MLS will allow teams to sell advertising patches on players’ shorts, an initiative to help organizations offset considerable losses amid the shutdown caused by the novel coronavirus.
The league, one person said, is also looking into allowing ads on the left sleeve of team jerseys. Four teams, including D.C. United, already have sponsor logos on their right sleeve, and all but one of the 26 clubs have large sponsor logos across the chest.
The purpose of the new uniform ads is twofold: create additional revenue during economic hardship and, as one person close to the situation said, to “make good” on current local sponsorship agreements, such as signage in home stadiums, which have been dark since early March and might not be open for the rest of the year.
Some sponsors have withheld payments to teams as they, too, confront financial difficulties following the coronavirus outbreak. MLS Commissioner Don Garber said last week that the shutdown has cost the league around $1 billion.
“This is one of many ideas MLS has discussed,” the league said in a statement Friday concerning sponsor logos on shorts. “But at this time, we do not have anything to announce.”
Ads on shorts would become the third advertising location on MLS uniforms. Since 2007, teams have been allowed to monetize the front of the jersey, much like most soccer teams around the world. This year, the league allowed small sponsorship patches on the right sleeve.
D.C. United since 2014 has partnered with Leidos, a government contractor, for the primary jersey sponsorship. Previously, it was aligned with Volkswagen.
This year, the team entered into a deal with Caesars Entertainment for the sleeve sponsorship, part of a broader pact involving a sportsbook opening at Audi Field.
Expansion Inter Miami is the only team without a jersey sponsorship.
The NBA approved patch-sized sponsor logos on the left shoulder in 2017, and the WNBA has allowed uniform advertising for many years.
More money matters
Several financially strained MLS organizations that own developmental teams are looking into sitting out the lower-division season, three people familiar with the situation said.
Neither MLS nor United Soccer League, which operates the second-division USL Championship and third-flight USL League One, wanted to comment.
One person said no decisions have been made. Another said an MLS team would have to negotiate such a move with the USL and might not be allowed to return in 2021.
Nine of the USL Championship’s 35 teams are owned by MLS organizations. That group include Loudoun United, which is run by D.C. United and plays in Leesburg. Loudoun United is not among the teams looking to skip the season, two people familiar with the situation said.
Four MLS teams are affiliated with USL Championship clubs. The rest are independent.
Five MLS organizations own a squad in 12-team USL League One, and one has an affiliation.
The pandemic forced USL Championship to go dark after one weekend of matches. It is tentatively planning to restart without spectators in a regional format July 11.
USL League One had been scheduled to open the season March 27. It is now aiming to start July 18.
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