MLS 2021 commercial guide: Every franchise, every sponsor, all the major TV deals

Major League Soccer (MLS) feels like it is coming towards the end of an era. This is by no means a negative thing, with the latest transition promising to lead into a more mature phase for the North American soccer league.

This season sees the addition of MLS’s 27th franchise, with Austin FC joining the Western Conference under the ownership of former Columbus Crew majority shareholder Anthony Precourt. There will also be three new soccer-specific stadiums opening in Cincinnati, Columbus and Austin, bringing the league’s total up to 20 – housing more than two thirds of the teams.

These developments are illustrative of where MLS is going, moving away from the shadow of the established US major league sports and into its own, unique space.

Despite that, MLS has still suffered significant losses during the pandemic and the pain is not over yet. Commissioner Don Garber has said that the league lost close to US$1 billion in revenues last year due to Covid-19 and is expecting a similar hit in 2021. The league’s timeline for expansion has also been pushed back a year as a result of the health crisis, while there are also doubts over whether a franchise in Sacramento will be able to join the competition at all after lead investor Ron Burkle stepped away from the project.

However, there are some green shoots on the commercial front.

A new sponsorship deal with Procter & Gamble, signed on the eve of the 2021 campaign, is reportedly worth as much as US$20 million a season for the next five years. On the media side, Garber is preparing to hit the market with the most complete and enticing rights offering MLS has ever had.

Two years remain on the current deals and teams have been told not to sign any local broadcast contracts beyond that point. MLS will then look to sell national, local, international, betting data and out of market rights in one swoop. While that could be an enticing single package for the right buyer, it is also a lot of content being made available at a time when the US media giants are looking to build out new streaming products.

MLS is also moving closer with its nearest neighbour, Liga MX, which is Mexico’s top flight. While there has been talk of a merger between North America’s two powerhouse leagues, Garber appears to be more concerned with the performances of the US teams in the Concacaf Champions League. MLS has provided two of the last six finalists after previously only seeing US sides reach the final in 2015 and 2011.

All of this, of course, is building towards the jointly-hosted 2026 Fifa World Cup, which will arrive 30 years after the founding of MLS and offer a measuring stick for soccer in the US from when it last hosted the tournament in 1994.

As the Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes prepare to kick off the 26th MLS season this weekend, SportsPro presents its team-by-team commercial preview, bringing you all the major off-field developments ahead of the new campaign.

Major broadcast partners

Domestic (estimated total value: US$90 million per year)

United States: ESPN, Fox Sports, Univision

Canada: CTV, TSN, TVA Sports, DAZN (out-of-market package)

Select overseas

Mexico, Central America, Caribbean: ESPN

Honduras: R-Media

South America: ESPN

APAC & France: BeIN Sports

Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland: DAZN

Latin America & Caribbean: ESPN

Brazil: DAZN

UK and Ireland: Sky Sports, Premier Sports

North Africa: Abu Dhabi Sports

Sub-Saharan Africa: ESPN

Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands: ESPN

Middle East: Abu Dhabi Sports

Official partners

The teams

Eastern Conference

Atlanta United

Owner: Arthur Blank (AMB Sports and Entertainment Group)

Chief executive: Darren Eales

Stadium: Mercedes-Benz Stadium (shared with National Football League’s (NFL) Atlanta Falcons)

Arena operator: AMB Sports and Entertainment Group

Stadium naming rights partner: Mercedes-Benz (worth US$32.4 million a year, signed 2017, expires 2044)

2019 average home attendance: 52,510

Main sponsor: American Family Insurance (worth between US$3 million and US$4 million a year)

Sleeve sponsors: AT&T (left sleeve, value not reported); Piedmont Healthcare (right sleeve, worth between US$500,000 and US$1 million a year)

Local broadcasters: Bally Sports Southeast, Bally Sports South, WZGC (English radio), WAOS/WXEM/WLBA (Spanish radio)

Chicago Fire

Owner: Joe Mansueto

Chief operating officer: John Urban

Stadium: Soldier Field (shared with NFL’s Chicago Bears)

Arena operator: ASM Global

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A

2019 average home attendance: 12,324 (at SeatGeek Stadium which had a 20,000 capacity)

Main sponsor: Motorola (US$4 million a year, expires after 2021 season)

Sleeve sponsors: Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (right sleeve, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: WGN Sports, WRTO-AM (Spanish radio), WVIV (Spanish radio)

