Freddie Longe, President of IMG ARENA spoke to SBC Leaders Magazine about the historic deal he had with Major League Soccer (MLS). He explained how they will collaborate in order to transform the fan experience as well as expand the reach of rights owners in an era where data is increasingly dominant.
Let’s start by asking how the IMG ARENA/MLS deal came together. Why is this such an amazing match between the two organizations?
One of the world’s most innovative organizations in sport is the MLS. Since its founding, it has been an innovator and constant. This makes the MLS a leader in the integration of technology. It is a privilege to have been part of the MLS’s growth and support for rights holders in this data-age of sport.
It was an extremely long process that included a lengthy RFP process. This is an innovative, tech-led deal that will revolutionize the fan experience. It includes a variety of delivery options.
Let’s discuss how soccer can be tailored to the American audience. US punters are less focused on specific props, and view sports from a fantasy perspective. What data can be used to build micro-bet markets for the US market?
Data’s ability to connect audiences with the game is what makes it so powerful. The award-winning Event Centres, which have been successfully used in MMA and golf, offer a data-driven front end solution. It visualizes data in a way that engages and informs fans.
This Information will allow sports bettors and fans to feel more confident placing wagers on upcoming MLS games.
Data really shines when you combine that with the recent deals and innovations in US soccer. Apple and the MLS announced a $2.5bn, 10-year global broadcast partnership. This will change how sports fans and bettors engage in live soccer matches. The unique agreement means all MLS matches can now be streamed directly via the streaming platform through a subscription model.
The MLS will soon introduce a RedZone service that is inspired by the NFL for its viewers. This will provide a better in-play experience across countless matches and game days. This creates greater betting possibilities for sportsbooks and increases the popularity of soccer bettors and fans.
While soccer has become a popular sport in America, other than the four majors, betting engagement is still low. The next four years offer US sportsbooks a huge opportunity to convert soccer enthusiasts into betting customers.
Sportsbook operators have the opportunity to capitalize on the hype surrounding the tournament and market soccer betting during the entire month. This is an important time for soccer’s growth as North America prepares for the 2026 event.
The data is an essential piece in the puzzle that will ensure soccer fans are more engaged with betting markets. It also leads to better wagering decisions.
What can you do to tailor your fan engagement and data collection approach for MLS?
IMG ARENA has committed to using only 100% of official data. Content creation underpins our universe. Our configurable scoring apps are based on our groundbreaking golf data collection method and designed to gather the most reliable, accurate, and fastest data.
Connective tissue is what makes the difference between data feeds. There is currently a separation of data collection methods. The potential growth in soccer analytics, data and insights has been limited by this.
FastPath and Event data are largely independent streams of data and have not been able to unlock the synergies that exist between them. We can offer MLS fast, accurate and new data sets through the combination of automated and human data collection.
The next step is how to use the data and communicate it to your fans. This is where the new MLS Event Centre plays a crucial role. It will provide innovative data-driven content to soccer bettors and fans. The new MLS Event Centre will integrate live streaming and MLS data feeds. It will present historical and current event statistics and data visualizations. Ultra-responsive markets can also be displayed via 2D or 3D interfaces.
Beyond data collection/distribution, how will this partnership benefit the MLS digital assets of MLSsoccer.com, the MLS App, and related club Sites?
MLS, IMG ARENA and the league will release a new suite of digital products that allow the league, its players and their partners to make use of data, graphics, and insights to improve the game. This includes MLSsoccer.com and the MLS App.
This multi-year global partnership will be focused on growing the MLS fanbase. IMG ARENA will deliver programmatic marketing and ad technology to help MLS build its audience among the 3.5 million global soccer fans.
In deciding what bets to place, bettors increasingly rely on data. Which data types and trends are bettors most interested in, particularly when it is US soccer bettors?
Some of the smartest consumers are found in the US. This market is completely unexplored, which means that there are more innovative thinking and convergence among rights holders, betting companies, and media.
We believe that productized technology must be developed and content added to all touch points. This will ensure fans are immersed in the entire value chain. It is important to recognize the growing importance of data and in-play gambling.
The demand for content that is not limited to the four majors has also increased. According to recent analysis by H2 Gambling Capital, North America is likely to see significant increases in GGR market share for these sports: volleyball (15.5% global share 2021-2026); table tennis (21.33% to 35.6%); MMA (44.30% to 60.8%); golf (45.1% to 61.9%). All these verticals are in our sights, growing on the success of tennis, MMA, and golf.