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Sky Sports adds even more choice with MLS deal

MUMBAI: For the first time, Sky Sports has won the rights to broadcast exclusively live Major League Soccer (MLS) from the US.

The agreement follows the announcement of the new deal to show even more live Premier League matches and further strengthens Sky’s position as the home of sport in the UK.

The four-year MLS deal begins in March, bringing coverage to Sky Sports viewers. With former England captain Steven Gerrard announcing that he will sign for LA Galaxy in July, and Frank Lampard set to join New York City this summer, Sky Sports will be the only place to follow the fortunes of two Premier League legends in the US.

Sky Sports secured 25 new rights agreements in 2014, and that has continued this year with recent deals for international and domestic cricket with the ECB and exclusively live coverage of the Open Championship from 2017, as well as even more Premier League football from 2016.

Sky ambassadors Thierry Henry and David Beckham both played in MLS for a number of seasons, and many high profile players both from the Premier League and elsewhere in Europe have signed for clubs in the US in recent seasons including Robbie Keane who was the 2014 MLS MVP and MLS Cup Champion with the LA Galaxy.

Sky Sports MD Barney Francis commented, “Football in the US and Canada has enormous potential for growth and we can’t wait to bring this competition to our viewers for the first time. Thierry Henry has joined us, he created fantastic memories in MLS, and we look forward to seeing more of those great stories from across the Atlantic.

“We offer an unrivalled range of sport across our seven channels and we are always looking to offer more choice. After recently adding football from Holland, Italy and UEFA European qualifiers, we are delighted to now add MLS to that list.”

MLS Business Ventures president, MD Gary Stevenson said, “As MLS continues to grow into a global brand, we are excited to partner with Sky Sports, a leader in the UK TV market, to bring the sport to millions of soccer fans.

“2015 is a milestone year for MLS including new stars, new clubs and a new brand. Sky Sports will help continue to grow the League and its Clubs worldwide.”

David Beckham welcomed the news saying, “This is another important moment that shows the continued growth of MLS. I have seen first-hand how popular soccer has become in America. Having fantastic partners such as Sky Sports on board will not only add to the coverage of the game, it will also broaden its appeal outside of US.”

Henry said, “I will never forget my time playing in MLS, it gave me some great memories and I was proud to play a role in growing the game.

“I saw the passion of the fans in the US, they have always had it for other sports but they also have it for football now and it’s going to be huge in years to come. Sky Sports is the best place for the game, to bring it closer to fans in the UK and build MLS even more.”

MLS was originally launched in 1996 with ten teams, just two years after the FIFA World Cup was hosted in the US. Over the years it has expanded to the current system with 20 teams, and in the future will see further franchises added in New York and Orlando beginning in 2015 and Atlanta and Los Angeles in 2017.

This season, Sky Sports will show more football than ever before, up to 800 live matches. As well as Barclays Premier League, viewers can enjoy live coverage of European qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2016, UEFA Champions League, SkyBet Football League, SPFL, Capital One Cup, La Liga, Eredivisie, Copa del Rey and Coppa Italia, Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and Sky Sports Victory Shield.

The deal was negotiated with IMG who last month partnered with MLS to distribute their global media rights across all platforms for the next eight years.