Columbus Crew

Owner: Dee and Jimmy Haslam, JW and Whitney Johnson, Pete Edwards

Chief operating officer: Tim Bezbatchenko

Stadium: Historic Crew Stadium/New Crew Stadium (from July)

Arena operator: Columbus Crew SC

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A (deal with Mapfre expired at the end of the 2020 season)

2019 average home attendance: 14,856

Main sponsor: Nationwide (US$3 million a year, length not reported) 

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: Bally Sports Ohio, Bally Sports Great Lakes, WBNS-FM (English radio), (Spanish radio) 

DC United

Owners: Jason Levien and Stephen Kaplan

Chief executive: Jason Levien

Stadium: Audi Field

Arena operator: DC United

Stadium naming rights partner: Audi (US$4 million a year, expires 2030)

2019 average home attendance: 17,744

Main sponsor: Leidos (expires after 2021 season)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters:  NBC Sports Washington (English TV), TeleXitos (Spanish TV), CBS Sports Radio (English)

FC Cincinnati

Owners: Carl Lindner III, Meg Whitman, Griff Harsh, Scott Farmer, George Joseph 

Chief executive: Carl Lindner III

Stadium: West End Stadium

Arena operator: FC Cincinnati

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A

2019 average home attendance: 27,336

Main sponsor: Mercy Health (US$5 million a year, expires end of 2028 season)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcaster: WSTR Star64 (TV), (streaming), WDJO (English radio)

Inter Miami

Owners: Jorge and Jose Mas, David Beckham, Marcelo Claure, Masayoshi Son 

Chief executive: Jorge Mas

Stadium: Miami Freedom Park (will play at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale until new stadium is completed)

Arena operator: Inter Miami

Stadium naming rights partner: AutoNation (three-year deal for Fort Lauderdale venue, signed 2021)

2019 average home attendance: N/A

Main sponsor: N/A

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: CBS Miami (TV), MyTV33 (TV, select games), CBS4 (TV South Florida), WAMI-DT (Spanish TV)

CF Montréal

Owner: Joey Saputo

President: Kevin Gilmore

Stadium: Saputo Stadium

Arena operator: CF Montréal

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A

2019 average home attendance: 16,171

Main sponsor: Bank of Montreal (worth CAD$4 million a year, long-term extension signed in 2018)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: TSN, RDS, TVA Sports (French TV), TSN 690 or CJAD (English radio), CHMP-FM (French radio)

New England Revolution

Owner: The Kraft Group

President: Brian Bilello

Stadium: Gillette Stadium (shared with NFL’s New England Patriots)

Arena operator: The Kraft Group

Stadium naming rights partner: Gillette (value not reported, extension signed in 2010, expires 2031)

2019 average home attendance: 16,737

Main sponsor: UnitedHealthcare (worth US$3 million per year)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: WBZ-TV, WBZ-FM (English radio), WAMG (Spanish radio), Inter Miami App (local streaming), 

New York City FC

Owner: City Football Group (CFG)

Chief executive: Brad Sims

Stadium: Yankee Stadium (shared with Major League Baseball’s (MLB) New York Yankees)

Arena operator: Yankee Stadium LLC

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A

2019 average home attendance: 21,107

Main sponsor: Etihad Airways (CFG-wide deal, expires 2021)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: YES Network, WNYE (English radio), WEPN (Spanish radio) WFUT-DT (Spanish TV), WQBA (Spanish radio)

New York Red Bulls

Owner: Red Bull

General manager: Marc de Grandpre

Stadium: Red Bull Arena

Arena operator: Red Bull

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A

2019 average home attendance: 17,281

Main sponsor: Red Bull

Sleeve sponsors: Provident Bank (left sleeve, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: MSG/MSG Plus, Bulls Live Online Radio (English and Spanish radio)

Orlando City SC

Owner: Flávio Augusto da Silva

Chief executive: Alex Leitão

Stadium: Exploria Stadium

Arena operator: Orlando City SC

Stadium naming rights partner: Exploria Resorts (value not reported, signed 2019, length not reported)

2019 average home attendance: 22,761

Main sponsor: Orlando Health (US$3.5 million a year)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: WRBW, LionNation TV (streaming), WYGM (English radio), WRSO (Spanish radio)

Philadelphia Union

Owner: Jay Sugarman

President: Tim McDermott

Stadium: BMO Field

Arena operator: Keystone S&E

Stadium naming rights partner: Subaru (multi-year deal, value not reported)

