a result, it has more cache than any other competition. Nonetheless, some of the biggest names in the global game will not appear in Qatar. As a result, you can expect their cards to stagnate in value or lose a significant amount as those players remain out of the spotlight. In some cases, their absence may even have a longer-term impact on card value.

Here are the most notable absentees:

Erling Haaland

The Norwegian striker may currently be the biggest name in sports card collecting. With over 100 goals netted at age 22 and 15(!!!!) in 9 appearances for Manchester City this year, it is easy to see why. The absence of Norway from the World Cup may lower his values for a few months. But it will do little to dent his long-term prospects. Of course, it helps that Erling is young and still has chances to appear in the World Cup.

Shop for Erling Haaland rookie cards on eBay

Mohamed Salah

Long considered one of the greatest players on earth, the charismatic Egyptian forward is not enjoying the best period of his career. It was his missed penalty that cost Egypt qualification. Still, this will not dent his long-term value. Salah appeared in the 2018 World Cup and accounted well for himself. After all, no one expects an Egyptian player to lift the trophy, no matter how talented they may be.

Shop for Mohamed Salah rookie cards on eBay

Federico Chiesa

The best Italian offensive talent of his generation, Chiesa was sensational in Euro 2020. Indeed, his injury this season was one of the reasons Italy failed to qualify. This is unfortunate for his collectors, as it stops Federico from cementing his status as one of the game’s leading lights. However, he is young enough for at least one more try.

Shop for Federico Chiesa rookie cards on eBay

Collecting the veteran greats

If you are a collector of the legendary veterans in the tournament, you will also want to pay close attention to their odds of success in World Cup 2022. The trio of Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi may be the most incredible crop of superstars ever to emerge simultaneously.

Nah, scrap that. They definitely are. The latter two are often named the best soccer players of all time. Their incredible goal-to-appearance ratio does seem to back that up.

Messi and Ronaldo will be able to make a solid argument for GOAT status if they can win a World Cup. However, they are missing that crowning glory of a World Cup title. So once the dust settles, and these amazing players are all retired, will their achievements be held in the same esteem as Pele and Diego Maradona?

Without a Jules Rimet trophy, not necessarily. Pele also has an incredible scoring record. But he also scored two goals in the 1958 World Cup final as a 17-year-old kid, not to mention three in the semis. As a veteran, Pele led the 1970 Brazil team to the title, one of the most memorable victories in history. 

But they may fall behind the olden golden greats if they don’t win one. But, unfortunately, they also may find themselves upstaged by up-and-comers like Kylian Mbappe and Erling Halland. Mbappe, in particular, has already won the World Cup in 2018 and scored in the final as a mere teenager.

Why does this matter to collectors? Well, Ronaldo and Messi cards will always be worth quite a bit. But right now, the value of their rookie cards reflects the consensus that they are the best ever. However, a last failed campaign may begin the erosion of this perceived status. If so, the long-term value of the cards will suffer accordingly.

What are the odds of a legend winning the 2022 World Cup?

That said, what are the odds that one of the aforementioned trio will win the World Cup? When it comes to soccer, lets check out World Cup betting odds from Bet365:

Brazil (Neymar)+400
Argentina (Lionel Messi)+650
Portugal (Cristiano Ronaldo)+1400

Because of the weather and tradition, Brazil is considered the favorite to walk away with Jules Rimet. However, take it from an old hand, the Seleção don’t handle being favorites very well. Remember their atrocious performance at home in World Cup 2014? They flopped similarly in 1982, with that Zico, Falcao, and Socrates team. Brazil is usually at its best when they are discounted.

Still, they are the favorites. But even if they win, it will not transform Neymar overnight into the best player in the world. Even if he is instrumental in a win, he has long shown that he is not quite at that Messi and Ronaldo level.

Meanwhile, Ronaldo is not going to win the World Cup. Or at least, I will be shocked if Portugal takes the trophy. I think the +1400 odds Bet365 give them are a tad generous. The Iberian wonders struggled through qualification and ended up second in a group they were heavily favored to win. And things don’t look any better now, especially considering they just lost Luis Diaz to injury.

And let’s face it, Ronaldo ain’t what he used to be. At age 37, he is still a fine scorer. But he does little else and often seems like a liability on the pitch.

