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US Soccer, MLS sign international media rights deal with IMG


Photo by Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports



Both U.S. Soccer and MLS have experienced rapid domestic growth in recent years, but the two leading U.S.-based soccer entities have now found a partner to increase their presence on the global scale.

The two organizations announced on Wednesday that they have formed a new partnership with global sports media giant IMG, which will now market and distribute both MLS’ and U.S. Soccer’s global media rights for the next eight years.

The agreement, which will run until 2022, excludes media rights in the U.S. and Canada.

“As Major League Soccer approaches its 20th season, the worldwide interest in the league is at an all-time high and growing dramatically,” said Gary Stevenson, president and managing director of MLS Business Ventures. “With two new expansion clubs in New York and Orlando, global stars like David Villa, Frank Lampard and Kaka set to join the league, and players representing almost 60 countries, 2015 will be an exciting year for MLS. IMG’s expertise and unique position in the global marketplace make them the right partner for us and together we’ll grow the league’s global footprint.”

“We have a large number of fans who live outside the United States, and with the team’s performance in the 2014 World Cup we’ve brought in additional new fans,” said U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn. “It is important for us to provide them with access to our matches. We are excited to be working with IMG to ensure we are connecting with our fans across the world in the coming years.”

The deal will include MLS, domestic games for U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams and qualifying games for the next two World Cup cycles.

What do you think of the partnership with IMG? What do you expect to come out of the deal for the two organizations? How far can the deal take the two in the next eight years?

Share your thoughts below.


    • Because MLS plays on Wednesdays and Thursdays, days that most of the 31 teams above it are dormant?

      Want to try again, or did you want to spew more sarcasm disguised as a serious question?

    • Very simple Norman:

      1.) There are Americans that live abroad.

      2.) There are foreign players that play in MLS, and their fans might be interested in watching them just like USA fans watch Sunderland games because of Jozy.

      3.) Unlike the USA and a few other select countries; most nations tend to love soccer more than any other sport. They are soccer junkies. So if there is an MLS game on during a time when there isn’t any other soccer game on from another country’s domestic league, they might watch. (granted that this is probably the lowest percentage scenario)

  1. Does this eliminate/affect the Traffic Sports “sell the rights” to the highest bidder model we saw in the last cycle for US away qualifiers?

    • No, it doesn’t affect it at all because this deal is for the rights to US and MLS games to be broadcast in all countries other than the US and Canada. Traffic Sports bought rights similar to these for other CONCACAF countries to show those games in foreign markets, which for those countries includes the US. It’s two completely different deals negotiated with two completely (actually a lot more than two) parties.

  2. I live abroad and I have traveled extensively in Asia and Europe. I have been out having a beer and seen an MLS game on TV plenty of times in a number of countries, but never a US match (other than the world cup). This deal benefits US soccer more than MLS in my opinion.

    • Bu bu but domestic TV ratings! Which are entirely irrelevant since this deal is for foreign markets!

      I can’t believe people with usernames like “cosmosfan” are being so ridiculous and anti-MLS here… what a shocker!

  3. sounds good. mo’ money both on domestic and international deals — hopefully a much larger salary cap, development system and scouting/technical staff to follow.

    one question i have; so if MLS benefits from USSF’s popularity, all good – as long as Don’s league cooperates as much as they can – does the Canadian National Team, NASL, USL Pro, others involved in North American soccer directly benefit? I guess they all benefit from the general growth of soccer indirectly.

  4. You assume it is MLS piggybacking on the USMNT when it is entirely possible that there is more demand to watch MLS and it is the other way around.

      • Yes. In the U.S.

        Except… they’re not catering to or buying the rights to a US viewing audience.

        Is it outlandish to think a fan in England or Spain or wherever might be more inclined to tune in to a match with Henry, Kaka, Lampard, Keane or Villa than to check in on the career of Bradley? How about a Central American fan. Just as US fans tend to favor watching clubs with US nationals, a Honduran fan may be inclined to do the same.

        By sheer number of games, they are investing in, will be showing their audience much more MLS than USMNT. The fact that MLS has an odd schedule with large chunks of it’s season when it doesn’t have to compete with other countries leagues and provide soccer to starved fans can’t hurt.

