MLS, Chipotle Announce Sponsorship, Homegrown Players Game

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Even if you don't like burritos, a chance to promote the young stars in MLS is a really good idea.

Chipotle Mexican Grill in partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced that Chipotle will be the Official Fast-Casual Mexican Restaurant of MLS and 12 MLS Clubs. The sponsorship will be Chipotle's largest single sports partnership and will feature promotional programs with 12 teams, individual players, and programs across the entire league.

"At the core of our effort to change the way people think about and eat fast food is our commitment to finding better, more sustainable sources for all of the ingredients we use," said Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle's chief marketing and development officer. "That value is one that is often shared by people with an active lifestyle. This partnership with MLS will allow us to further engage consumers in a sport we have long supported through grassroots efforts."

Throughout the 2014 season, Chipotle will work with MLS and the 12 clubs by executing unique promotions and activations to reach MLS fans across the country. Additionally, during the AT&T MLS All-Star Week in August, Chipotle will sponsor the inaugural Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game featuring the nation's top Homegrown players from MLS Club rosters. Homegrown players from across the league will be chosen by MLS to participate in the game. Details on how MLS fans will be able to watch the game will be released at a later date.

"Chipotle is an incredible brand and has truly embraced MLS' aspirational position for millions of youth soccer players," said David Wright, senior vice president of global sponsorship for MLS. "We love the idea of the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game and we look forward to Chipotle playing an important role in continuing to grow the sport of soccer in this country for years to come."

This is very similar to the MLB Futures Game and the NBA's Rookie-Sophmore game and a really great idea. It gives young players like the New England Revolution's Diego Fagundez and Scott Caldwell another chance to showcase their talents on the field. Other notable homegrown players include the Los Angeles Galaxy's Gyasi Zardes and Jack McBean, Seattle Sounder DeAndre Yedlin and Colorado Rapids Shane O'Neill. The league allows two homegrown players to be signed each year and not count against the league salary cap, but there is no limit to the number of players a team can sign per year.

It will be interesting to see what opponent the league uses for the game. I don't think there are enough players for an East-West style game unless rookie draft picks are included. Keeping with the theme of playing against an European team like the MLS All-Star Game, taking place on August 6th in Portland, perhaps a game featuring the MLS Homegrowns versus the Bayern Munich Under-21s or reserve team might be an great compliment to the MLS All-Star Game weekend. Dual national German-American Julian Green, currently training with the United States Men's National Team in Germany ahead of their friendly vs. Ukraine, plays for Bayern Munich. Also taking place in late July-early August is the International Champions Cup featuring 8 teams from England, Italy, Spain and Greece. It's possible that one of those teams reserve squad could also feature against the MLS Homegrowns but this is all guesswork at this point.

In addition to the Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game, Chipotle will also feature an exceptional athlete, boy or girl, during 10 home games per MLS Club as the Chipotle Youth Homegrown Athlete. Each athlete will receive four tickets to the game, special recognition during the game, a chance to meet players and coaches, dinner at Chipotle with his/her team, and the opportunity to host a fundraiser for his/her team at their favorite Chipotle location. Chipotle and each MLS Club will also host free soccer clinics for up to 200 kids utilizing MLS players and coaches to teach soccer fundamentals.

Omar Gonzalez, LA Galaxy Defender, two-time MLS Cup Champion and prominent member of the U.S. Men's National Team, will represent MLS as the first spokesperson of this unique partnership. Gonzalez will play a vital role in the Homegrown campaign from being featured in anthem and skills videos to promoting the partnership on his social media channels

To kick-off the partnership, Chipotle will host a March to Soccer promotion in the 12 MLS markets to celebrate the beginning of the MLS season. Soccer fans who come to Chipotle wearing their local MLS Club gear on the date of the team's home opener can receive a buy-one-get-one deal. The date for the New England area promotion will be March 22 to coincide with the Revs home opener against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

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