MLS and Adidas Extend Deal

By JACK BELL

MLS logoCHICAGO — Players in Major League Soccer and its affiliates will be decked out in uniforms with three stripes through 2024 — and perhaps beyond — after the league and Adidas extended their current partnership for six years.

The exclusive, all-league deal, which began in 2004, could garner the league nearly $120 million a year. When the deal began, MLS earned a small fraction of that. If the new figures are accurate it would total about $700 million until it runs out and the money could have a significant impact as clubs build infrastructure and pursue players.

And with the United States bidding to host the 2026 World Cup in conjunction with Mexico and Canada, it would seem to make economic sense for Adidas, which has been an official sponsor of FIFA and the World Cup for more than 50 years, to be interested in extending its relationship with MLS even beyond 2024. The league, now at 22 teams, could be a 28-team circuit by then.

“Major League Soccer has built a legacy with Adidas that has been essential in the rise of our League,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.  “Adidas has been a major collaborator with us since the inception of MLS, and we are proud that our partnership with this globally respected brand will continue to enhance the growth of the game in North America for many more years. We will work with Adidas on innovative concepts to showcase the sport and our elite athletes, and we will intensify our mission to develop top North American soccer players for generations to come.”

At a news conference before the start of the All-Star Game against Real Madrid, Garber called the extension “the largest commercial agreement in league history, a seminal moment for the league.”

He said that the money from the Adidas deal is added to a common fund that is shared by the league’s current roster of 22 teams. Some of the money will be used for player salaries, some for teams’ academies, some for training facilities and other and sundry expenses.

When the league began play in 1996, Adidas outfitted only three teams — the Columbus Crew, the Kansas City Wiz (now Sporting K.C.) and D.C. United — with other teams wearing gear from Nike and others.

In many quarters, at least until the past 15 to 20 years, Adidas has been synonymous with soccer. The company, which is based in the small Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach across the street from rival Puma, is the official sponsor/supplier of most of the worlds’ major soccer tournaments. The list includes: the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Confederations Cup, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League and the UEFA European Championships.

Adidas also sponsors some of the world’s top clubs including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Milan. Some of the world’s top players also wear Adidas, led Leo Messi, Paul Pogba, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Roberto Firmino, Thomas Müller, Luis Suárez, James Rodríguez, Diego Costa, Mesut Özil, Renato Sanches and Julian Draxler.

“Sport is the epicenter of our culture and, in the U.S. and Canada, soccer is the most popular sport for young people to play,” the Adidas North America President Mark King said. “Our partnership with MLS puts Adidas at the core of sport in North America, allowing us to make a positive difference in an athlete’s game and life. Built from athlete and consumer insight, we are looking to create the future of sport and bring new and different things to the game the world has never seen before.”

On Wednesday night, King added: “We’ve explored what we can do together to grow game really drive soccer and MLS into the culture of American sports, where it deserves to be. We’ve looked at the success of players in Generation Adidas, we’re excited about being able to touch youth clubs. For us, that’s the biggest and most exciting part of the partnership. Together we’re looking to build a legacy and to change what the sport looks like in North America.”

The complete deal means that Adidas will outfit MLS teams and their affiliates with uniforms, footwear, training gear, sideline apparel and the league’s official match ball.


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