On Saturday, Major League Soccer official athletic sponsor and licensed product supplier adidas held a grand opening event for its brand new Sport Performance Store in New York City. MetroStars defender Jeff Agoos was among an impressive list of athletes on hand to officially open the store, which also featured international tennis star Anna Kournikova, women's boxing champion Laila Ali, basketball prodigies Sebastian Telfair and Josh Smith and New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey.
After being introduced to the media by Chief Executive Officer of adidas-Salomon AG Herbert Hainer, Agoos and the other athletes left their handprints in slabs of concrete that will be placed on display inside the store. The New York location is the fifth Performance Store in the U.S., with other stores located in Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Santa Monica, Calif. At 29,500 square feet, the store on the corner of Broadway and Houston Streets in downtown Manhattan is the largest of its kind in the world.
"I'm very happy to be a part of this opening in New York," said Agoos as he mingled with fans, posed for photographs and interacted with local youth involved in the soccer community. "I've been with adidas for a number of years so they're very important to me. I think adidas represents what every soccer player wants in a product, and that's fit, comfort and durability. They offer all of those things and more."
adidas has long been involved in Major League Soccer, but took their commitment to the next level last November when the two entities signed a 10-year partnership agreement. The deal covers every aspect of MLS, including equipment supply, product creation, grassroots programs, television rights and retail distribution. The league has already begun a movement to outfit all 12 of its existing teams (and any expansion sides that could potentially join the league) in adidas gear. adidas will also provide all team-branded products to consumers at their retail locations, including the Sport Performance Store in New York.
"We are quite excited about this deal," said Hainer at Saturday's event. "We have worked very hard to get in touch with MLS and to make this contract because football, or soccer as you call it, is the heart and soul of our company. We are the leader in soccer around the world. We have the best teams, we have the best players and now we have partnered up with MLS. There is a real commitment from MLS to develop soccer in the U.S. and that is definitely what we are looking for as well. Therefore, I think it's an ideal partnership."
Three MLS teams -- D.C. United, the Columbus Crew and the Kansas City Wizards -- have been sponsored by adidas since the league's formation in 1996. The 2005 season saw the company also become the official suppliers of FC Dallas, the Colorado Rapids, the New England Revolution, the San Jose Earthquakes and both '05 expansion sides, Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake. Next season adidas will supply all MLS teams and provide the official match ball. The annual MLS Player Combine and MLS SuperDraft are both also sponsored by adidas.
The continual growth of soccer in the U.S., and specifically the increased popularity and level of play in MLS helped to convince the sporting giants to take a stronghold in the league.
"I do believe that MLS has a very professional team now managing the whole league," said Hainer. "They have people behind [the scenes] who really have the desire to develop soccer further in the U.S. This is a market with 250-300 million people -- a huge crowd of young people who play soccer. This is exciting as well."
"I think it's long overdue that adidas became prominent in MLS, considering that they're so big in soccer outside of this country," added Agoos. "I think it's great that they've stepped up and become a big contributor to soccer in this country, as they've done for many years, but in a much more high profile way now."
The adidas Sport Performance Store in Manhattan officially opened its doors shortly after noon with the cutting of a massive three-stripe shoelace that surrounded the building. The store will be open to the public seven days a week.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.