Feb 24, 2022 - Sports

Exclusive: MLS inks metaverse partnership

Courtesy: Greenpark/MLS

MLS and the MLSPA have signed a multiyear partnership with GreenPark Sports, a social gaming company on a mission to bring sports fandom to the metaverse.

Why it matters: GreenPark hopes to change how fans interact with their favorite teams and each other, and MLS — which has the youngest fans of any American league — is bullish on the future of virtual experiences.

  • GreenPark's founding team includes former YouTube co-founder and CEO Chad Hurley and former Zappos co-founder and CEO Nick Swinmurn.
  • The three-year-old company already has deals with the NBA, LaLiga and the League Championship Series (League of Legends esports).

How it works: When the MLS season kicks off Saturday, fans will have the opportunity to join GreenPark's virtual world, where they can connect with each other, compete in contests, and win prizes.

  • You start with a green avatar, which you customize over time as you earn or purchase gear. And you can mix and match across leagues, so your avatar could be wearing an Atlanta United kit and a Hawks hat.
  • Each league has its own dedicated world, and fans can pop into virtual areas that correspond to real-world matches (i.e. D.C. United vs. Charlotte FC this weekend). For now, GreenPark is mobile-only.

Picture this: You open the GreenPark app, join the MLS area and start moving your avatar around the map like a traditional mobile game.

  • To your right, there's a merchandise tent to buy licensed MLS gear for your character. To your left, there's a mini-game area where you can compete against fellow LA Galaxy fans, or fans of rival LAFC.
  • Up the stairs is a zone where you can enter prediction contests based on your favorite team's upcoming MLS match. And above you is a video screen displaying the latest fan leaderboard.
  • Of note: This isn't the exact experience, but gives you a sense of what to expect from an app that combines sports fandom with the experience of playing a mobile game.

What they're saying: "MLS has the youngest fans in American pro sports. Our fans over-index in all measures of technology usage — including metaverse. So we think they're ripe for a GreenPark experience," says Chris Schlosser, SVP of Emerging Ventures at MLS.

  • "We view GreenPark as being analogous to a Disney World, but for sports and in a virtual landscape," says chief strategy officer Tony Grillo.
  • "How can we bring fanbases together, capture and quantify that fandom, and then reward it?"

The bottom line: The line between video games and sports continues to blur, and leagues are now tapping into traditional gaming experiences and behaviors — like competing online with friends or earning new avatar gear — to juice fan engagement.

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