Major League Soccer (MLS) was once an afterthought in the grand scheme of American professional sports. But now, the league is propelling itself into the forefront of sports fans’ minds.
The 2023 season was a great one for Major League Soccer. MLS commissioner Don Garber called 2023 a, “transformational year.” The league debuted St Louis City SC, who shocked the world by earning the #1 seed in the Western Conference. They even announced the addition of their 30th team, San Diego FC, scheduled to join the league for the 2025 season.
Attendance was at an all-time high. The league set a single season attendance record with 10.8 million spectators attending matches throughout the year, which is up nearly 9% over the 2022 season. A matchup between TicketManager partner, LAFC, and the LA Galaxy became the most attended MLS match ever with over 82 thousand attending the matchup at the Rose Bowl.
This growth is thanks to the culmination of years of work from the league and its staff, but three key advancements can be credited for much of this significant development: the addition of new on-the-field talent, new media advancements, and the increased interest and investment from sponsorship partners.
New On-The-Field Talent
Lionel Messi. Enough said.
The addition of arguably the greatest player in the history of the sport will undoubtably help a still growing league like the MLS. Messi is signed through the 2025 season and has even brought some of his famous costars with him. Two of his former teammates, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, have already jumped ship to Inter Miami and now, it is all but confirmed that international star Luis Suárez will also join the already loaded squad.
While it is always great to add the best talent to any league, it is particularly great for the MLS. The addition of these foreign stars adds significant legitimacy to the league that is still very young in the grand scheme of international soccer. Hopefully these athletes have trailblazed a path for more of the world’s best to join the US’ most successful pro-soccer league.
New Media Advancements
The MLS kicked off the season with the start of their groundbreaking broadcast deal with Apple including the launch of the “MLS Season Pass” on Apple TV. This 10-year, $2.5 billion worldwide partnership between the league and the tech giant is a match made in heaven. Apple has been public with their desire to reach the youngest and most diverse audience possible through this deal, and the MLS can give them just that.
This monumental deal also included a never-before-seen revenue sharing agreement between Apple and Lionel Messi, which was a significant factor in Messi’s decision to join Inter Miami.
The league also saw all-time high social media engagement. The league added over 5.4 million followers across their many social media accounts. MLS saw a 26% increase in followers on TikTok (+2.2 million) and over 2 million new followers added to their Instagram page. Traffic across club’s and the league’s websites were up 55% in 2023 as well.
Sponsorship is key for any league to continue growing, and the MLS knows that. The 29 teams in the MLS saw a $587 million dollar increase in total sponsorship revenue, a 15% increase over 2022. The average number of sponsorships deals per team also grew from 65 to 75 this season.
The league saw several key renewals as well. Another TicketManager partner, Adidas, extended their partnership with MLS for six years, through 2030, for a record $830 million. Adidas will continue to supply on-the-field jerseys, training apparel and the official game ball for all 29 MLS organizations and the MLS’ new development league.
March of 2023 also saw our partners, Ticketmaster, named the official ticketing partner of Major League Soccer, replacing SeatGeek. The deal runs through the 2026 world cup and will see Ticketmaster facilitate all league level ticket sales along with 17 of the MLS’ 29 teams who also have Ticketmaster as their ticketing partner.
Nothing is stopping Major League Soccer from continuing this upward trend. Soccer is undoubtably the #1 sport world-wide but has yet to get to the top in the States. If the MLS keeps progressing as they are, the sky is the limit for the league!