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Soccer, or football as it’s called in virtually every country except the U.S., is gaining a larger and larger presence in the States. It is arguably the most popular sport on a global scale. Of course in the U.S. you can’t really have a presence until you have something with Major League in it, which is where Major League Soccer (MLS) comes in. The sport is growing in popularity, and this can be seen in a couple of ways.

Viewership

Summer is gone, but let’s not forget the World Cup, the biggest soccer event on the planet, one reason being that it only happens every four years, just like the Olympics. The number of U.S. viewers skyrocketed during the World Cup to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team, which contained several members of MLS teams on the roster. The viewer numbers dropped quite a bit after the World Cup ended, which was to be expected, but let there be no doubt soccer in the U.S. is here to stay.

Sponsorship

Sponsorship of MLS has changed. Budweiser has been knocked off the top sponsor list as Heineken USA just inked a deal for 5 years, and valued at $50 million to become the official beer sponsor of MLS. Neither of the groups are talking specifics of the deal aside from the overall value and term length. Heineken wanted to get a major place in U.S. sports marketing with the goal of increasing the brand’s sales in the U.S., which have declined in recent years. These big deals signify that MLS is growing in popularity and marketing value. According to Heineken’s research, there are over 70 million Americans who are fans of soccer, and these fans are more inclined to drink imported beers over domestic brands, thus sweetening Heineken’s interest in securing an official sponsorship deal. However, Heineken did not pursue in talks to gaining official beer sponsorship rights with MLS as it relates to the U.S. Men’s National Team. Maybe it didn’t make much business sense.

Expansion

Another obvious signal of the growth of MLS in the U.S. is the upcoming expansion teams, set to begin play for the 2015 season. The new teams are the New York City Football Club and the Orlando City Soccer Club, which are already getting set for Expansion Draft picks. Not only that, but Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank is also the owner of Atlanta’s MLS soon-to-be expansion team. The team’s stadium in downtown Atlanta won’t even open until 2017, but fans have already shown major support, with close to 15,000 fans putting in deposits for season tickets. Out in California, the Sacramento Republic Football Club is making a huge push to be considered as an MLS expansion team.

The club has been drawing investors into this project. Other expansion hopefuls include Charlotte, North Carolina’s Queen City Soccer Club, Inc., which just entered into the USL PRO league. It is a long-term goal for MLS entry. Down in Miami, superstar David Beckham and Sprint CEO partner Marcelo Claure remain adamant about building a stadium to hold an MLS expansion team in Miami. This has been very slow in development but the pair are sticking to their guns and trying to bring MLS to Miami, largely due to their belief that since Miami has a predominantly Latin population, it only makes sense to have an MLS team since soccer is the dominant sport in Latin countries.

Upcoming Matches

There are some upcoming matches being held in the U.S., with the U.S Women’s National Team taking on Guatemala and Haiti within the next few days, and multiple MLS matches upcoming. You can get your info on venues and tickets on Ticketbis.