MLS: 25th Season Official Game Ball Unveiled

MIAMI, Fla. (November 11, 2019) —

Next season is still almost four months away, but we now know what next year’s official Major League Soccer game ball will look like.

Shortly after the Seattle Sounders FC lifted the MLS Cup Sunday, Major League Soccer and adidas revealed the official match ball for the league’s 25th season.

Say buenos días to the 2020 MLS NATIVO XXV.

The 2020 MLS NATIVO XXV ball celebrates the league’s 25th season. By incorporating blue and green accents, it pulls inspiration from MLS’ original logo and its first-ever match ball in 1996.

The ball, which will go on sale online and in stores on January 2, 2020, is the first of “a series of initiatives” planned to celebrate MLS’ 25th anniversary, according to the league office.

Adidas says the ball has its most sustainable design to date. It is made of 100% water-based materials and print colours.

In addition, the “Hi-White” material used is supposed to allow players to see the ball better on the pitch. The ball is constructed of the same high-performance structure and panels as recent World Cup models.

The new MLS NATIVO XXV is one of the many ways MLS’ will celebrate its milestone year. In the coming months, MLS will unveil a series of initiatives to celebrate 25 years and to kick off a new decade of soccer in North America.

It is also expected that next year’s kits for the clubs will also pay tribute the the 25th-year anniversary of the league’s founding. Now if only MLS would bring back 3rd and alternate kits . . .

Chicago Fire Announce Return To Downtown Chicago; Sign La Liga Player

The Chicago Fire will return to Soldier Field.

MIAMI, Fla. (October 25, 2019) —

The club announced its return to the iconic downtown stadium, where their home opener will be versus Atlanta United on March 21, 2020. As earlier reported on Russo Soccer, the plans have been known for months, but the Fire waited to announce the official news on the anniversary of the club’s establishment in 1997.

In an open letter to The Chicago Suntimes Fire owner Joe Mansueto wrote: “On this anniversary of both the Great Chicago Fire and the founding of our team, it is my pledge to deliver a world class club worthy of our city and one that represents all of Chicago – our neighborhoods, our people, our communities.” He added what has by now become a familiar theme about soccer uniting people, saying, “The game we love has a unique ability to unite us all – and when Chicago is united, we can accomplish anything. It is my honor to invite a new generation to stand with us, as we make our stand for you.”

The Fire previously played at Soldier Field from 1998-2001 and 2003-2005 before relocating to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois, where they have played for the last 14 seasons.

The club did not qualify for the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs and have already seen veteran Bastian Schweinsteiger announce his retirement this offseason.

Moving back to Chicago is a logical and needed step to reconnect with the city. Bridgeview was hard to get to from the urban core of Chicago and few people made the effort.

There was some talk about rebranding the team away from the megapopular NBC TV show and away from the worst disaster in the city’s history. This author thinks that would be a good move, and the rebrand would not even have to be that dramatic to present a stronger, more positive image.

Chicago Sign Spanish Midfielder Álvaro Medran

In other Chicago Fire (the MLS club) news, in early October the Fire completed the signing of the 25-year-old Spanish midfielder. Medran had played the previous five seasons in LaLiga, making 91 appearances and scoring 11 times. He was developed in the Real Madrid youth academy and signed with Los Blancos for the 2014-15 season, making six appearances that season. He was part of the Real Madrid side that won the 2014 Club World Cup.

Medran eventually played for Getafe, Valencia, Deportivo Alavés and spent last season with Rayo Vallecano. Medran was also capped three times for Spain’s U-19 team, and once for their U-21 team.

A free agent, Medran was signed using Targeted Allocation Money (“TAM”) and his contract runs through 2021, followed by two club options. As is the case in MLS. the financial terms of his contract were not disclosed.

Coach Veljko Paunovic and the Fire have completed the signing of Alvaro Medran.
 Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Real Madrid CF Will Not Seek Naming Rights For Estadio Bernabéu

Club will not seek naming rights partner for the revitalization of the Bernabéu Stadium; Has “great opportunities” in business without changing the name of the stadium.

