In addition to allowing MLS teams to sign ‘marquee players’ like Beckham, during the past year:

* MLS announced its 13th team in Toronto with plans to expand to 16 teams by 2010. Several investor groups are vying to own those franchises, a prerequisite to which is the construction of a ‘soccer-specific stadium’ (six such stadiums will be owned/operated by existing teams in 2007; several more are expected by 2010);

* AEG sold its interest in MLS team DC United to a local investment group in Washington, DC. The deal drew the highest price paid yet for an MLS franchise and follows the sale of AEG’s NY team to Austrian company Red Bull;

* US-based media organisations responded to the potential of football in the US by signing television rights fee agreements for MLS and other US-based football properties. Four independent, multi-year deals were signed with MLS to provide regular football coverage in English and Spanish. These media companies – particularly ESPN, which has also invested $100m in FIFA properties – now have a significant vested interest in promoting soccer in the US;

* Major shirt sponsors were approved for MLS teams, the first for a major US professional sports league, with Real Salt Lake the first to announce a multi-million dollar sponsor. The LA Galaxy is now expected to earn shirt sponsorship fees in line with major European teams;

* Two European professional football teams – Crystal Palace FC (England) and Deportivo Alaves (Spain) – announced the creation of US teams in the United Soccer Leagues (USL). This foreign interest in the US market followed the 2005 launch of MLS side Chivas USA – expansion team of the famous Mexican side – and several affiliations between MLS/USL teams and international clubs;

* MLS announced a 2007 summer tournament pitting four of its teams against four professional teams from Mexico. The US-based matches are certain to appeal to the large and passionate Mexican-American community;

* Clint Dempsey, a 23-year-old US national team player, generated a MLS record transfer fee when he was sold by the League to Fulham FC of England’s Barclays Premiership. More than 50 Americans now play professionally in premier football leagues across Europe;

* From 2007, MLS teams are required to run academy-like youth development programs which are expected to result in the construction of several new football training facilities.

A new industry report explores these developments and more in great detail to help domestic and international businesses and investors better understand the background, demographics, landscape and changing trends that are expected to fuel football’s future growth in the US; while identifying associated opportunities.

Soccer in North America: The Commercial Opportunities is an objective and detailed report that provides a complete explanation of football’s diverse and unique structure – from the youth game to MLS and other professional leagues, including women’s football – while covering the most important commercial aspects of the sport, including media, sponsorship, merchandising, facilities and foreign investment.

For more information about this report – and for a chance to order your copy – click here.