2020 MLS kit, shirt and sleeve sponsors
Note: This article will be updated when new deals are announced.
Major League Soccer is growing, slowly but steadily. The average club value has risen from $37 million in 2008 to $240 million in 2018. Since 2008 the top-tier North American football league has gone from 14 to 26 teams, with David Beckham’s Inter Miami and Nashville SC the latest expansion teams.
With the MLS now allowing clubs to sell their sponsorship rights internationally and to have sleeve sponsors, we could well see the MLS’ sponsorship landscape change significantly in the coming years.
As in 2019, we take a look at the 2020 MLS shirt sponsors, the league-wide kit sponsorship deal and the introduction of sleeve sponsors.
Kit sponsor Adidas
Since 2004 the MLS has a league-wide supply deal with Adidas. Meaning that the German brand does not only supply league affiliates, officials and the match ball, they outfit all 26 teams. The partnership has been extended through 2024 and reports suggest that the current six-year deal is worth $700 million.
This league-wide approach differs from many major football leagues, where clubs are allowed to broker their own kit sponsorship deals. A policy that has led to a £75 million (around €86M) per year kit deal between Manchester United and Adidas and a €155 million per year deal between Barcelona and Nike.
In 2019 the City Football Group, consisting of eight teams worldwide including Manchester City and MLS team New York City FC, agreed a 10-year technical sponsorship deal with Puma. The deal is said to be worth £650 million and covers five of the City franchises. However, with New York City FC being part of the MLS, the City Football Group could not include their US franchise in the Puma deal. New York City and Manchester City do have the same shirt sponsor with Etihad Airways.
Although MLS teams cannot negotiate their technical sponsors, they are allowed to broker their own shirt and sleeve sponsorship deals. So there is a lot of diversity among shirt sponsors.
Shirt sponsors – key takeaways
- Columbus Crew and expansion team Inter Miami are the only two teams out of 26 without a shirt sponsor
- San Jose Earthquakes agreed a sponsorship deal with Intermedia after having no sponsor in 2019
- 23 different companies sponsor the 2020 MLS teams
- BMO is the only brand sponsoring multiple teams (2 – Montreal Impact and Toronto FC)
- Red Bull is the only company whose name is integrated into the team name – New York Red Bulls
It is interesting to see the kind of services and products these brands deliver to the market and to compare them with other leagues. For example if you look at the 2019-2020 Premier League shirt sponsors, 10 out of 20 shirt sponsors are gambling companies. The MLS has none. However, there are four healthcare related sponsors in the MLS, while the Premier League has none.
So in which industries are the MLS teams’ sponsors active?
We can roughly categorise the 23 different companies into 12 different industries. Six MLS teams have a shirt sponsor from the financial services industry. With the Bank of Montreal (BMO) sponsoring two teams, there are five financial services companies active as shirt sponsor. The healthcare industry comes second by sponsoring four teams.
Other industries with multiple companies sponsoring MLS teams are the multi-level marketing (3), telecommunications and airline (both 2) industries.
2020 MLS shirt sponsors per industry
Where do the shirt sponsors come from?
To break down the shirt sponsors origin we analysed where the companies have their headquarters. Key takeaways:
- Most of the shirt sponsors come from MLS countries: USA (19) and Canada (3)
- Two sponsors come from abroad; they come from UAE and Austria (both 1)
- 14 teams have a shirt sponsor from their home state or city
Note: The table below will be updated when new deals are announced. 2021 expansion team Austin FC will have YETI, manufacturer of outdoor products, as shirt sponsor.
|Team||Shirt sponsor||Industry shirt sponsor|
|Atlanta United FC||American Family Insurance||Financial services|
|FC Cincinnati||Mercy Health||Healthcare|
|Colorado Rapids||Transamerica||Financial services|
|Columbus Crew SC||–||–|
|FC Dallas||AdvoCare||Multi-level marketing|
|Inter Miami CF||–||–|
|D.C. United||Leidos||Security and technology|
|Houston Dynamo||MD Anderson Cancer Center||Healthcare|
|LAFC||YouTube TV||Pay television|
|LA Galaxy||Herbalife Nutrition||Multi-level marketing|
|Montreal Impact||BMO||Financial services|
|Nashville SC||Renasant||Financial Services|
|New England Revolution||UHC United Healthcare||Healthcare|
|New York City FC||Etihad Airways||Airline|
|New York Red Bulls||Red Bull||Beverage/Conglomerate|
|Orlando City SC||Orlando Health||Healthcare|
|Philadelphia Union||Bimbo||Food processing|
|Portland Timbers||Alaska Airlines||Airline|
|Real Salt Lake||LifeVantage||Multi-level marketing|
|San Jose Earthquakes||Intermedia Cloud Communications||Business technology|
|Seattle Sounders FC||Zulily||E-commerce|
|Sporting Kansas City||Ivy Investments||Financial services|
|Toronto FC||BMO||Financial services|
Introduction of sleeve sponsors in 2020
2020 will be the first season MLS teams are allowed to have a sleeve patch. The four-year pilot, announced in October 2018, will give the teams an extra income stream in addition to the shirt and other sponsorship deals. Reports suggest that a deal could generate anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million per year.
So far four teams have announced a sleeve sponsor, including D.C. United announcing gaming and gambling company Caesars Entertainment and LAFC retailer Target.
Note: The table below will be updated when new deals are announced.
|Team||Sleeve sponsor||Industry sleeve sponsor|
|Atlanta United FC||Piedmont Health||Health care|
|D.C. United||Caesars Entertainment||Gaming and gambling|
|Toronto FC||GE Appliances||Manufacturer|
MLS vs. Europe
With the league-wide Adidas deal, the MLS teams are limited in the amount of money they can generate from sponsorship compared to their European counterparts. However, with the introduction of sleeve sponsorships, the league’s growth and other rule changes, the MLS sponsorship landscape could well change significantly in the coming years.