Miami, Fla. (Thursday, July 25, 2019) – Kenneth Russo

What’s in a name? In the case of a famous one, a reason not to alter it.

One of the world’s most iconic football stadiums will not be adopting a corporate name. This news came from Real Madrid Club de Fútbol’s Global Head of Partnerships, David Hopkinson.

As reported in Spanish publication ReasonWby.Es, Hopkinson had been interviewed and asked about this ahead of the World Football Summit 2019. It was believed that Real Madrid would seek a stadium naming rights partner. He commented, “Anything is possible, but to put a corporate name on the stadium probably would be incorrect. There are places around the world that are iconic and must be respected.” (“Hay lugares en todo el mundo que son icónicos y deben respetarse”) He also added that Real Madrid enjoys an extraordinary assortment of income-generating opportunities that do not involve adopting a corporate name for the home of Los Blancos.

“Hay lugares en todo el mundo que son icónicos y deben respetarse”

While the stadium’s name is not changing, many aspects of the stadium will be. The club is planning a complete transformation of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, which is expected to take until 2023 to finish.

Madrid’s ambitious plans for a “digital stadium of the future,” were made possible after securing loans totalling €575 million (£497 million/$641 million USD) in April, 2018 from two US-based financial institutions: Bank of America Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan. They will start repaying the loans in 2023 at a fixed 2.5 percent interest rate through 2049. The club will service an annual debt of €29.5 million per year on the project throughout the period.

Hopkinson, a Canadian, (and graduate of McGill University) was hired in summer of 2018, after having worked with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), where he was the Chief Commercial Officer. MLSE is the parent company of Toronto Football Club (MLS), the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL) and Toronto Raptors (NBA). Explaining the overall business strategy of Real Madrid, Hopkinson said that Real Madrid believes the more it is able to internationalise its business, reputation, and fan base, in the process making the club a global enterprise, the more opportunities the club will have with sponsors around the world.

“Cuanto más podamos internacionalizar nuestro negocio, nuestra reputación, nuestra base de fans, para globalizar este negocio, más oportunidades tendremos con patrocinios en todo el mundo”, detalló.

La renovación incluirá un techo retráctil, nuevos servicios y experiencias diseñadas para los fanáticos, que aprovecharán las posibilidades de lo digital.

The renovation will include a retractable roof, new services and experiences designed for fans, taking advantage of the latest in digital stadium technology.

While a football club can expect millions of dollars to have a corporate name on its stadium, in the case of Real Madrid CF, Hopkinson believes the benefit of not changing outweighs the increased revenue. Reaching that conclusion was probably also made easier by the fact that Real Madrid was looking for a naming rights sponsor but actually had difficulty attracting one. Potential sponsors were cautious to invest given the status of the stadium as one of the most famous in the world. It was thought, and altogether realistic to believe, that people would still refer to the stadium as the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu no matter what corporation sponsored the venue.

Video: Real Madrid CF

ReasonWhy.es: El Real Madrid no busca un nombre comercial para el estadio Santiago Bernabéu

Sports Pro Media: Oct. 2018: Réal Madrid Struggle For Naming Rights Deal


Photo Gallery (credit: Real Madrid CF)

Chicago Fire Negotiating Stadium Lease Buyout And Possible Rebrand

Chicago Fire News:

Will There Be An Early Termination Of The Lease at SeatGeek Stadium?

According to the sports publication The Athletic, citing multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations, Chicago Fire and Major League Soccer are in discussions with the Village of Bridgeview to arrive at an early termination of the lease with the municipality, thus allowing the team to move out of SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Illinois.

The discussions began last year and are ongoing, and it is unclear what the potential price of the buyout would be.

Some details of the deal first emerged on social media via the Twitter account of a Fire fan, James Vlahakis. From 2013 to 2016, he worked as outside counsel for the Fire while at the firm Hinshaw and Culbertson LLP. His Twitter activity suggests that he is a passionate fan who is sometimes critical of the team’s management.

