Real Salt Lake to become first team with sponsor name across front of jersey

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By BRIAN TRUSDELL Associated Press Writer

Real Salt Lake will become the first team in a major American sports league to display a sponsor's name on the front of its jersey, signing a multimillion dollar deal with dietary supplement juice company XanGo.

The Utah-based company, which sponsored Real Salt Lake's exhibition match against namesake Real Madrid in August, will pay between $4 million and $5 million for the four-year deal, a Major League Soccer source told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.

A formal presentation is set for Friday at the company's annual convention in Salt Lake City.

"I'm not sure this can happen in any other sport," Real Salt Lake club owner Dave Checketts said. "You can't stop the action in soccer. The name on the uniform is extremely valuable, and I really support our league doing it."

The RSL deal pales in comparison to that of European soccer giant Manchester United, which signed a four-year contract with AIG to put the U.S. insurance company's name on its shirts for about $25 million.

"The interesting thing is this is an envelope they're pushing domestically, but that's already open internationally," said Paul Swangard, managing director of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. "So it's not all that revolutionary. Credit MLS for being in a position to take advantage of a sports marketing vehicle that's available everywhere else in the world."

The XanGo name will be emblazoned in capital block letters across the chest of the team's home and away shirts, replacing the words Real Salt Lake. The club's crest will remain in the upper left. Some MLS clubs do have sponsors' names on their jerseys but only on the back above the beltline. Those sponsorships were negotiated by the league.

Real Salt Lake's deal, however, is the first where the team has negotiated the contract.

MLS seemed to be headed down this road in March, when Austrian energy drink company Red Bull purchased the MetroStars just before the start of the season. The company changed the team's name to the New York Red Bulls and put the company's charging bulls logo across the front of the shirt.

"I think our fans will be supportive of it," Checketts said. "They want the team to succeed. ... I don't see any sort of commercial backlash." ------ On the Net:

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-11-16-06 1510MST

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