U.S. soccer failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and MLS television viewership figures remain minuscule (272,000/game on ESPN), but there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of America’s top level soccer league. MLS teams averaged more than 22,000 fans/game (a 60% increase from 2000) in 2017; 7th among global soccer leagues and comparable attendance to that of Italy’s Serie A league. A 2nd team will begin play in Los Angeles next season and the league is preparing to award 2 new expansion franchises (Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville & Sacramento) scheduled to begin play in 2020. Fourteen of the league’s 23 teams have soccer specific stadiums (with 3 more under construction) and player salaries are on the rise. Some top American teens are still choosing to go overseas (see: Christian Pulisic and Josh Sargent), but it is worth noting that more than 250 players who played at MLS youth academies since 2007 have earned first team league contracts.
Howie Long-Short: Adidas (ADDYY) anticipates sales of the company’s soccer jerseys will increase in 2018, boosted by the sponsorship of 3 World Cup tournament favorites (Germany, Spain and Argentina). Eleven (up from 9 at ’14 WC) of the 32 teams competing in Russia (including the host country) will be wearing ADDYY kits, the most of any apparel provider; Nike (NKE) has 10 teams (also had 10 at ’14 WC). Adidas has ensured it will see significant exposure at the ’18 tournament, even if the teams it sponsors are eliminated early; the company is the manufacturer of the official match ball.
Fan Marino: MLS’ Board of Governors is going to award MLS franchises to 2 cities later this month; Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are the finalists. Representatives from each will meet in NYC on Wednesday, to plead their best case in front of the league’s expansion committee. The committee will then meet with the balance of the league’s owners; with a decision expected shortly after the board’s scheduled meeting on December 14th. I should point out that Toronto FC is playing Seattle for the MLS Cup, Saturday at 4p EST on ESPN.
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