US Soccer has extended its apparel partnership with Nike, a 10-year deal which is the largest and longest commercial partnership in the governing body’s history.
Nike will continue to outfit the men’s and women’s national teams, as well as the U.S. Soccer Federation’s junior, futsal, Paralympic and beach teams. The Oregon-based apparel giant (NYSE:NKE) will also help support the organization’s marketing, local programs and sustainability efforts.
“Nike is involved at all levels,” US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone said in an interview. “Their ability to help us tell our story and that of our athletes is tremendous. And then to bring cultural relevance out of the field by bridging the gap between football and art, lifestyle, music. Nike is going to help us and our athletes do all of these things. »
US Soccer called the extension “one of the biggest investments in world football”, but declined to provide details.
The deal comes amid a much broader shift in how US Soccer approaches its trade deals. In May, the organization announced it was parting ways with MLS-owned Soccer United Marketing (SUM), which has handled most of its commercial rights for the past two decades. The apparel deal has always been brokered by US Soccer itself, but from late next year the group will also contribute its media rights, non-apparel corporate partnerships and product rights. internal consumption.
Revenue from all these transactions can also be shared in new ways. The organization is still locked in a very public legal battle with its women’s national team over equal pay. US Soccer is currently in talks with player associations for the men’s and women’s national teams, and has separately offered an identical contract structure that includes revenue sharing.
“We’re a national 501(c)3 governing body, and that’s a really unique position,” US Soccer Chief Commercial Officer David Wright said in an interview. “But the benefit of the way we’re structured is that every dollar invested in US Soccer goes back to growing the game. So we have 23 national teams, including senior national teams, expanded national teams at the youth level, then para, beach and futsal, all of which are critically important to the growth of the game. And all of that will benefit from aligning with a brand like Nike.
The new expansion begins in January 2023 and covers a critical decade for football in the United States. Not only is America co-hosting the 2026 Men’s World Cup, but the 2028 Summer Olympics will be held in Los Angeles, and US Soccer has spoken out on a potential bid to host the Women’s World Cup. in 2031.
“So now you have a 10-year run that is unlike any 10-year run for football in the United States,” Wright said. “And specific to our discussions, you can imagine there was great interest from other global brands.”
Nike has been America’s soccer partner since 1995, the year after the 1994 World Cup USA team wore denim-inspired Adidas kits (which Slate once called the “ugliest jerseys in American football history”). At the time, it was a big step for Nike, which still spent mostly on running and basketball, and was just beginning to challenge Adidas in world football.
Now, however, Nike is one of the corporate driving forces behind the sport. And while US Soccer has heard from other ventures, Parlow Cone said it was “a no-brainer” to stick with the organization’s 25-year-old partner.
“Our values align very well and our vision aligns very well,” she said. “It was really interesting when we pitched, we could have exchanged pitches because they were so similar. They could have presented ours, and we could have presented theirs. And at that moment, I knew that Nike was going to be the best partner for us.