[Attorney Vlahakis is currently suing the team and president Nelson Rodriguez in an unrelated matter alleging assault, discrimination, conspiracy, and malicious prosecution.]

The Fire Soccer Club are currently in the fourteenth year of a stadium lease that was signed in 2005 and runs through the end of the 2036 season.  An agreement to buyout the lease would allow the Fire to relocate to Soldier Field in downtown Chicago.

The club refused to provide any details, telling The Athletic: “We don’t comment on social media speculation from individuals outside the organization.”

One source indicated that Chicago billionaire and Fire minority owner Joe Mansueto has been instrumental in these negotiations. It is always difficult to obtain any financial date from the respective clubs making up MLS, which is organized as a limited liability company. It is known however that Fire majority owner Andrew Hauptman sold a 49 percent ownership stake to Mansueto for an undisclosed amount in 2018.

Mansueto is an influential player in the Chicago commercial real estate arena, having bought the historic Wrigley Building in downtown Chicago for $255 million last year.

Further evidence of the team’s desire to leave Bridgeview comes from the fact that public records show the Fire have been active in dealings with the City of Chicago in recent months. For example, lobbyist filing data shows that, “Chicago Fire Soccer Holdings, LLC” paid three lobbyists from the firm Fletcher, O’Brien, Kasper & Nottage a total of $72,000 for activities between October 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018, seeking administrative action from the mayor’s office regarding “real estate matters.” 

The Fire also declined to comment on the lobbyist activity. 

Bridgeview, Illinois And The Lease

The Village of Bridgeview is located some 24 kilometres (15 miles) outside of the downtown Chicago area, and depending on the time of day and where one is coming from, can be difficult to access. Google Maps, SeatGeek Stadium/@41.831867,-87.8385522.

For this reason, escaping from the lease at SeatGeek Stadium would be an important boost in the team’s ability to reach new fans. The Fire’s stadium in Bridgeview is also not easily accessed via public transportation — it requires a train ride to Midway Airport followed by a bus ride from the airport to the stadium, a commute that takes over an hour from the city. It is also a traffic-filled 45-minute drive from most places in the city.

MLS is a party to the stadium lease, a practice that was commonplace with third-party leases in the early days of MLS, but is no longer a regular practice. Rumours circulated that other league owners will be contributing toward the buyout of the SeatGeek Stadium lease, but league sources said there are no plans for other team owners to contribute. Three separate sources familiar with ownership discussions said no such arrangement has been presented to owners of other MLS teams, and that it would be unlikely other teams would agree to such a plan. 

In an interview with Sports Illustrated last month, MLS commissioner Don Garber hinted a move back to Soldier Field could be in the works for the Fire. The team played at Soldier Field from its inaugural season in 1998 through 2002, then again from 2003-06 after a brief hiatus during the NFL stadium’s renovations. SeatGeek Stadium opened midway through the 2006 season. 

“We were playing in Soldier Field and we ended up going into a stadium that is not downtown, does not have the things around it that many of our other urban parks do,” Garber said on the Planet Futbol podcast. “And if things could work out properly maybe we end up back at Soldier Field at some point.”

MLS Commissioner Don Garber

But while moving into the city of Chicago would certainly help access a millennial demographic that has been vital to the growth of MLS around the country, it should not be considered a cure-all for a team that has struggled mightily on the field. The Fire have finished ninth or tenth in the Eastern Conference in four of the past five years, creating a mix of frustration and apathy even within its most diehard fanbase. And while the team has spent more on its on-field product, signing players like Bastian Schweinsteiger and Nemanja Nikolic, it lacks in several areas of infrastructure and support, including training grounds and a scouting network.