2019 average home attendance: 17,111

Main sponsor: Bimbo Bakeries (US$2.5 million a year, expires at the end of the 2023 season)

Sleeve sponsors: Subaru (right sleeve, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: WPVI-TV, WPHL, Localish, WWSI (Spanish TV) WHAT (Spanish radio)

Toronto FC

Owner: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

President: Bill Manning

Stadium: Subaru Park

Arena operator: Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment

Stadium naming rights partner: Bank of Montreal (worth CAD$1 million a year, expires 2026)

2019 average home attendance: 17,111

Main sponsor: Bank of Montreal (worth CAD$4 million a year, expires 2026)

Sleeve sponsors: GE Appliances (right sleeve, multi-year deal signed in 2020)

Local broadcasters: TSN, CHUM (radio)

Western Conference

Austin FC

Owner: Two Oak Ventures

Majority owner and chief executive: Anthony Precourt

Stadium: Q2 Stadium

Arena operator: Two Oak Ventures

Stadium naming rights partner: Q2 Holdings (deal signed in 2021, length unknown. Matt Flake, Q2 president and chief executive, told Forbes that the contract is worth ‘less than one per cent’ of Q2’s annual revenue, which was US$404.5 million in 2020)

2019 average home attendance: N/A

Main sponsor: Yeti (worth US$4 million a year, multi-year deal signed 2020)

Sleeve sponsors: Netspend (both sleeves, value and length not reported)

Local broadcasters: The CW Austin, NBC Austin, MyNetwork TV (all English TV)

Colorado Rapids

Owner: Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE)

Executive vice president and general manager: Pádraig Smith

Stadium: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Arena operator: KSE

Stadium naming rights partner: Dick’s Sporting Goods (worth US$2 million a year, signed 2006, expires 2026)

2019 average home attendance: 14,284

Main sponsor: N/A (deal with Transamerica expired at end of 2020 season)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A (deals with Western Union and World Financial Group expired at end of 2020 season)

Local broadcasters: Altitude Sports and Entertainment, KKSE (English radio), KTFD-TV (Spanish TV), KXDP-LP (Spanish radio)

FC Dallas

Owner: Clark Hunt

President: Dan Hunt

Stadium: Toyota Stadium

Arena operator: Frisco Soccer, LP

Stadium naming rights partner: Toyota (value not reported, ‘long-term’ deal signed in 2013)

2019 average home attendance: 17,744

Main sponsor: MTX Group (seven-year deal, value not reported)

Sleeve sponsors: Advocare (right sleeve, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: KXTA, KMPX-29 (Spanish TV), (English radio), KFLC (Spanish radio)

Houston Dynamo

Controlling owner: Gabriel Brener

President of business operations: John Walker

Stadium: BBVA Stadium

Arena operator: Anschutz Entertainment Group

Stadium naming rights partner: BBVA (worth US$2 million a year, signed 2011, expires 2021)

2019 average home attendance: 15,674

Main sponsor: MD Anderson Cancer Center (worth ‘more than’ US$4 million a year) 

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: KTBU, TeleXitos (Spanish TV), KLAT (Spanish radio)

LA Galaxy

Owner: Anschutz Entertainment Group

President: Chris Klein

Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Park

Arena operator: Anschutz Entertainment Group

Stadium naming rights partner: Dignity Health (ten-year naming rights deal worth more than US$6 million a season, expires 2029)

2019 average home attendance: 23,205

Main sponsor: Herbalife Nutrition (ten-year deal worth US$4.4 million a year, expires 2022)

Sleeve sponsors: Honey (right sleeve, value not reported), Herbalife Nutrition (left sleeve)

Local broadcasters: Spectrum SportsNet, (English radio), KWKW (Spanish radio)

Los Angeles Football Club

Owner: Peter Guber

President: Larry Freedman

Stadium: Banc of California Stadium

Arena operator: LAFC

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A (With Banc of Californa terminating its 15-year naming rights deal in June 2020, an early termination fee means LAFC received $36 million over the three years the deal was active. The stadium’s current name will remain in place while a replacement is found)

2019 average home attendance: 22,260

Main sponsor: Flex (worth US$5 million a year, five-year deal signed 2021)

Sleeve sponsors: Postmates (left sleeve, signed 2021, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: English-language TV rights unconfirmed, SPN (English radio), KFTR-DT (Spanish TV), KFWB (Spanish radio)

