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MLS licensees see continued gains; Henry displaces Beckham as top-selling jersey

For the first time since he joined MLS in 2007, David Beckham’s jersey is no longer the league’s top seller. The jersey of MLS’s newest international star, Thierry Henry, has replaced it.

The New York Red Bulls forward joined MLS last month and is on track to sell in excess of 50,000 jerseys this year, league officials said. Jerseys of Henry’s new teammate Rafael Marquez, a Mexican national team captain, and Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan also are selling well.

“People have been embracing both Henry and Marquez,” said Stu Crystal, MLS vice president of consumer products. “The Henry [No.] 14 jersey is the cool thing to have.”

The boost from Henry, Marquez and Donovan jersey sales have helped MLS extend its merchandise sales success this season. Sales for the league’s biggest licensee, Adidas, are up 17 to 19 percent, and novelty and niche licensee sales have doubled compared with the same period in 2009.

Upper Deck sales have tripled courtesy of an in-store program at more than 3,000 Wal-Mart stores, Crystal said.

Interest in soccer following the World Cup helped MLS to add three new licensees. Pro Towel Sports, Olympic pin licensee Aminco, and SkinIt, which makes customized wraps for electronics, have all signed agreements to become MLS licensees since the World Cup.

Crystal said the league expects the addition of expansion teams in Portland and Vancouver next year to help it continue to generate strong sales through the end of the season. The teams already have hats, scarves and T-shirts in their respective markets, and both are expected to add jerseys soon.

Beckham’s return to the Galaxy later this season also is expected to help MLS drive new merchandise business. He began practicing two weeks ago for the first time since injuring his Achilles last year.

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