The sport of soccer has come a long way in the United States over the last decade. In fact, a 2017 Gallup poll reported that soccer was the third-most watched team sport in the U.S., behind only basketball and American football. But despite the more than 100 million U.S. soccer fans and the continued growth in youth participation, American professional teams still face an uphill battle to stay on pace with their international counterparts. A major reason – the development of homegrown talent across North America simply needs more support.
That’s why Audi teamed up with MLS earlier this year to kick-off a multi-year program designed to assist the next generation of U.S. professional soccer players and help provide the support and training needed to build a soccer talent pool that rivals the best in the world.
It all starts with a goal
The 2019 MLS All-Star Game in Orlando was the setting. And, the future of MLS Academies was the central focus. Audi and MLS took the stage to unveil the Audi Goals Drive Progress program, a league-wide initiative that is intended to provide funding to expand the breadth of MLS academy resources such as player education, housing, and transportation. Put simply, the program help ensure that MLS academy players have the tools needed to be the best they can be both on and off the pitch.
Additionally, the funds can help assist with the creation of various Audi Performance Centers designed to support each of the MLS Academies across the U.S. These facilities will feature a vast range of technology, tutorial, and educational resources to enrich off-field development for youth players.
Audi’s 2019 commitment to the program spanned across the entire MLS 2019 season: $500 for every goal scored during the regular season, $5,000 for goals scored during the MLS All-Star Game, $2,000 during the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and the MLS Cup championship game netted $10,000 per goal. There were also additional special funding moments and opportunities throughout the season.
Keeping the momentum going
The season’s momentum continued after the MLS All-Star Game, including the creation of a season-long COPA90 video series, spotlighting some of the MLS Academies’ rising stars. Players featured were DC United’s Chris Durkin, Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio, the Seattle Sounders’ Daniel Leyva, and FC Dallas’ Paxton Pomykal.
As the official automotive partner for MLS, Audi also drove their commitment even further by becoming official presenting sponsor for the 2019 MLS Golden Boot awarded to Carlos Vela of the Los Angeles FC. With his 34 goals this season, Vela alone contributed $51,000 to the Audi Goals Drive Progress program fund.
MLS fans were also engaged throughout the season, taking part in the Audi Fan Faceoff on social media to share celebratory messages and hashtags supporting their teams. Sporting Kansas City fans made a huge impact as the highest average fan social posts per game, winning their academy program $50,000 in funds.
Last but definitely not least – Audi’s sponsorship commitment also extended well into the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs where Audi presented the MLS Cup MVP award to the Seattle Sounders’ Victor Rodriguez following their championship victory. The MLS Cup brought much excitement with scored goals contributing $40,000 to the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund.
As anticipated, the MLS 2019 season was on fire! Nearly 1,300 combined goals were scored between the MLS regular season, MLS All-Star Game, Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and the MLS Cup championship game – equating to a $773,550 commitment. However, in celebration of the Audi Goals Drive Progress initiative’s success and to drive home even further Audi’s commitment toward North American youth soccer development, Audi of America is proud to announce that we are upping our final commitment to $1,000,000 toward MLS Academies across the U.S.
Our MLS relationship continues as we get excited for the next phase in 2020 and beyond!