SBD/Issue 235/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Nike Selling Ownership Of USL; MLS Not Interested In Buying

Nike has "put up for sale its" 100% ownership of United Soccer Leagues (USL), and MLS officials said that the league is "no longer interested" in buying it, according to Jack Bell of the N.Y. TIMES. The USL, the conglomeration of six leagues with teams in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, was founded in '86 and owned by Umbro until Nike bought Umbro in '07 for $582M. Nike has since "decided that being the owner of the league does not fit with its core business." MLS Senior VP/Marketing & Communications Dan Courtemanche in an e-mail said MLS "recently evaluated the opportunity to purchase the USL, but elected to not submit a bid for the league." The decision was the "result of several factors, including: MLS has a long-term deal with adidas; acquiring the league could raise potential antitrust issues; any agreement to absorb USL1 may rekindle FIFA's desire for promotion/relegation in MLS; and MLS has already poached USL teams from attractive markets in Toronto, Vancouver, Portland and Seattle." Bell notes Brazil-based Traffic, which owns USL Miami FC, other clubs and the "rights to players throughout the Western Hemisphere," could be interested in acquiring the league (N.Y. TIMES, 8/25).

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