Here are the five things we learned from the 2017 MLS All-Star game, as Real Madrid beat the MLS All-Stars on penalties in Chicago.
1. Adidas Pays Up
The big news at the All-Star game had nothing to do with the game itself. It was the announcement that Adidas has agreed to a new six-year, $700 million deal to continue as MLS’s official apparel supplier.
The numbers are eye-popping. Under the terms of this new agreement, Adidas will pay MLS $117 million per year. Adidas had been paying the league just $25 million per year since 2010.
So while MLS isn’t getting Real Madrid money, this deal is still impressive. Adidas’ deal, beginning this year, with the NHL? It’s for just $70 million per year for the next seven years.
The NBA is set to make just $130 million from Nike this year – and it’s worth keeping in mind that both the NBA and the NHL have 30 teams while MLS currently has just 23.
It’s a sign of the times. MLS continues to make financial inroads into the upper echelon of the American sporting landscape – and the growth of the league’s financial resources will be seen on the field. Another increase in TAM is coming for next season.
Don Garber called the announcement of the new Adidas deal a “seminal moment” for the league. He’s not wrong. On the apparel front at least, MLS has stepped firmly into the big leagues.
2. Miami Draws Close
The long odyssey to bring Major League Soccer back to Miami may finally be drawing to a close.
Garber said Wednesday that he is negotiating directly with Todd Boehly, who is set to become the majority owner of the club, on the final details of the deal – which could be announced by September 1st.
David Beckham, whose name has been associated with this project for so long, presented to MLS owners on Wednesday as well – and was complimented by Garber as “passionate, articulate, and focused.”
For the first time in years, the Miami bid is in a strong spot. Boehly, who is part of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ownership group, has serious money. Tim Leiweke, who has run both the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC, in onboard as well. A stadium site has been identified in Overtown on the city’s west side.
This being Miami, there are still potential roadblocks – including an eminent domain-related lawsuit threatening the stadium site – but the announcement of Miami as the league’s 24th club now feels inevitable.
Here’s hoping this venture into South Florida goes better than MLS’s last one did.
3. More Expansion News
Garber reiterated on Wednesday that the league plans to announce its 25th and 26th teams at MLS Cup. It currently plans to stop expanding at 28 teams.
Sacramento Republic, which began work on its new stadium intended last week, is a prohibitive favorite to land one of the next two spots this December.
Last week was always a good one for Detroit, whose prospective owners Dan Gilbert and Tom Gores took another step towards securing a downtown stadium site.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati – fresh off thrilling the American soccer world with that U.S. Open Cup win over Chicago at the end of June – is in that competition’s semifinals in will host the New York Red Bulls in two weeks’ time.
MLS has recently visited North Carolina, where the Charlotte and Raleigh areas are bidding for a team, and Nashville, whom Garber complimented that city’s support for the Gold Cup last month.
The expansion race, with twelve teams currently vying for four spots, is highly competitive – and it will only get more competitive as we move towards a vote this winter.
4. So Long Jelle Van Damme?
For reasons entirely personal, the LA Galaxy’s captain center back Jelle Van Damme could be on his way out of MLS.
Van Damme’s family has not relocated to the U.S., with his wife and two young children living back in Belgium. That separation, after a year-and-a-half away, is taking its toll.
“If I think about myself, I’m good in LA. If I think about my kids, I just want to go back,” Van Damme told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “[LA] always respected my situation and they helped me out wherever they could. But I feel the second year is getting harder and harder.”
There aren’t many must-watch defenders in MLS – or in the world at large – but Van Damme, ever a free spirit, is one of them.
More than that, though, Van Damme has in many ways been the face of the Galaxy over the last two seasons. He’s taken MLS seriously, is extremely well liked within the club, and has been one of LA’s few standout players.
The Galaxy have said that Van Damme isn’t going anywhere before the end of the season, but unless his family situation changes, he’ll likely be back in Europe come 2018. If that is what happens, LA and MLS will miss him dearly.
5. And As For The Game…
It was, save for a dose of excitement at the end, rather flat. The intensity from both sides was low, and the All-Stars’ lack of familiarity with each other was debilitating.
All-Star games work best in sports like baseball that are mostly – and in that sport’s case, almost exclusively – about individuals and individual matchups. It doesn’t work all that well in soccer, the ultimate team game.
That said, Dom Dwyer’s late equalizer for MLS and the resulting penalty shootout helped to give the crowd of more than 61,000 at Soldier Field their money’s worth.
Standout performers? Old man DaMarcus Beasley was forced into action after just three minutes when Greg Garza was forced off with an early injury, and was excellent in the face of considerable pressure. He remains an absolute marvel.
Diego Valeri, whose corner set up the MLS goal and took his penalty with panache. He’d show well on any field in the world.
As for Real Madrid? Looks like they’ll be just fine again this season. For Los Blancos, as well as the All-Stars, the real games resume in the blink of an eye.