So, the real question for collectors is: will Messi win the World Cup? That seems eminently possible. Some hardcore fans are snickering now. This is Argentina, after all, and since Maradona retired, their list of spectacular failures is astonishingly long.

The breakout players of the World Cup 2022

With all due respect for the veteran legends, the real action is elsewhere. The World Cup is the traditional launching pad for international stardom. Young players have always shined on the biggest stage, from Pele’s 1958 breakout to Michael Owen in 1998 and Mbappe’s crowning in 2018.

Fans know that if you are good enough to dominate the World Cup at a young age, you can star at any level anywhere in the world. Or at least that is the theory.

In the age of social media and sports card investing, the value of cards will go up and down quickly per performance. Some will go on to have fabulous careers. In others, they will disappoint or succumb to injury. Either way, there is money to be made, either in the long or short term.

Who are the most likely World Cup 2022 breakout players?

A breakout star is, by definition, anyone who does not have a big reputation yet with the average soccer fan. But conversely, one that could make a significant impact at the Qatar World Cup and then go on to have an impressive career.

Who has what it takes? We don’t have a crystal ball here at Cardlines. And there are always guys who come out of nowhere. But predicting the breakout players is not impossible.

Players coming into their own and with a key starting position are the best candidates for a breakout. We are talking about the best players to collect rather than the highest-quality young players overall. Therefore, the list stresses offensive-minded players rather than goalkeepers or defenders.

Jude Bellingham – Midfield – England

Jude is a pretty well-known quantity among soccer card collectors. He has long been identified as the “next big thing” in English soccer. But despite his prodigious talent, he has yet to leap into superstardom. The World Cup will be his first chance to show he belongs among the top echelon, as the prices of his cards would suggest.

A good performance would also be a likely catalyst for a big-money move to one of the big Premier League teams. So this tournament is important because if Bellingham does not make a significant impact soon, his prices will decline.

If you ask me, Jude’s cards are somewhat overpriced. He is an excellent player. But a lot of his value comes from his tactical versatility. That is great for managers, but not necessarily what will keep his card value up in the long run.

Shop for Jude Bellingham rookie cards on eBay

Garang Kuol – Forward – Australia

Yup. Australia. We have had some great players come from the land down under. Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill, and Brett Emerton come to mind. But never a legit superstar. But Garang has the world-beating technique and a strong work ethic and looks close to the whole package at 18.

The Egypt-born forward has already secured a big transfer to Newcastle United and could turn a solid performance for the Socceroos into a path to superstardom. The talent is there. But there are two issues. The first caveat is, Kuol is unlikely to start and will have to make an impact off the bench. Second, he has never played outside of Australia and has little experience at the top level.

Gavi – Midfielder – Spain

The Barcelona midfielder is only 18 years old. But if you think you can buy his cards cheaply, think again. Since puberty, he has been a household name among serious soccer fans and collectors. There are two reasons for that. One is his prodigious talents. The other, Barcelona, is a proven breeding ground for brilliant young central midfielders of the highest caliber. It starts with Pep Guardiola (as a player) and continues with Pedri, the biggest revelation of Euro 2020.

But the player Gavi is most similar to is the great Xavi. They share the same visionary control of the midfield. At age 17, he was already a starter for Barcelona. There is little doubt that he is ready for the world’s biggest stage.

Shop for Gavi rookie cards on eBay

Kamaldeen Sulemana – Winger – Ghana

Kamaldeen is just the kind of player you look for to break out in a big tournament. Young. Hungry. And likely to be given a prominent role in his team’s offensive plans. Sulemana has dazzled for Rennes this year after first coming to prominence with the Norwegian FC Nordsjælland team in 2020-21.

He dribbles ferociously at opponents but is adept at the subtle art of positioning. So, he is often placed where the action is. Ghana’s opponents will face a handful.  

Shop for Kamaldeen Sulemana rookie cards on eBay

The high-rated young players of the World Cup 2022

Another category of players to watch is established young players ready to move to superstardom. But, of course, a great tournament can distinguish between being a respected player and an icon. But, of course, in terms of collecting, that makes a significant difference.

Antony – Winger – Brazil

Brazil has an embarrassment of riches in the attacking positions, as you would expect from a soccer superpower. Antony is a nearly perfect modern player. He runs tirelessly and appears everywhere. Has a dashing technique and a knack for scoring. True, it may be hard for Antony to fit in with Vinicius Jr., Gabriel Jesus, and others. But his form for Manchester United this season is too good to ignore.

