US Soccer Brings Marketing In-House After 20-Year Run With SUM

The U.S. Soccer Federation and Soccer United Marketing announced they will cut contractual ties after 20 years when their current exclusive marketing pact expires at the end of 2022, with U.S. Soccer deciding to bring its commercial rights in-house.

The decision is the latest in a series of changes at the sport’s U.S. governing body, which has made major leadership moves in the past three years—replacing its president, CEO and top lawyer, among others. The end of the contract coincides with the run-up to the men’s 2026 World Cup, set to take place in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

U.S. Soccer will take control of the sale of TV and other media rights, and will likely hire a significant in-house staff for those deals as well as sponsorships.

For the past 20 years, SUM, the for-profit marketing arm of Major League Soccer and rights-holder for the lucrative U.S. tours of Mexico’s national team, has worked closely with U.S. Soccer. The partnership has helped U.S. Soccer’s bottom line, but the nonprofit federation’s relationship with MLS and SUM has been criticized at times, including ahead of the 2018 U.S. Soccer presidential election.

U.S. Soccer and SUM released a joint statement Sunday, saying the split was amicable. “While U.S. Soccer has made this important business decision, the Federation is deeply grateful to (MLS commissioner and SUM CEO) Don Garber, Gary Stevenson and the entire staff at SUM for helping us reach so many of our goals and objectives during the past two decades,” said U.S. Soccer CEO Will Wilson. Wilson added that because of the relationship with SUM, his organization “has a bright future within the sports landscape as we look to take the next step in the evolution of U.S. Soccer and continue to strive to be the preeminent sport in the country.”

Garber added: “Soccer United Marketing is proud to have worked closely with U.S. Soccer for nearly two decades to elevate soccer in this country. During the last two decades, SUM’s support of the federation was steadfast, and we achieved all of our goals to improve the commercial value of U.S. Soccer.”

The joint statement said the relationship between MLS, SUM “will continue to be a priority and remains a critical component to the overall development of the sport at the highest levels.”

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