The lease with the Village of Bridgeview imposes a significant restriction, one which prohibits the Fire from playing any MLS home games outside of Bridgeview, without the express permission of the Village. According to two sources, MLS commissioner Don Garber flew to the Chicago area to meet with Bridgeview mayor Steven Landek ahead of the MLS All-Star Game announcement in 2017 in hopes of securing a Chicago Fire regular season match at Soldier Field during that season. League officials held off on an announcement that the All-Star game would be held at Soldier Field in order to pair that announcement with the Fire game, and team and league officials were optimistic a deal had been struck. In the end, however, Bridgeview declined to allow the game.

Chicago-Fire-Default-2

Possible Rebrand Also In The Works?

“We’re still in that process, and I think refresh is the word we like.”

Nelson Rodriguez, Fire GM

Multiple sources confirmed meetings have also been held regarding a potential team rebranding, though no decision has been finalized on whether that will include a new team name. Vlahakis’ tweet indicated that the Fire would rebrand as “Chicago City Football Club” as part of the move back downtown.

Fire general manager and president Nelson Rodriguez said on the record in a roundtable discussion with reporters last summer that the team has considered a brand “refresh.”chicago-fire-logo-png-chicago-fire-logo-vector-299

“We’re just still in that process, and I think refresh is the word we like,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not an overhaul, it’s not a major change. It’s an iconic badge. There’s a lot of great history at the club, a lot of great work from people that came before (COO John Urban) and I arrived, which we think should be honored. We will continue to honor that, but times change, there needs to be a little bit of an evolution and I think we need to hone in on what our voice is for today, and that’s what we’re working on.”

The Fire, which won MLS Cup in its inaugural season in 1998, holds a historic place in the league’s history. Conversely, the brand has almost no resonance in the city of Chicago, where game days are mere blips on the radar of most city residents and bigger media outlets in the market do not provide regular coverage. That lack of market penetration, paired with the dreadful management of a franchise that has made the playoffs just twice in the last nine seasons, has created a massive problem for the league as a whole. MLS, which is eyeing a new media rights deal in 2021, needs to remedy its lack of interest in the third-largest media market in the country.

A Fire rebrand would follow the model set by the MLS franchise in Kansas City, which rebranded from the “Kansas City Wizards” to “Sporting Kansas City” in 2010. That rebrand, paired with a new stadium opened in the summer of 2011, has been one of the success stories in MLS. That rebrand and new stadium, however, was buoyed by the consistent success of the team and charismatic coach and Sporting Director Peter Vermes, supported by a large infrastructure investment on the part of the investors owning the team. Kansas City’s MLS  franchise, which won an MLS Cup as the Wizards in 2000, stands out as one of the league’s few “original 10” teams that experience success in their home market.

Before And After:  Kansas City Rebrand

Kansas_City_WizardsSporting_Kansas_City_logo

 

 

 

 

Other MLS original clubs have struggled to keep pace with recent expansion teams, including two other teams that have rebranded: FC Dallas, originally the Dallas Burn, and the New York Red Bulls, originally the New York/New Jersey Metrostars. The Red Bulls, while a success on the field and with a top-class stadium, have not seen that translate in its attendance figures. Other MLS original franchises that are struggling to make a big impact within their market include the New England Revolution, Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew. Columbus nearly relocated before being saved by new ownership, while Colorado and New England, like Chicago, have struggled in most seasons over the past decade; New England has just three playoff appearances since 2010, Colorado has four, and the Fire have just two.

Those on-field struggles have showed themselves at the gate. The Fire has an average announced attendance of 15,723 over the past nine seasons, and has averaged just 11,029 in three home games this season, the worst in MLS—just below Colorado and New England.

A chance to get back into the city could provide a jumpstart, but negotiations with Bridgeview have been tricky in the past. One source pointed to a recent example to show that no deal is done until the papers are signed.

Reviews of SeatGeek Stadium on Yelp

New Source of Revenue Coming to MLS in 2020

MLS mirroring the trend in other leagues around the world.


