Major League Soccer announced that it is entering the world of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) ahead of two nationally televised matches this weekend. NFTs are a type of collectible similar to trading cards or jerseys, except they utilize blockchain technology to exist purely in the digital realm.
One example is a 13-second highlight clip of New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson that recently sold for $100,000. The MLS Players Association are also in the NFT space, partnering with Sorare on officially licensed digital trading cards.
MLS's foray into NFTs will take place in conjunction with two matches, one involving the Portland Timbers vs. the LA Galaxy (Saturday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. ET on ABC) and Sunday's matchup featuring Seattle Sounders FC vs. Atlanta United FC.
In collaboration with the hybrid creative agency Secret Walls, MLS is utilizing the talents of four artists -- one for each team -- to engage in an "art battle" and create a custom art piece that is inspired by soccer. The artists include Mighty Short (Portland Timbers), Aaron Kai (LA Galaxy), Kyler Martz (Seattle Sounders) and Paper Frank (Atlanta United).
The artists will have 60 minutes to create their limited edition artwork. The four custom pieces, will be available for auction for 48 hours on Bitski, a digital auction house that has focused on arts and fashion but recently entered the sports space with an NFT featuring Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The digital ownership of the pieces will go to the highest bidder.
"The special NFT art collection is the latest evolution of Major League Soccer's commitment to celebrating the creativity in our sport and the permission to connect soccer with progressive and exciting art experiences," said Chris Schlosser, MLS SVP of Media. "The live art battle, plus the modern take on a matchup poster, helps create a cultural moment that celebrates our League, and the two great MLS matches this weekend."
A second NFT initiative will take place during the 90 minutes of each of this weekend's two featured matches. MLS will open up a window to purchase an unlimited supply of the virtual match-up poster NFT's. These digital pieces have been custom created by the four artists to commemorate the weekend's games.
Schlosser later told ESPN that MLS is looking at getting into other NFTs such as highlight clips, similar to what the NBA is doing with a new digital collectible called NBA Top Shot.
"This is the start," Schlosser said. "We think that there are a lot of different opportunities, short term in art and culture and fashion, and then long term thinking about what the future of digital collectibles or digital NFT highlights might look like. Those programs will come to life later."
As part of the program, MLS is working with Aerial.is to ensure the carbon emissions from the transactions and any environmental impact is completely offset. The remaining proceeds will be split among the artists, Bitski and MLS.
Schlosser added, "We thought it was a super cool opportunity to showcase soccer culture, do something different than what the other leagues had done, and help promote two really awesome games for the weekend."