TORONTO -- Major League Soccer is partnering with Fanatics in a deal that will mean a unique merchandising portal for Canada.
Under a longterm global agreement that begins in 2019, Fanatics gains worldwide rights to produce MLS fan gear apparel, headwear and other goods across all retail and wholesale channels.
Its Canada store will open in 2018, however.
"We took a 'Fan-First' approach to our expanded partnership with Fanatics," Kathy Carter, president of Soccer United Marketing, MLS' commercial arm, said in a statement. "We spoke to our supporters in Canada. Their passion and commitment is what makes MLS so special. We listened to their feedback.
"They want more selection and a wider assortment of fan gear for Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Starting next season, that's what you'll see with this new deal."
Canadian teams currently offer a limited amount of merchandise with the bulk of products only available from the league's U.S. online store. Under the new deal, there will be a merchandise division in Canada shipping local product.
The Canadian website will be in both English and French.
Fanatics will run the official MLS online store, MLSstore.com, which encompasses all 23 MLS clubs.
Fanatics is also the official in-venue retail provider for Atlanta United, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United and the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Founded in 1995 and headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Fanatics operates more than 300 online and offline stores, including the e-commerce business for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL MLS, NASCAR, PGA as well as more than 200 collegiate and pro teams.
The company, which recently acquired the apparel brand Majestic, specializes in producing event-related gear -- such as celebrating a champion being crowned or a record player performance -- overnight.
"Our philosophy of faster speed-to-market of merchandise will ensure fans can celebrate the players and teams they love in real-time, including special items for championship moments, record-breaking feats and breakthrough performances," Gary Gertzog, Fanatics president of business affairs, said in a statement.
Adidas continues as the MLS official uniform sponsor. Fanatics will hold the rights to all other merchandise.Neil Davidson