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MLS Reaches Sponsorship Agreement With Adidas

Tuesday, October 5, 2004; Page D02

In the biggest sponsorship deal in its nine-year history, Major League Soccer has reached an agreement with Adidas on a 10-year contract worth an estimated $150 million, officials from both groups confirmed yesterday. An official announcement could come today.

Adidas, the German-based sports apparel firm, will become the official athletic sponsor and licensed product supplier to MLS starting next season. The company has sponsored three MLS clubs -- D.C. United, Columbus and Kansas City -- since 1996 and will add Dallas, Colorado, San Jose and the Los Angeles and Salt Lake City expansion teams next year. It will get New England, New York/New Jersey, San Jose, Chicago and the other Los Angeles team (the Galaxy) in 2006.

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Adidas also will provide the league with its official ball and become the only athletic brand with advertising rights for all MLS games as well as the 2006 World Cup telecasts on U.S. networks. (MLS's marketing arm owns the U.S. broadcast rights for the next World Cup.) MLS, which has lost hundreds of millions of dollars since its launch, will allow its contracts with its other team suppliers -- Nike, Puma, Reebok and Atletica -- to expire after this season and next. Nike, however, will continue to have strong ties to American soccer as sponsor of the U.S. men's and women's national teams and endorsement deals with Freddy Adu, Landon Donovan and Mia Hamm.

"We see U.S. soccer as one of the top growth markets in the world," Adidas Managing Director Erich Stamminger said in a telephone interview from Germany. "We are confident that this partnership will accelerate the building of MLS."

Stamminger and MLS officials declined to specify the amount Adidas will pay MLS, but a source close to the negotiations said "it's in the $150 million range."

The deal also increases the likelihood of MLS teams playing exhibitions against prestigious Adidas-backed clubs, such as Bayern Munich and AC Milan. Stamminger mentioned the possibility of a major European team facing an MLS all-star squad in the near future.

-- Steven Goff

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