By AVI CREDITOR
The development of youth soccer in the United States is largely seen as one of the areas that has the greatest room for improvement, and Major League Soccer and Adidas have appeared to take a step in attacking that issue.
MLS and Adidas replaced their current sponsorship contract by agreeing on a new, eight-year deal that runs through 2018 and puts an emphasis on resurrecting the reserve league and investing in youth development.
Adidas has been a league partner since the inaugural 1996 season. MLS and Adidas signed a 10-year, $150 million contract in 2004. The new deal, which will begin at the start of next season, is reportedly worth more than $200 million.
Though the current sponsorship deal still had four years remaining, Adidas reportedly approached the league about the new partnership agreement.
"We need to accelerate the model for soccer development in North America to attract and keep elite talent engaged and excited about professional opportunities in the sport," Adidas America president Patrik Nilsson said in a press release. "We share a long-term vision with MLS to develop the game and are excited to foster the next generation of American stars."
"Our extension with Adidas is a major statement by an internationally respected brand that MLS is increasing in value and that our commitments to stadium construction, strategic expansion, player development and improvement in the overall quality of play are paying dividends," MLS commissioner Don Garber said.
In addition to sponsoring the league's equipment and uniforms, Adidas also sponsors the Generation Adidas program that encourages pre-college-graduate players to join MLS (without their salaries counting against a team's salary cap) but also provides guaranteed college scholarships for players who don't end up making it in the league.
The extended contract between the two entities figures to foster youth development among soccer players even more by putting money into the reserve league, academy systems and other youth programs.
"The United States is a breeding ground for athletic talent, and we need to ensure our homegrown athletes have viable opportunities to play soccer at the highest level," Nilsson said.
What do you think about the extended deal? Happy to see more of an emphasis put on youth development? Excited for the return of the reserve league?
Share your thoughts below.