North America’s top-tier Major League Soccer has become the latest soccer league and the first US sports organization to partner with blockchain fantasy soccer platform Sorare.
Sorare will become the official non-fungible token (NFT) fantasy game of MLS, with users able to collect, trade, and play with tokens representing every player from all 29 clubs in the league.
The deal marks Sorare’s entrance into the US market, having opened its first office in North America at the end of 2021. It has previously stated its intention to capitalize on MLS’ young tech-savvy audience before expanding into other sports.
Chris Schlosser, senior vice-president of emerging ventures at MLS, said: “At MLS, our emerging ventures team is always looking two steps ahead to offer our fans enriching experiences and to expand our global reach, including in Latin America and Asia.
“We’re excited to continue our progressive approach to bring NFTs to MLS with industry-leader Sorare. Utilizing the latest technology to provide fans the opportunity to add MLS players and future stars to their personal collections and give them an interactive free-to-play fantasy soccer made Sorare the obvious choice.”
MLS joins Sorare’s growing portfolio of soccer partners, which includes over 230 clubs and several European leagues. Its biggest partnerships are with Spain’s Laliga and Germany’s Bundesliga, as well as clubs including England’s Liverpool, Germany’s Bayern Munich, France’s Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), Spain’s Atletico Madrid, and Italy’s Juventus.
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The company was valued at $4.3 billion last September after a $680 million Series B funding round.
Last month, it was reported Sorare is one of four companies shortlisted by English soccer’s Premier League as it seeks to launch its first NFT license, with a deal worth over GBP400 million ($544 million) to clubs.
The winning bid will produce a range of digital products for the Premier League, including virtual soccer stickers and trading cards featuring match footage and players at all 20 clubs, which will be sold to fans around the world.
However, these latest deals come as the NFT and crypto market comes under widespread criticism for its lack of regulation.
Founded in 2018, the French-based platform allows individuals to buy soccer players represented in the form of NFTs – essentially unique digital trading cards that increase or decrease in value based upon real-world performances – to create virtual teams that compete against each other.
Last October, the UK Gambling Commission opened an inquiry into Sorare after concerns it was available to consumers in the UK while not licensed by the commission, leaving users unprotected.
The regulator said it would explore whether Sorare needs a license at all or if its services do not constitute gambling.
In December, the Premier League reportedly opened an investigation into the growing relationship between cryptocurrency firms and its clubs, with concern by fans over the lack of regulation in the industry.
More than half of the 20 top-flight English clubs have sponsors in this space, with those partners having invested over GBP20 million in deals cumulatively.
There had been a 285% increase in crypto deals between 2020 and 2021, from 27 to 104.
Along with Sorare, platforms including eToro, Crypto.com, and Socios have entered the market by partnering with several teams in England and across Europe’s top leagues.