Miami, FL (Wednesday, January 23, 2019) by Kenneth Russo –

Major European leagues have it. The trend has been adopted in North America by the NBA. And now, your local Major League Soccer club will have a new look with the 2020 season.

In an announcement last October 23, 2018, the league approved clubs to add a sponsored sleeve patch on team uniforms. In addition to the sponsor on the front of a kit (jersey), clubs will be able to place a second sponsor on the right sleeve of the game shirt. The league’s badge will remain on the left sleeve, tailored to match the club colours.

The size of the sponsored sleeve patch will replace and be roughly the same size as the existing MLS logo on the right jersey sleeve, which is roughly 2.5 by 2.5 inches (6.35 x 6.35 cm).

The league badge will remain on the left side.

The league will allow clubs to create their own sales strategies. Clubs can also decide whether the sleeve sponsor patch will be sold on shirts sold at retail. There are currently restrictions on some categories, such as alcohol and gambling, but those are under review by the league. There are also restrictions aimed at providing protection for some current league partners. For example, Nike cannot negotiate a sleeve sponsor deal, as the league has an apparel supplier contract with Adidas to supply all uniforms. (see Official Apparel Supplier) Securing a sleeve sponsor is also only available to those clubs that have already secured a primary kit sponsor.

The sleeve sponsor initiative will be for a four-year term to begin with, though given the additional revenue it will generate (Sleeve Sponsorships), I foresee the program being extended.

“The sleeve patch is a premium opportunity for brands to be connected with our League and clubs in mutually beneficial ways,” said Gary Stevenson, president and managing director, MLS Business Ventures. “As our League continues to expand, and with more fans in the U.S. and Canada viewing our matches, attending our games, and engaging on social media, the visibility of the sleeve patches will be substantial.”

Creating space for additional corporate sponsors is a growing trend that has only recently been embraced by some North American sports leagues.

Last season (2017-18), the NBA allowed jersey ads for the first time, and now all but three of the league’s 30 teams have sold the space, driving a wide range of revenue. The defending champion Golden State Warriors have a three-year, $60 million USD deal with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, Inc., also the kit sponsors of FC Barcelona, while the Utah Jazz have a deal with Qualtrics LLC’s cancer charity for $4 million USD per year. The Miami Heat have a sponsor patch deal with Weston, FL based Ultimate Software. Heat partner with Ultimate Software

The basketball league’s 21 patch deals in place last season generated $493 million worth of media awareness, according to valuation firm GumGum Sports. According to Forbes and GumGum Sports, the 2.5 by 2.5-inch patches are generating over $350 million worth of value just through exposure on social media (75 percent of the value), with 25 percent of value coming from TV broadcasts.. The only other signage in the NBA that generates that much revenue is the Nike logo stitched on NBA jerseys.

Many sponsorship deals for the NBA patches started as low as $5 million over three years, yielding a return on investment of 70 percent for the sponsors. Others have paid between $20–60 million for these sponsorship spaces and still see an ROI of over 5 percent. In contrast, the NFL, NHL, and MLB have all resisted the trend, thus far.


Related:

Bloomberg article – 2018-10-24/major-league-soccer-lets-teams-sell-more-ad-space-on-jerseys

Want to Establish a Great Culture at Your Soccer Club? Do this first.

Miami, FL (Tuesday, January 15, 2019.)

At the core of any successful company is a great culture. To establish one, think about how you want your company to impact the world. Where does one begin this?

Football (Soccer/Fútbol) clubs are no different. What do two of the largest clubs have to say about this? What does a new club do first?

Read more to find out with the link below!

Continue reading Want to Establish a Great Culture at Your Soccer Club? Do this first.

Inside the MLS’s strategy to become the ‘sport of the new North America’ | The Drum

The Drum finds out how America’s premier soccer league is embracing marketing and technological innovation to compete with titans like the NBA and NFL and win over a new generation of sports fans.
— Read on www.thedrum.com/news/2018/09/05/inside-the-mlss-strategy-become-the-sport-the-new-north-america