Minnesota United

Owner: William McGuire

Chief executive: Chris Wright

Stadium: Allianz Field

Arena operator: Minnesota United FC

Stadium naming rights partner: Allianz (value not reported, signed 2017, expires 2028)

2019 average home attendance: 19,723

Main sponsor: Target (US$3 million a year, expires 2021)

Sleeve sponsors: Allianz (right sleeve, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: Bally Sports North, WUCW, KSTP (English radio)

Nashville SC

Owner: John Ingram

Chief executive: Ian Ayre

Stadium: Nissan Stadium (shared with NFL’s Tennessee Titans)

Arena operator: Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County

Stadium naming rights partner: Nissan (worth US$5 million to US$6.5 million per season, signed 2015, expires 2035)

2019 average home attendance: Made debut in 2020

Main sponsor: Renasant Bank (US$3 million a year, expires 2023)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: WZTV, WUXP, WNAB, ESPN 94.9 Game 2 (English radio)

Portland Timbers

Owner: Peregrine Sports, LLC

Chief executive: Merritt Paulson

Stadium: Providence Park

Arena operator: Peregrine Sports, LLC

Stadium naming rights partner: Providence Health and Services (value not reported, signed 2014, expires 2029)

2019 average home attendance: 25,218

Main sponsor: Alaska Airlines (US$3.5 million a year, expires 2021)

Sleeve sponsors: TikTok (right sleeve, worth ‘slightly more’ than US$1 million a year)

Local broadcasters: KPTV, Root Sports Northwest, KXTG (English radio), KGDD (Spanish radio)

Real Salt Lake

Owner: Dell Loy Hansen (MLS handling franchise sale process)

Interim president: John Kimball

Stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium

Arena operator: Dell Loy Hansen

Stadium naming rights partner: Rio Tinto (worth between US$1.5 million and US$2 million a year, signed 2008, length not reported)

2019 average home attendance: 18,121

Main sponsor: LifeVantage (worth US$3 million a year)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: KMYU, KALL (English radio), KTUB (Spanish radio)

San Jose Earthquakes

Owner: Earthquakes Soccer LLC

Managing partner: John Fisher

Stadium: PayPal Park

Arena operator: San Jose Earthquakes

Stadium naming rights partner: PayPal (reportedly worth US$20 million, signed 2021, expires 2031)

2019 average home attendance: 18,781

Main sponsor: Intermedia (US$2.75 million a year, expires 2022)

Sleeve sponsors: PayPal

Local broadcasters: NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Bay Area, KSTS-DT Telemundo 48 (all English and Spanish TV), KTCT (English radio), KZSF (Spanish radio)

Seattle Sounders

Owner: Adrian Hanauer

President of business operations: Peter Tomozawa

Stadium: Lumen Field (shared with NFL’s Seattle Seahawks)

Arena operator: First & Goal Inc

Stadium naming rights partner: Lumen Technologies (worth US$162.7 million, signed 2019, expires 2033)

2019 average home attendance: 40,247

Main sponsor: Zulily (worth close to US$6 million a year and includes the NWSL’s OL Reign)

Sleeve sponsors: Emerald Queen Casino  (right sleeve, value not reported)

Local broadcasters: KZJO, KCPQ, Root Sports Northwest, KJR (English radio), KUNS-TV (Spanish TV), KKMO (Spanish radio)

Sporting Kansas City

Owner: Sporting Club

President and chief executive: Jake Reid

Stadium: Children’s Mercy Park

Arena operator: Sporting Kansas City

Stadium naming rights partner: Children’s Mercy Hospital (ten-year deal signed in 2015)

2019 average home attendance: 18,601

Main sponsor: The Victory Project (charitable partnership runs until end of 2021 season)

Sleeve sponsors: Children’s Mercy (left sleeve) and Compass Minerals (right sleeve)

Local broadcasters: Bally Sports Kansas City, WHB (English radio), KCZZ (Spanish radio)

Vancouver Whitecaps

Owners: Jeff Mallett, Greg Kerfoot, Steve Luczo, Steve Nash

Chief executive: Axel Schuster

Stadium: BC Place

Arena operator: BC Pavilion Corporation

Stadium naming rights partner: N/A

2019 average home attendance: 19,514

Main sponsor: Bell (CAD$5 million a season, multi-year extension signed in 2018)

Sleeve sponsors: N/A

Local broadcasters: TSN, TSN 1410 (English radio)

All figures quoted have been reported or estimated based on SportsPro’s assessment of the industry.

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