Ethereum fantasy soccer game Sorare is one of the most prominent sports NFT projects on the market, and it has racked up more than 200 real-world clubs as partners along the way. Now, amid a growing push in the U.S. market, Sorare has signed a deal to bring the official Major League Soccer license into the game.
Previously, the Major League Soccer Players Association signed a partnership with Sorare that was independent of the league. Announced in June 2020, the deal brought all of the players into the game as tradable NFT cards, albeit without official team or league branding included.
Now, Major League Soccer is coming onboard with a multi-year agreement that includes all 28 currently active team organizations, which means that Sorare will have cohesive MLS branding in the game. Sorare and the league also plan to collaborate on marketing and activation opportunities alongside the launch of MLS-branded Sorare NFTs this spring.
Michael Meltzer, Sorare’s head of business development, told Decrypt that adding Major League Soccer to the game will help Sorare strengthen its U.S. presence. Currently, Sorare is heavily focused on major soccer teams from Europe and other countries, but the company recently established a U.S. office as it surveys other potential sports NFT opportunities.
“We're looking to eventually expand outside of soccer into other sports,” said Meltzer, “so MLS was a really interesting bridge between the global nature of our product and the U.S. market.”
Major League Soccer launched its first NFT collectibles in May 2021 with the debut of four pieces of artwork created by street artists and tied to certain matches.
Chris Schlosser, MLS Senior VP of Emerging Ventures, told Decrypt that the Sorare alliance lets the league tap into its young, tech-savvy audience with an interactive, NFT-driven game. And much as MLS could help Sorare tap into the U.S. market, he sees the addition of Sorare as mirroring the league’s own gradual expansion into the international soccer scene.
“We have the youngest fans in American pro sports,” Schlosser said. “Our fans are by far the most likely to already have crypto or NFTs, and the most likely to be on the forward edge of technology.”
Sorare puts an NFT spin on fantasy sports, as players collect digital trading cards of their favorite players from various leagues and put them into weekly fantasy lineups. Like traditional fantasy sports games, users earn points based on their players’ real-world performance each week, and in Sorare, that can translate into free NFTs or cryptocurrency rewards.
Each premium Sorare trading card is represented as an Ethereum NFT. An NFT acts like a deed of ownership to a digital item, whether it’s a sports card, profile picture, or a video-based collectible. In January, a single Sorare NFT based on the player Erling Haaland sold for over 265 ETH, or more than $678,000—a record for the project.
Erling Haaland bought for 265.1001 ETH (678327.53$) by Zima Blue on the primary market
⚽ Sorare: https://t.co/Rwrqaq1A2l
📊: https://t.co/gG95GsLnYm#Sorare #NFT #Ethereum #FantasyFootball
— SorareBot by SorareData (@SorareBot) January 30, 2022
Unlike NBA Top Shot and NFL All Day NFT collectibles, not to mention those from Tom Brady’s Autograph platform, Sorare cards have added utility as playable items in a fantasy sports game. And the company has grand ambitions, having raised $680 million last September at a $4.3 billion valuation to expand into more leagues, markets, and sports ahead—including women’s soccer leagues, as well.
Meltzer didn’t go into further detail about Sorare’s plans in the States, but said that the firm aims to “also expand into two U.S. leagues” that could be announced in the coming months.
Major League Soccer is up first for Sorare on that front, and for the league itself, Schlosser said that he’s excited about the potential for NFTs to bridge the gap between digital fandom and attending in-person MLS matches. Sports is already one of the most active markets for NFTs, but he believes that there’s still plenty of room to grow.
“The connection between the digital experience and the real world experience, we think, is fascinating,” said Schlosser. “You can just see a myriad of use cases there over a period of time. I think we're just starting to scratch the surface when it comes to blockchain and sports.”