Dubai: Major League Soccer (MLS) announced a multi-year renewal of its partnership with Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, on Monday.

The two organisations first became partners in 2014. With this extension, Etihad Airways continues its role as the official airline partner of the MLS and deepens its commitment to the North American market.

Patrick Pierce, vice president of marketing partnerships at Etihad Airways, said: “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the MLS, reinforcing our long-term commitment to North American soccer fans.

“Etihad Airways and the MLS share the same spirit of global connectivity through sports, and we are dedicated to celebrating soccer’s rising popularity in the US, Canada and beyond.”

The MLS is football’s top flight league in North America, comprising 22 teams, 19 from the US and three from Canada. The season runs from March to December, and started last weekend.

Jennifer Cramer, vice president of partnership marketing at the MLS, said: “We are extremely proud to extend our partnership with Etihad Airways and build upon our relationship with one of the world’s best airlines.

“At MLS, we are dedicated to serving our global audience, which is why it is truly exciting to partner with a premium global brand whose values and approach mirror our own. Together, we will continue to build upon our commitment to global soccer and its dedicated fans.”

Fellow UAE carrier Emirates Airline were the first to partner with a US football team when they sponsored National American Soccer League (NASL) side New York Cosmos in the second tier of the American league system, below the MLS, in 2013.

Etihad then partnered with the MLS and became sponsors of MLS side New York City FC in 2014.

There is no relegation or promotion between the MLS and the NASL so New York City FC and New York Cosmos won’t face each other in the league, but they could meet in the cup.

The NASL compromises eight teams, six from the US and one each from Canada and Puerto Rico. The season runs from March to November and starts on March 25.

Etihad Airways currently operates 45 return flights each week between Abu Dhabi and six American cities – Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York JFK, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Emirates Airlines operates 119 return flights a week to 12 American locations - Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, New York JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C. and starting from next week, March 12, Newark New Jersey will be added.

Both offer passengers from the US direct access to the UAE and connections onto the rest of the Middle East, Africa, Indian subcontinent and Pacific Asia.