    • There is no way MLS outdraws USMNT team on average ratings. Last I checked, there was almost an 8-fold difference in favor of the USMNT. What I will say that USSF helping MLS is in the interest of USMNT in terms of giving some players a place to play and develop.

      • Of course you are right for domestic US viewers. But this is about international viewers and there things might be less clear-cut.

        MLS games that feature Henri, Cahil, Keane, etc. and are played on days not in conflict with EPL, LaLiga, A-League, etc. may do better than USMNT games played on international dates which puts them in competition with Spain, French, Irish and English national team games on the same days.

  5. Why is it that the USSF is always letting MLS piggy back on their deals for the USMNT? I mean we all know they collude together for MLS’s benefit, but why is it the deals being made by the USSF in TV and media rights only going to help MLS and not the USL or NASL, two leagues equally under the purview of the USSF?

    Recently, it was the TV contract, a contract that inflated the actual value of the MLS rights because it packaged the USMNT qualifier rights (previously MLS and USSF through SUM got the last deal by mortgaging off the WC rights); now its global media rights.

    A few weeks ago USSF revised its D2 standards conveniently to make it harder to maintain and excluded MLS from some of those requirements in the first division.

    Garber came out and practically admitted MLS and USSF work together and shape policy together when he critisized JK for his opinion on MLS. I hagve to think lawyers are taking notice of all this stuff.

    • Valid point. MLS has quite a bit of money between attendance, sponsorhips and tv deals. USL and NASL tend to struggle. A little bit of money thrown to the lower leagues can go a long way to stabalizing and growing lower divisions in US.

    • We’re all cogs of a bigger machine, my friends. I’m thinking by USSF helping MLS out in this or any way, that strengthens MLS. From the big picture perspective, USSF building MLS will enable MLS to then turn around and use their platform to strengthen NASL and USL with USSF’s help.

      You already see some of this happening with the MLS-USL Pro partnerships. But take it a step further and think of it differently. At the lower levels, in some smaller markets, teams can barely break 5000 in attendance. The median teams averaged less than 3000 spectators over the 2014 season. There are also teams that averaged less than 600 fans per game over the 2014 season. It just simply doesn’t make sense to invest resources into helping all of the leagues at the same time. Resources would be spread too thin. The better solution would be to strangthen MLS, give them the tools and put them in a position where they can bring NASL and USL Pro up, and take it from there.

    • cuz they are building this ship top-down.

      first we will have decent National Team

      then a first division

      then, if we have any interest/time/money the second and third division…

      doesn’t make any sense but that’s how its happening. idk what IMG does but it sounds profitable.

    • Because starting MLS was part of US Soccer’s bid for the 1994 World Cup and it’s success will be inextricably linked to the US’s chance of hosting any future cups. The MLS clubs have been getting soccer specific stadiums built, investing in youth development, and numerous other things that benefit the USSF. It is a partnership and always has been. The USSF subsidizes the Women’s Professional Soccer League. At least the MLS clubs are on there own financially.

    • You shouldn’t use the name Cosmosfan when you whine about MLS getting priority in the USA. Just makes it so easy to view your post as sour grapes.

  6. Yet another big reason why Klinsmann is so stupid for always publicallly criticizing MLS, soccer in the US, and national team players. No wonder Garber was so furious with this deal about to be inked.

    • Klinnsmann has a valid point. MLS wants to take top American players making millions, give them a few million more and surround them with players making 200k. When they’re already playing with millionaires. So tell me where is the better competition? I don’t think Klinnsmann was comparing MLS to Belgium, Norway or Championship.

      • That is the main problem with MLS. The league would be much better if teams had 10 500K guys instead of one 4 MIL guy surrounded by 10 100K guys.

      • I agree. What really mattes in terms of quality is how skilled the median or average player is and what the median players is paid.

        1/2/3 players of millionaire quality doesn’t mean much when the other guys are of 70k quality.

    • I’m sure JK was not in the loop. If he had, I’m sure he would have waited for the deal to close before making his comments. I’m chalking this one up to a lack of foresight by the MLS front office; this seems to be a disturbing trend. The Don has no one to blame but himself.

