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MLS, Adidas sign new sponsorship deal with emphasis on player development

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By AVI CREDITOR

The development of youth soccer in the United States is largely seen as one of the areas that has the greatest room for improvement, and Major League Soccer and Adidas have appeared to take a step in attacking that issue.

MLS and Adidas replaced their current sponsorship contract by agreeing on a new, eight-year deal that runs through 2018 and puts an emphasis on resurrecting the reserve league and investing in youth development.

Adidas has been a league partner since the inaugural 1996 season. MLS and Adidas signed a 10-year, $150 million contract in 2004. The new deal, which will begin at the start of next season, is reportedly worth more than $200 million.

Though the current sponsorship deal still had four years remaining, Adidas reportedly approached the league about the new partnership agreement.

"We need to accelerate the model for soccer development in North America to attract and keep elite talent engaged and excited about professional opportunities in the sport," Adidas America president Patrik Nilsson said in a press release. "We share a long-term vision with MLS to develop the game and are excited to foster the next generation of American stars." 

"Our extension with Adidas is a major statement by an internationally respected brand that MLS is increasing in value and that our commitments to stadium construction, strategic expansion, player development and improvement in the overall quality of play are paying dividends," MLS commissioner Don Garber said. 

In addition to sponsoring the league's equipment and uniforms, Adidas also sponsors the Generation Adidas program that encourages pre-college-graduate players to join MLS (without their salaries counting against a team's salary cap) but also provides guaranteed college scholarships for players who don't end up making it in the league.

The extended contract between the two entities figures to foster youth development among soccer players even more by putting money into the reserve league, academy systems and other youth programs.

"The United States is a breeding ground for athletic talent, and we need to ensure our homegrown athletes have viable opportunities to play soccer at the highest level," Nilsson said.

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What do you think about the extended deal? Happy to see more of an emphasis put on youth development? Excited for the return of the reserve league?

Share your thoughts below.

Comments

  1. I live in gwinnett county north of Atlanta you can find a pick up game or a field to use at any of the Parks in the county, its not structure or futsal that will bring the next big thing its desire and opportunity the more kids that see an opportunity to play and make aliving then more kids will stay with it, and we ‘ll start to create pitch rats instead of gym rats.

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  2. Cheers to TV negotiations going extremely well….. I would totally love a switch away from Fox as they suck in their coverage and for that matter I would love a move away from ESPN because they care more about the EPL than MLS cause I hardly see highlights of MLS games on sportscenter….

    MLS needs to go to NBC like they were planning

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  3. Why can’t there be more men/women like you around the United States?? I’m 18 and would have benefited from something like this near my home in L.A. when i was growing up, now i have to work extra hard to get my skills better on my own. And its hard to do that when you can’t find a park where all they play is pickup basketball and no soccer.

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  4. this is so true. I too grew up (I’m 36) with a coach who knew nothing about soccer in an environment when it was rare to see televised soccer games. what technical/tactical skill I developed I had to learn mostly on my own. Now, I’ve got three young kids and if they decide to play soccer they will benefit from incredible access to soccer whether it’s online or on tv. And the coaching will only get better and better.

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  5. I agree with others that what is needed is for a soccer culture to develop that has kids playing in informal “pick-up” games. Ten or so years ago I was attending a soccer clinic in San Francisco put on by Ajax coaches. I remember them commenting about how, from their hotel room, they observed a pick up basketball game in a playground across the street. They were dazzled by the flow, creativity, and athleticism of the players and pondered why Americans didn’t play soccer like that. As a coach, I wanted that freedom of play for my team’s players, so, with some goal purchase seed money by my Palo Alto Soccer Club, I created a small-sided Spring Sunday “league” for kids in which the rules were simple: no coaches, no parents, small fields and goals, no goalies. My wife and I matched the teams by ability (e.g., the Hot Dogs vs the Green Slime). Everyone played a couple of games. The kids loved it and so did the parents. We ended up with hundreds of kids in multiple sessions, playing on 16 fields. And the kids got better. Shortly after my wife and I got a life again and handed the league over, the club dropped the activity. I also started a Futsal league to keep my girls team sharp during the winter. Again, the kids and parents loved it. Skills improved dramatically. When I and another guy who helped start the league handed it over, it lasted another year or two then died. These are exactly the kinds of activities that foster skill and joy for the game. I would hope that the Adidas money would be spent supporting these types of activities. Helping the grass roots with insurance, help with buying and storing goals, paying some high school kids to ref and run things, building outdoor (dirt even!) futsal courts could make the US a WC contender in a generation. Let’s hope Adidas puts the money into communities and not coaching clinics.

