LAFC has signed a new naming rights deal with BMO Financial, a 10-year partnership worth approximately $100 million total, according to someone familiar with the terms. At roughly $10 million per year, it’s the largest naming rights agreement in MLS history for a soccer-specific stadium.
BMO Stadium will replace Banc of California Stadium starting this week, the latest business change for the defending league champions. Along with the naming rights deal, LAFC recently bought out more than a half dozen investors, has a new lead managing owner, and is currently raising money.
It’s also a pivotal time for BMO (NYSE: BMO). The Bank of Montreal, as it’s also known, received regulatory approval this week to complete its $16.3 billion acquisition of Bank of the West from BNP Paribas. That purchase is part of a strategic expansion in the U.S., particularly in California.
“At the end of the day, after a pretty interesting journey, we ended up with an incredible partner that has an unrivaled commitment to the game of soccer,” LAFC co-president Larry Freedman said in an interview. “BMO has a long history and proven track record of supporting the game, being the financial supporter of soccer in Canada. We found ourselves from the earliest discussions to be kindred spirits on how we approach our business, and the community.”
LAFC is the league’s most valuable club, at $900 million, per Sportico’s annual valuations. As MLS valuations soar, so too do commercial deals like naming rights, which are often a team’s most valuable sponsorship asset. Real Salt Lake recently inked a 15-year deal worth nearly $100 million with America First Credit Union, an average of nearly $6.66 million per year. The Houston Dynamo also signed a new partner earlier this week.
LAFC has been searching for a new partner for more than two years, ever since its 15-year deal with Banc of California fell apart 12 years early. The 22,000-seat stadium, which opened in 2018 and cost roughly $350 million, hosts around 250 events per year, Freedman said, and is part of the plans for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
The stadium is also home to the NWSL’s Angel City FC. In a separate agreement, BMO has joined Angel City as a “founding partner,” with a commitment to dedicate 10% of the partnership’s economics back into the community.
The two deals, with LAFC and Angel City, are just the latest in the sport for BMO, which calls itself “the Bank of Soccer.” The company is already an extensive partner of all three Canadian MLS teams—it is the jersey partner for both CF Montreal and Toronto FC, which plays at BMO Field. Additionally, BMO has spent more than $18.5 million ($25 million CAD) to help develop youth soccer initiatives over the past two decades.
Now the company is expanding its U.S. business. When the Bank of the West acquisition closes, BMO will add nearly 9,300 employees and 1.8 million commercial, retail and business banking customers to its ranks.
“We’re in the midst of a growth strategy where we’ve started to expand into new markets,” Sonya Kunkel, BMO’s head of loyalty and sponsorship marketing, said in an interview. “And given that we were familiar with the soccer playbook, and had longstanding relationships with Toronto FC, CF Montreal, [Canadian national team player] Alphonso Davies and others, we were interested in looking for other opportunities to partner and continue to support the game.”
Both Kunkel and Freedman declined to comment on the financial specifics.
LAFC’s prior deal with Banc of California was originally a 15-year, $100 million partnership. That fell apart in 2020 amid the bank’s financial struggles, with the company agreeing to pay $20.1 million to unwind the partnership early. The team has continued to refer to the venue as Banc of California Stadium during negotiations with prospective partners.
As part of the deal, BMO will have additional signage around the stadium and an entitlement night, and the two will work together to highlight small businesses in the area. BMO also has naming rights to the Toronto FC practice facility—and while LAFC is currently looking for a new naming partner for its performance center, it is not part of this BMO partnership.
LAFC’s corporate partnerships team handled the contract negotiations with BMO. That effort was led by CFO Stacy Johns and Kristen Kuhn, LAFC’s head of corporate partnerships and media sales.