Sky Sports has announced an exclusive four-year deal to show MLS matches in the United Kingdom, starting with the arrival of the new season in March.
"Football in the U.S. and Canada has enormous potential for growth and we can't wait to bring this competition to our viewers for the first time," said Sky Sports managing director Barney Francis in the organisation's announcement article.
Viewers will be able to witness Premier League legends Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard taking their first steps into the American soccer arena with New York City FC and Los Angeles Galaxy respectively. Currently representing Manchester City and Liverpool respectively, both will make the journey stateside at the conclusion of the current English season.
Although it seemed Lampard would represent NYCFC during the last campaign, his decision to join the side's Manchester-based sister club put these plans on hold. He finally signed a two-year deal with the Big Apple team in January after having been reported to have committed in the previous summer, per Jack Lang and Liam Corless of the Mirror.
Gerrard will join LA Galaxy when his Liverpool contract expires in the summer, calling an end to a career-long association with the Anfield club.
Both stars follow in the footsteps of MLS trendsetters David Beckham and Thierry Henry, who represented LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls during the latter stages of their careers. Such players have helped promote the image of MLS to a worldwide audience, something the Sky Sports deal should also help facilitate.
"This is another important moment that shows the continued growth of MLS," said Beckham, per Sky Sports. "Having fantastic partners such as Sky Sports on board will not only add to the coverage of the game, it will also broaden its appeal outside of U.S."
Henry also believes the new agreement is positive for all, as reported by Sky Sports:
I will never forget my time playing in MLS—it gave me some great memories and I was proud to play a role in growing the game. I saw the passion of the fans in the U.S.
They have always had it for other sports but they also have it for football now and it’s going to be huge in years to come. Sky Sports is the best place for the game, to bring it closer to fans in the UK and build MLS even more.
Sky Sports recently confirmed a mega deal to continue dominating Premier League rights in the UK, as highlighted by football lawyer Daniel Geey:
The organisation has also invested in domestic European matches this season, exclusively showing matches from Spain and the Netherlands on the newly formed Sky Sports 5 channel.
An increasingly diverse range of programming could be a direct result of BT Sport agreeing to pay £897 million for three years' worth of Champions League and Europa League coverage starting from the onset of the 2015-16 campaign.
Football fans are unlikely to complain, however, with further options being added to the television schedule. It's perhaps easier to sell MLS to the UK audience when favourites such as Lampard and Gerrard are set to appear.
This move can only be considered healthy for the American league, which is approaching its 20th anniversary in 2016.