NEW YORK: Founded in 1994, the US Major League Soccer (MLS) is a young sport in the country, but with immigrants from football-obsessed nations, young people, and a shorter matchday experience, the sport and league are gaining on America’s traditional sports.

This is according to an interview with Gary Stevenson, president and managing director of MLS Business Ventures by The Drum. “This is truly the sport of the new North America,” he explained.

“Soccer is in the DNA of so many people that come to the country. It is ingrained in the culture, it is a flower that is blooming.”

The game’s accessibility, the simplicity of its rules, and its heritage across Europe, Asia, and South America mean there is already an aspiration and a proven model.

Stevenson contrasted soccer with some of America’s favorite sports. “It is a new, interesting, fast-paced alternative to what exists. Some of the sports that are popular in this country either require expensive equipment, a long time, a lot of people... This sport? You just need a patch of turf, a ball, and four pals.”

Moreover, the match, including commercial breaks, takes place in a relatively neat two hours, with just one segment of ads once the game begins. “In the US and Canada, our sports have commercials throughout the entire game. The millennial audience finds the fact that there are two uninterrupted halves in soccer very appealing.”

Meanwhile, the MLS maintains that clubs’ ongoing marquee signings, such as the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s move to LA Galaxy or fellow former Manchester United legend Wayne Rooney – now of DC United – are key to building interest. The tipping point, however, will come when players move to the MLS in their prime. For now there is work to do.

The draw for brands is the game’s young, engaged, multicultural fanbase. Brands such as Coca-Cola, Audi and Target are among the long list of current partners. For sports brands, such as Adidas, which invested $700 million in the MLS and will provide kits for all of the teams clubs, it is an attractive growth market.

“If I had to highlight what we do well, we approach innovation, technology and relationship-building in a unique way,” said Stevenson. This includes putting microphones on goalkeepers in order to interview them mid-match.

“It’s a very American thing to do,” he admitted: the inside look at the players is an important draw.

Sourced from the Drum, USA Today; additional content by WARC staff