- Innovation Lab will give early-stage firms an opportunity to test and develop their wares.
- MLS Innovation Lab will be annual initiative
- League is in second year of US$2.5bn global broadcast deal with Apple
- Box to Box Films also created Drive to Survive for F1 and Netflix
Major League Soccer (MLS) has formally taken the wraps off its accelerator programme, inviting six early-stage sports technology companies to participate in MLS Innovation Lab.
The league said it received applications from “hundreds” of companies, with the inaugural cohort focusing on innovations in three key areas – player development, fan engagement, and media and consumption.
The selected startups include A-Champs, a Spanish cognitive and technical training system, Camb.AI, whose technology automatically translates content into any language in the speaker’s own voice, and mixed reality specialist Fabric.
Also on board is wearable tracking equipment developer Fitogether, AI camera maker Reeplayer, and Stadium US, an AI-powered 5G camera and OTT platform system that captures live streams and highlights.
All six will have the opportunity to test their product at various events in a live setting, and all will have access to MLS’ wider network of contacts and expertise.
“Major League Soccer strives to be the front porch of innovation for the sports industry,” said Gary Stevenson, deputy commissioner of MLS and president of Soccer United Marketing. “In that spirit, MLS Innovation Lab provides a truly unique offering in global sports. Our 2024 cohort places a spotlight on some of the most exciting tech startups from around the world, and we eagerly anticipate their impact on the sport in the years to come.”
MLS Innovation Labs, which was first announced last year, follows in the footsteps of other high-profile incubators, such as the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) LaunchPad, which works with startups that can advance its on-court and off-court activities.
Chris Schlosser, senior vice president of emerging ventures at MLS, told SportsPro Ignition about the initiative last year, adding that it would be an annual programme.
“The first cohort get to showcase their products in MLS and MLS Next Pro to really show us what they can do,” said Schlosser. “The best companies will be invited to the MLS All-Star Game, where the owners of all 29 MLS clubs will be present. That’s an unbelievably powerful room in the sports world.”
The 2024 MLS season will be the second campaign to be covered by a ten-year US$2.5 billion broadcast deal with Apple TV. MLS Season Pass offers live global coverage of every single game from the competition, along with a live ‘whiparound’ show and digital features.
For its sophomore year, MLS and Apple will offer an eight-part docuseries produced by Box to Box Films, the same production company responsible for the hugely successful Formula One-themed Drive to Survive on Netflix.