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MLS exploring shorts, left-sleeve sponsorships

Major League Soccer currently allows front-of-jersey and right-sleeve sponsorship logos on team uniforms (Credit: Getty Images)

Major League Soccer is expected to allow its teams to sell sponsorship patches on shorts this year in an attempt to offset the devastating financial losses of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the Washington Post, teams have been given the green light to negotiate deals for such advertising logos in time for the “MLS is Back Tournament” in Orlando, Florida, this summer.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has said he expects the league to take a $1bn revenue hit due to the huge economic impact of the coronavirus crisis, which has enforced the need to stage a summer tournament a neutral single-site location.

Upon completion of the “MLS is Back Tournament,” the league plans to continue its regular season with a revised schedule in home markets, followed by the postseason. It is unclear if this will happen or if teams will be allowed fans in their stadiums, which has heightened the need for additional revenue streams.

Shorts sponsorships will also enable MLS teams to help meet contractual obligations with local sponsors, who, for example, have signage in stadiums which have closed for a number of months.

The league is also reportedly looking into allowing corporate logos on the left sleeve of team jerseys, but this potential move appears exploratory at the moment.

MLS has allowed right-sleeve sponsors since the 2020 season. Among the teams that have already signed up to the initiative are Atlanta United, LAFC, DC United, Sporting Kansas City, and Toronto FC.

The Washington Post also reports that a number of MLS teams want their affiliate teams in the USL Championship and USL League One to sit out the lower-league season for financial reasons. The second-tier USL Championship and third-tier League One recently signaled their intent to resume competition this year.

Elsewhere, the United States Soccer Federation says it is projecting a deficit of nearly $28m for the 2020 fiscal year, which is $16.8m more than planned.

US Soccer has already implemented a number of cutbacks including shutting down its boys and girls’ Development Academy, closing down the majority of its youth national teams until 2021, as well as staff pay cuts, furloughs, and layoffs.