    • Klinsman has a right to critique MLS quality because the elite 10 or 15 USMNT players (not including the 10 or so MLS players that will always be there) need to playing against elite, world class competition (if they can do it) if we really to move to a consistent quarterfinal/semifinal team. That level of elite competition and talent has increasingly become concentrated into the elite 5/6 leagues in Europe over the past 25/30 years. MLS would need roughly (conservatively) 100 upper echelon players to even think of competing with Bundesliga or even France. Think I am exaggerating? That is only 4/5 players per team. I think that is VERY conservative.

      • Anthony, think about it, brasil had a top domestic league in South America during the 90s, when they were basically in three world cups. Argentina had the top domestic league in South America during the eighties, when they were the kings of football. Why not be more enlightened by the facts?

      • Argentina and Brazil still have the top leagues in South America. And, by they way, even in the 80-90s, the best Argentinian and Brazilian players played in Europe (e.g. Maradona, Ronaldo, etc.).

      • Euros nob, did maradona go to Spain when he was 13? Or how about Ronaldo? Their games were groomed in Argentina and brasil respectively, as would messi’s if any Argentinian team could have afforded his procedure.

      • you could also say that a lot more brasilians and Argentinians are playing in Europe today as compared to 25 years ago, and the results show that this has helped Europe, but has maybe hurt brasil and argentina. it has not of course hurt those individual players, making bigger bank, and acquiring that euro passport for their kids.

      • Maradona didn’t even gain fame playing for barca, they were just as amazed by his skill as anyone. Maradona gained fame going to a middling club and lifting them to a higher level.

      • Now you completely lost me. The original poster referenced Klinsi’s comments and Klinsi talked about the USMNT players, not 13 year olds. Ronaldo moved to Europe when he was 17, Neymar moved when he was 21, Maradona moved, when he was 22. Nobody argues that their youth development took place in Europe, but once they reached a certain level it was time for them to move to a stronger professional league than their home-country could offer. I wish our youth development system was on par with Brazil and Argentina, but this debate is not about where 13 year olds should develop.

      • No, this debate is about the importance of a strong domestic league, which has been proven to be the strongest indicator of World Cup success.

        There are far more barzilians playing at the highest levels today in Europe than there was a generation ago. Same thing goes for Argentinians, yet neither country has seen their success increase in the World Cup. That’s just fact. In fact, what they have seen is a loss of duel nationals due to this increase in players moving abroad. I don’t know, maybe this just isn’t clear for some people.

      • Dikranovich, I am responding to your post below. You take unremarkable facts, like the increase in the number of Brazilian and Argentinian players that play in Europe and draw sweeping inferences that do not necessarily follow. Do you realize that Argentina played in the final of the last WC? And, the Argentinian team that was WC with Maradona was not nearly as talented as this one, but Maradona carried them throughout the tournament. Dude, the competition is much tougher than in 60-70 when Brazil dominated or in 80, when Argentina had two good world cups. Let’s examine your statement about the “importance of a strong domestic league, which has been proven to be the strongest indicator of World Cup success.” Really? If the strength of domestic league is the strongest indicator of the WC success, why does England suck so bad at the WC? I guess the proof is in the pudding, lol.

      • its ok eurosnob, you did not realize that Argentinian clubs won ten copa libertadores, during the time they were also in three world cups, and you probably forgot that maradona did not even play on the 78 winning team.

        you probably also did not realize that during the ten year period which saw brasil play in three world cup finals, brasil club teams won six copa libertadores, and played in nine finals during the years between 92-02.

        you have seemingly laughed off the fact that most of all of brasils top players are in Europe, along with argentinas. yes, argentina was just in the finals, but, brasil has not been since 02, and before this, argentina had not been to a final since 90. an Argentinian club team also won the most recent copa libertadores.

        I think maybe you don’t understand the history as well as you think you do.

        and you think you prove your point using England as an example, why? because England is the best league in the world? according to you?

        spain has been the top domestic league in the world, and it helps to have the two richest clubs, but look eurosnob at what spain has done in Europa league. when you see spains club success, its easy to see why they have been so competitive these past ten years.

        the best indicator for success at a world cup is a strong domestic league, and really one that has parity, which drives the competition. Germany is more successful when dortmond, and the likes are pushing munich, just not in a world cup year in a different hemisphere. during that year, it is good for the top teams with the most national team players to wrap up the season early, and be well rested for the summer.

