The United Soccer League, North America's second-tier league, will allow teams to create shirt sponsorships with betting companies.
Following the MLS, the most expansive league organization in the United States and Canada is accepting the evolving landscape of sports betting across U.S. jurisdictions. The news was originally broken by Front Office Sports.
"We want to be early movers in this space and it’s very important that our clubs have the flexibility to benefit economically from this category," USL President Jake Edwards said. "We feel like it’s a dynamic that most soccer fans – whether domestic or international – are already accustomed to so we want to be as progressive as possible.”
The change to allow sports betting sponsorships will allow teams in states with legal sports betting to strike such deals. The USL confirmed to TopUSBets that all professional teams will be eligible to create such sponsorships, meaning any team in USL Championship and USL League One.
Teams in USL League Two would not be eligible as the league is defined by the US Soccer Federation as a semi-professional/amateur league.
As originally reported, any new sponsors would only be allowed to use data from an official data distributor, and the only such distributor is currently Opta. So prospective partners would need to partner with Opta as well as the teams.
The rules at this point forbid clubs from offering sports betting on their various websites and digital media platforms, nor can they promote any live odds.
Gambling sponsorships aren’t a new thing in the USL. The shirt sponsor for the Tampa Bay Rowdies has been the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino since 2014, and in 2018 that deal was extended.
The Tulsa Roughnecks are also sponsored by a casino, Osage Casino & Hotel. They’re the only two teams in the USL that have casinos as their shirt sponsors.
It’s not a stretch to think that sports betting partnerships could become more widespread in the near future. Most of teams in the upper tiers of England’s league system are sponsored by various online casinos and sportsbooks.
In fact, the number has grown so much that some sponsors are starting to actually take their logos off of shirts, as exemplified by Paddy Power’s Save Our Shirt campaign. The Irish company trolled fans of Huddersfield with an oversized logo across the shirt before introducing the real jersey, with no sponsorships at all.
It's not impossible to think that the USL could be heading the same direction. As sports betting reaches a wider audience, the knowledge and popularity of sports betting fan bases, especially the growing fan base in North American soccer, could drive new betting and sponsorships to a new level.