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  6. the rapids and galaxy kits are the nicest in the league. the key is simple. the rest have too many inlines, piping, and useless trims that just look like garbage. the philly poo poo brown away and rbny home/away have it the worst (im an rbny fan btw)

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  7. Bad news soccer fans. Aston Villa basically said thanks but no thanks to Bob Bradley. They want a coach with more experience. Sad news for Bradley and the National Team.

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  8. Yes, I know…what a poor poor ball this is. If you have played the game, you would instantly recognize how awful Jabulani is. I am still in disbelief as to how Adidas was allowed to massacre the game w/ this thing.

    Shame, really…remember the Tango in ’86?

    I hope the world’s biggest criminal, Sepp Blater, doesn’t allow Adidas to destroy the Brazil World Cup in 4 years…here’s to hoping!

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  9. Not just possible. adidas, FIFA, USSF, MLS are all in bed together (what a charming image) and if we’re going to host a WC in 2018 or 2022 these are the kinds of partnerships that will make it happen. I don’t think it’s smart, in the long run, to keep locking Nike out of the soccer club. But it’s just business, right?

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  10. It’s a great sign that the league is well regarded by people in the know. I’m hoping this is a pre-cursor to how the negotiations will go with the networks when re-visiting the TV contracts, and MLS will get significantly more money from their partners.

    While this money isn’t going to completely solve youth development in the US, it is certainly a nice step to help move things in the right direction by getting the reserve league back in action.

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  11. Since I didn’t elaborate on my comment to it’s full extent, then I can see why you take my comments as such and you’re argument is valid in a lot of ways. My opinion actually coincides with a lot of what you’re saying. In a way, our youth programs inhibit a lot of growth due to it’s structure. In fact I think it’s overly structured and usually there is too much emphasis on just winning, and not enough emphasis on developing the myriads of other natural facets of the game that come with playing a pick-up game (ala basketball in the US) or similar games with other young talents. So yes, you bring up a great point and I side with a lot of it, but saying it’s a cliche that skilled players will follow the improvement our youth development doesn’t seem logical. And yes, youth development might not be the ultimate key, but it’s the foundation for almost every player we’ve ever produced. That sounds pretty important to me.

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  12. I completely agree with Dan. I played soccer just 15 years ago and the coaching system has been completely changed. The coaches now have FSC, Gol TV, ESPN 2, they read the instructional books from the Netherlands and Portugal and as a whole are much better than what we had pre-World Cup 1994 where your coach was more likely to have played football and baseball growing up. Also, the more and more US players in the MLS the better our future coaching ranks will be. Many of the MLS players are encouraged to attain their coaching licenses and these former players will really help the system.

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  13. Klinsmann will be the next USMNT coach… this is clearly the direction he wants the US to take in order for him to take the USMNT job.

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  14. As long as they don’t force their horrendous Jabulani ball on the league…seriously, I had the misfortune to play w/ a Jabulani about a month ago. This was, by far, the worst ball in human history.

    Shame on Adidas for destroying the World Cup with that abomination…

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  15. I cant speak for everyone, but I know this. When I was a kid (i’m 34) I played club ball and the practices were much different then from what I now coach and what other coaches in our club coach. I think the coaching is much more advanced now in regards to techincal skills and tactics then it was 20 years ago. I’m not saying US youth coaches are at the level of foreign coaches (obviously)but to make a blanket statement that pretty much every coach out there has no clue is ignorant at best. I think the biggest difference between now and then is the free movement of information. he amount of soccer on television now and the internet lets coaching info move around, instead of isolating and containing it in certain pockets of the world. Before you bash every coach in the U.S., attend a training session or two…….

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  16. You are partially correct it’s not the system it’s the idea that winning takes precedence over playing. You would be surprised how many youth teams don’t just play the ball back and switch the field. That comes down to coaching at the youngest level

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  17. Not happy at all about it. Youth Development…. don’t see it actually changing. Youth development is as much about a soccer culture as it is money. The USA has oodles of money, soccer culture not so much.

    I hate the boring kits in this league, and leaving Adidas in charge of the design is a horrible decision if the MLS wants to sell more merchandise.