      • “Why not be more enlightened by the facts?” Dikranovich, I really need to apologize because I had no idea that I was dealing with someone who had such poor grasp of the facts and suffered from poor reading comprehension. In which case, let me break it down for you further.

        Point 1 – I stated “that elite competition and talent has increasingly become concentrated into the elite 5/6 leagues in Europe over the past 25/30 years”. From late 80’s onwards, EU nations released limits on foreign players in their leagues (for example in the early 80’s Serie A teams had a limit of 2 non-Italian national on their teams). As the EU outlawed barriers for movement of EU citizens within the EU and countries removed limits of non-EU players on their teams, once power house teams in Romania, Hungary, Portugal, lost their most talented players to the elite 5/6 leagues that paid the most. This happened to Brazilian and Argentinian players as well, but movement was not as easy as non-EU The best players went to the most prestigious, highest paying leagues. That became more evidence in 2000’s and mid 90’s. Look at the other leagues that used to produce UEFA Champions leagues Champions (Eredivisie, Romania, Portugal). In the 70’s and earlier, the best players were not as concentrated in 5 leagues. Most if not many stayed in their domestic leagues.

        Point 2 – Your facts are wrong. The Brazilian National team of the 90’s who won the ’94 World Cup and finished 2nd in ’98 had starting line-ups that were primarily based in Europe. The ’94 starting 11, 8 of the 11 were playing in Europe (all Top 5/6). 2 of the other 3 ended up playing in Europe. In fact, 2/3 of the entire squad played in Europe. All this while Brazil was with either 1st or 2nd best league in Latin America. The ’98 team, only had 4 of starting 11 players play in Brazil. Only 9 of the 23 played in Brazil and Futebol Brazileiro is very, very good. I know. I have been to Brazilian several and always make sure to catch a game when I am there (I checked a huge Copa Libertadores in Sao Paulo).

        Point 3 – Argentina in 80’s was caught in the evolution of and opening of EU football. 86 team was primarily based in Argentina. The ’90 team was young and primarily based in Europe. That is 24 years ago and the beginning of the slow concentration of players in Elite leagues in Europe which painstakingly evident now.

        Point 4 – You do not help yourself when you talk about the relative strengths of the league. JK has stated that he wants the best players playing in the most competitive environments. MLS is not that strong. Argentina and Brazil are much, MUCH stronger and deeper. Even now, the average player in Campeonato Brasileiro and Argentina’s Primera División and much better than players in the MLS. I am all for best USMNT coming to MLS if the league gets much better. That takes more than 10/15 players on the USMNT. You do not get better playing against weaker competition. When I say at least 100 quality players to even think of being considered to be close to Brazil or France, I am very serious. That is only 4/5 quality players per team.

      • Anthony, I think you take liberties with what is what, but whatever. Brasil and Argentina have appeared in one finals between the two of them over the last three world cups. In the six world cups before that, they appeared in five finals between the two of them

        Please explain now, where is the evidence that sending your top players to Europe is going to help the cause of an American national team?

        Having a top domestic league is really the key to World Cup success, and you know what, I’m not sure coach klinsmann would disagree.

        This thing should be multi pronged, not just this way or that.

        So yes euro snob and Anthony, it would be nice to have 3-5 Americans or 20 playing at the highest level in Europe, but that alone is not winning USA a World Cup. It’s just not. I sure hope you can wrap your cranium Maximus’s around that.

        The same leagues have always been good, not much has changed. Power has become more concentrated? I don’t know. Liverpool won 17 English titles back in the day, or whatever it was, and since the start of the premiere league, Man U have caught up.

        It’s nothing enlightening to think the champions league winner is going to come from Italy, Germany, Spain, or England. I guess Portugal was the last country to break in with Porto winning champions league ten years ago. PSG is going for it also.

        What it really looks like, is the best players from Argentina and brasil going to European top leagues has helped European teams more than it has helped Argentina and brasil.

      • two of the last four world cups have been won by first time winners. to me, that is evidence of power becoming less concentrated, and to eurosnobs credit, those first time winners have been European teams.