The winger scored in each of his first two appearances in the league. Indeed, he seems to be favored by coach Tite ahead of the brilliant Gabriel Martinelli, who would otherwise be on this list. With 11 performances and 2 goals for the Seleção, I like his odds of playing a lot and making an impact.

Shop for Antony rookie cards on eBay

Charles De Ketelaere – Attacking Midfielder – Belgium

The Belgians had been a mediocre European team for years after their strong 1980s side flamed out. But in the last decade, they have returned far more vital than ever. The secret to their success was a procession of technically accomplished midfielders, particularly Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

In De Ketelaere, the lowlands country appears to have a capable heir to the throne. At first glance, he seems tall and awkward for a playmaker. At 6″ 4, he almost looks like he is ready for the NBA draft. But his technique is stunning, and his off-the-ball movement is first-rate. His recent move to AC Milan is the first step towards wider global recognition for the youngster.

Shop for Charles De Ketelaere rookie cards on eBay

Rafael Leão – Winger or forward – Portugal

I have already downplayed Portugal’s chances of winning the title. Yes, I stand by that assessment. But their chances of making a deep run depend heavily on Leão’s performance. The adept attacker has been a revelation as a winger for AC Milan.

His 2021-22 campaign was stupendous. Rafael won the Serie A MVP award as a testament to his haul of 11 goals and 10 assists. However, while his performances for Portugal have not been bad, he hasn’t brought the same magic to the international stage and has yet to score a goal for the senior team. This tournament is a case of make-or-break for his superstardom bid.

Shop for Rafael Leao rookie cards on eBay

Darwin Nunez – Forward – Uruguay

Uruguay has a long record of over-performing at the World Cup, starting with their 1930 and 1950 competition victories. Their offensive players have a knack for shining at the highest levels. Some players that have shattered defenses for the small country at this level include Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, and Enzo Francescoli. Darwin is the most likely candidate to keep that legacy going.

The forward brings a remarkable combination of brute strength and raw speed to the table. That combo served him well for Benfica, scoring 32 goals in 57 performances. His form earned him the LPFP Primeira Liga Player of the Year for 2021-22.

After a deal worth almost $100 million, Nunez transferred to Liverpool, where he has continued to impress. Darwin has breakout tournament written all over him.

Shop for Darwin rookie cards on eBay

Aurélien Tchouaméni – Central midfield – France

The French have long had the center locked up. From Patrick Viera to Paul Pogba, they usually had the best player in the world running things. But with Pogba struggling with injury, Les Bleus have massive shoes to fill. Maybe not the best news for France, but excellent tidings for Aurélien, who is just hitting his stride.

He has been given free rein for the national team in recent friendlies and has proven more than up for the task. This surprised no one in France. After three seasons of excellence in Ligue 1, the midfielder took over the reins at Real Madrid this season. He has shone like a diamond. Along with MBappe, Tchouaméni is the future of French soccer.

Shop for Aurélien Tchouaméni rookie cards on eBay

Dušan Vlahović – Striker – Serbia

Dušan has been a veritable goal machine everywhere he played. With 57 top-level goals at age 22 and a record of 8 scored in 16 appearances for Serbia, he’s an absolute menace. But Vlahovic is no primitive poacher.

The striker is known for an enviable capacity to pick the ball up and hold it anywhere until the formation is in order. For collectors, he offers a great opportunity. He is the lynchpin of the Serbian attack and a reliable goal provider.

Shop for Dusan Vlahovic rookie cards on eBay

Soccer card collectors’ guide to the World Cup 2022 final thoughts

The entire world will be watching Qatar in November and December. Qatar 2022 is the first time the tournament has been played in the soccer card boom era, and we expect there to be plenty of action on the market. If you are into short-term buying and selling, the World Cup will offer unprecedented opportunities to do just that. So, buckle in and watch closely.

If you want to invest in some of the youngsters profiled here or others, we missed, snatch them up now. You don’t want to be caught flatfooted when prices go up in late November.

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim

Shaiel Ben-Ephraim is a former history and political science professor at UCLA. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary. Shai also worked as a diplomat and journalist on three continents.


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