- TikTok is deepening its ties to professional soccer through a new tie-up with Major League Soccer (MLS), a blog post from the social media platform announced.
- The multi-year partnership, which covers 29 clubs across the U.S. and Canada, includes plans for in-app programming, exclusive content and in-stadium activations. TikTok will introduce a Club Creator Network to pair content creators with various teams.
- As an official partner of MLS, the ByteDance-owned app will be integrated into every game throughout the season and serve as co-sponsor of the league’s esports tournament, the eMLS Cup. TikTok building a closer association to MLS comes as the app is again threatened by an outright ban in the U.S.
As professional soccer gains more traction in the U.S., TikTok wants to play a larger role in its growth. The app has seen engagement with the topic skyrocket in recent years: Views on posts using a #soccer hashtag have jumped 500% since 2021 to reach 267 billion, per the announcement. Major cyclical events, like the men’s World Cup last year, have stoked further excitement among U.S. consumers who historically have expressed more tepid interest in the sport, which is otherwise massively popular at the global level.
MLS first joined TikTok in 2020 and now wields over 1.2 million followers on the video-sharing app, while many individual clubs, including the LA Galaxy and Inter Miami CF, operate their own official accounts. In Galaxy’s case, it has more followers than MLS. Meanwhile, TikTok is now estimated to have over 150 million active users in the U.S., according to a CNBC report.
TikTok last year named influencer Noah Beck as its first Social Playmaker to help to grow the MLS’s profile on the platform. The latest deal expands that concept, with creators acting as a key bridge to fans. The new Club Creator Network will partner different social media personalities with teams to generate content during the regular and off seasons. The creators will receive behind-the-scenes access, including with MLS athletes.
MLS will leverage an in-app tool called Library that helps integrate existing clips into creator content more seamlessly. Users that search for "MLS" on the platform will be brought to a dedicated MLS Hub that centralizes soccer-related content, along with linking out to MLS’s website for more information on game schedules and scores.
Apps like TikTok are becoming more important to sports leagues that are contending with cord-cutting on linear TV. That trend is felt especially sharply among young, digitally native groups who have gotten hooked on TikTok thanks to its algorithmically curated feed of short-form videos. The NFL in 2019 struck a similar deal with the app and has seen success in using the platform to promote major events like the draft and Super Bowl.
The MLS is strengthening its ties to TikTok during a time when the Chinese-owned app is threatened with a ban in the U.S. over national security, an idea previously floated under the Trump administration. Lawmakers and regulators have again pressured ByteDance to divest the app, but company leadership has argued that that move would not address their concerns.