March 4, 2015 / 11:04 PM / 5 years ago

Disney World to sponsor new professional soccer team in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Walt Disney World said on Wednesday it would sponsor Orlando’s new Major League Soccer team, which plays its inaugural match on Sunday against a fellow expansion club from New York.

The sponsorship by the Walt Disney Co-owned theme park is expected to raise Disney’s profile in Brazil, home of the Orlando team’s star player Kaka, and in Latin America generally where soccer is a national pastime in almost every country, a joint news release said.

A record 2 million Brazilian tourists visited the United States in 2013 and listed theme parks third on their list of activities behind shopping and sightseeing, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Commerce report and traveler surveys.

Their top destination was Orlando, leading Brazilians to overtake the British as Florida’s largest group of overseas visitors by country of origin, the figures showed.

A Disney spokesman said the company’s policy is not to release financial information, but a source familiar with the details said it was “a seven-figure deal.”

The sponsorship makes Disney World the soccer team’s official theme park, resort destination, cruise line and vacation club under terms of the deal. Disney also plans what it calls a significant presence at the team’s home games and stadium, which is under construction.

Major League Soccer and the players’ union are in last-ditch talks to avoid a work stoppage before the season begins.

Reporting by Barbara Liston in Orlando, Fla.; Editing by David Adams, Peter Cooney and Eric Beech

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