SBJ/November 13 - 19, 2006/This Weeks News

SUM building tourney with 4 from MLS, 4 from Mexico

The battle for North American soccer dominance will begin next summer when Soccer United Marketing launches a new tournament pitting four MLS clubs against four Mexican league clubs in the first competition of its kind.

SUM is in the process of securing a name and developing marks for the tournament, which it hopes will build on the growing soccer rivalry between the United States and Mexico.

“With each passing year, that rivalry seemingly grows more intense,” said Nelson Rodriguez, SUM’s senior vice president of international business. “We’ve come to the realization that the natural extension now should go beyond the national teams to involve the club teams themselves.”

Discussions about the concept have circulated on soccer Web logs throughout the year, but the league had not committed to launching the tournament in 2007 until this week. With it, SUM adds a sixth soccer asset to its portfolio, and one with the potential to tap into the ever-expanding Hispanic market.

“This is a great way for SUM and MLS to deepen their bond with the Hispanic market,” said Brad Rothenberg, a partner with San Francisco-based BRC Group, which produces grassroots soccer tournaments for Latinos. “Imagine if 20 percent of the country were Japanese and you brought the Tokyo Giants over here to play the St. Louis Cardinals. You couldn’t hold everyone in Busch Stadium. That’s how big this can be.”

The tournament will begin with round-robin play between June and August, with the top teams advancing to a semifinal and final game. Locations and logistics are still being determined, but the winner will receive the largest tournament purse in North America, Rodriguez said, putting it at more than $1 million.

SUM has begun talking with current MLS partners about sponsorship opportunities. Packages will include rights to marks, field-board signs, pregame and halftime activities, and tickets to the games.

SUM hopes to sign roughly 10 partners to the property and plans to work primarily with existing MLS partners. Two deals have been reached orally but no contracts have been signed, according to Kathy Carter, SUM’s executive vice president of business development.

Media will be sold separately by Univision, which will be the exclusive broadcast partner of the competition. There will be no English-language broadcast.

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