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  18. I think this is a pretty terrific comment, and something I’ve actually been thinking about.

    On the other hand, don’t you think that better structure and organizations will facilitate this in soccer, to whatever degree is reasonable?

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  19. I agree youth development is important to maximize what is there and to get promising players out from under awful coaches – but you hear a lot about how youth development is the ultimate key, but it’s so not.

    And I’m not criticizing this Adidas deal at all, it sounds great.

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  20. Great to have the money, but im getting bored seeing all the adidas uniforms. I miss the good ol days when other gear providers were around. Would be nice to see an American company like Under Armor putting out MLS uniforms at some point, but why look a gift horse in the mouth?

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  21. what you say is true. however, it’s foolish to think there is only one factor in making or doing…well…anything. there are going to be MANY factors that change before we are producing top class talent. however, one factor that is now being tackled is the one in the article. another, that will have to come with more and more soccer on TV and in the mainstream media, is the factor you bring up.

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  22. I always wondered why MLS doesn’t do the random change kit design/colors the rest of the world does. I mean, I guess there’s your answer, probably following the standard American custom. That’s one thing I like about other soccer leagues, even though it’s just an obvious money grab.

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  23. Once addidas achieved perfection with thier Colorado Rapids road light blue with burgundy trim, making jerseys for the rest of the league just wasn’t the same anymore. You can’t expect Michaelangelo to get as excited about painting the project that came AFTER the Sistine Chapel.

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  24. Do you know why USA produce the best basketball players in the world bar none? It’s not b/c of awesome youth development or whatever, it’s actually in spite of it. Do you think the AAU circuit and HS games w/out a shot clock create great players? No, we have the best players b/c the best young players are surrounded and play constantly w/ other great young players and you can find a game against good competition basically anywhere in the country for free and games from the best league in the world are always on tv and news and analysis on the NBA is everywhere and by default you learn a lot about bball just by being an American – I could go on and on here.

    The key is to help build a true soccer culture in the country – not this youth development cliche – and the skilled players will follow.

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  25. I think it was less the asking and more the funding.

    Anyway, great news all around. I have to pick up my U8 son some cleats today, and you can be 100% sure what brand they will be.

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  26. Adding to your point, I’d be happy if they just added some more variation within their color schemes and implement third kit color/designs.

    The standard home colors and generic away white kit are simply: boring, bland and uninspiring from a marketing standpoint.

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  27. if adidas would just redesign thier kit template to something other than “ugly” than this would be perfect! especially that nasty font that they use for names and numbers. adidas: take a note from nike/umbro and keep it simple.
    besides that this is great. the reserve league really needs to come back.

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  28. Dear Don Garber,

    Don’t talk about it…be about it.

    Get the reserve league going and suffer an intial financial loss for a long-term financial gain and higher quality product.

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  29. Agreed and like him or not: That’s EXACTLY what Klinsmann recognizes & wants to address.

    Whether that’s in the intial form of a manager or more of a broad role as director within the USSF, those outside our system/country have noticed there is a goldmine of athletes in this country and they’re consistently choosing other sports.

    I don’t believe Klinsmann is a savior but his potential addition to our program’s long-term future will likely have positive effects decades down the road.

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  30. funding the youth development program alleviates a big concern.

    however, the bigger issue and one that no one has really addressed in a meaningful way, is the development of coaching in the US. it doesn’t do any good to have young players forgo college in the hopes of playing professional ball if they are barely ready for the pro game. the continued over-reliance on the British system, with its emphasis on physicality over technique, is a big reason why our young players are nowhere near players of the same age from the more technical leagues. Germany, France, Holland (for the Europhiles) would be a good place to start; for the more Latin-minded, we could do worse than looking to Argentina, Uruguay, Spain…or even Mexico.

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  31. Yes, this contract is good for a number of reasons, but it still doesn’t necessarily tackle the true problems of developing talent in this country – which start at our youth levels. No doubt that this sport is growing and that we’re more talented across the board than 10 years ago, but we still have yet to produce a small crop of players that can compare to other world powers of the game. That’s not to say that I’m disappointed in our progress. Not at all. I think we’ve done amazing work in the past decade or so and we need to keep those baby steps coming. But… I think some of the fundamentals of our youth coaching need a serious overhaul if we are to develop players with supreme talent in the future. Just my take though.

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