        I think when we start winning concacaf champions league titles, we are going to find ourselves a lot further along with our national team as well.

        and clearly, south America wants the competition from the north, and when MLS teams start competing in copa libertadores, that is our future. this should be crystal clear to every US soccer fan.

        I mean jesus, mexico does not have as many players in Europe as the USA, but what they do have is a strong rep in south American continental club tournaments, and you know what, it showed at the world cup. heck, dos santos, nevermind….. im shaking my head with you two. you have been programmed through thought control.

      • dikranovich, no offense, but you are really making assumptions and drawing erroneous conclusions based upon available evidence, to put it mildly. I have never said Europe or bust. I have said (repeatedly) that players should seek to play at the highest level where they can get consistent playing time. JK has said the same thing about elite USMNT players pushing themselves at an elite level. Frankly, it is evident that is not MLS (far from it). I am not saying go to Europe to go to Norway or Scotland. Aim to go to Top 5/6 or maybe Netherlands if you are still fairly young.

        I have said I would prefer players to stay here, but the level of play is not high enough. Level of play in Mexico is higher; Colombia – higher, Brazil & Argentina – significantly higher. One does not have to play at a relatively high level to see that (even though I played at university level and I have friends who played at different youth national teams and pro level). We all agree the level here is considerably less. It is not even close to Mexico in terms of depth of technical quality. I have been saying MLS would need 100 quality players at least (not the elite 10-15 on the USMNT), but two of my friends still involved in high level coaching say that they think the number is much higher. Some teams need 4/5 players, but other teams need a whole starting 11 to even think of competing with the bottom Top 5/6. Top of Mexico, top of Brazil and top of Argentina can definitely compete with the bottom of Top 5/6.

        Ideally, you would have a great generation of players and have them playing together as core on a team in an elite league: Spain- Barcelona, Germany-Bayern. However, that is not as common: France ’98, Brazil ’02. Evidence has shown that having the best domestic or strongest domestic league is not necessarily the indicator of success. The Dutch don’t and they have been to 3 of the last 4 semifinals, and they all play on different teams. England had the best league in Europe from the mid-70’s through mid-80’s where they won 7 Champions leagues and lost in the final 2 other times with 4 different teams, but they didn’t qualify for the World Cup for 12 years. France was the best team in the world between 98-2002 but their league was never better than 5/6. Between 82-86, they were arguably the 2nd bet team in the world and their was not strongest. Quality domestic league helps, but it really is not the key (again England). If anything, a strong domestic league goes to depth of squad, but your stars have to be playing with and against stars.

        Talent has become concentrated because the smaller countries or leagues no longer keep their elite players past a certain point. They get sold off to bigger teams in bigger leagues. Do you think Netherlands will have a winner again unless things change? Their last great team, Ajax 94-96 (de Boer brothers, Rijkaard, Seedorf, Edgar Davids,Kluivert, Kanu, Finidi George, Marc Overmars, Blind) would all be sold off to bigger teams in bigger leagues, the great Marseille team of the early 90’s wouldn’t stay together unless they had PSG money. Even when Porto snuck with the Mourinho, most of the starting team and impact subs were sold off. In the last 20 years, only 1 team outside Germany-Italy-Eng-Spain won the champions league (Porto ’04). In the 20 years previous to that, 6 of the winners (and 7 of losing finalists) came from outside the big 4 leagues.

        “What it really looks like, is the best players from Argentina and brasil going to European top leagues has helped European teams more than it has helped Argentina and brasil.” Or it could be that this is one of the weaker Brazilian teams in recent memory. They would get owned by the Ronaldo Brazilian team, which had stars in Europe. Argentina was 1 or 2 poorly placed shots by Higuain from winning. However, it looks more like traditionally weak teams are getting better.

        Finally, the last thing that I actually agree with you is MLS should continue to develop and eventually try to get into Copa Libertadores, and start winning CONCACAF champions league.

  7. From what I heard, MLS gets decent money for Intl rights. MLS is somewhat popular in the Middle East especially in the summer when there’s no European soccer.

  8. “The agreement, which will run until 2022, will exclude media rights in both the U.S. an Canada.”

    I assume we’ll be huge overseas, then… ?


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