MLS finalizing Apple TV talent, owners consider best-of-three playoff format: Sources

Major League Soccer is finalizing its roster of play-by-play and color commentators who will serve as talent for its MLS Season Pass broadcasts on Apple TV, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity to preserve their relationship with MLS executives. Former ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman, who announced last week that he was leaving the network, is among the broadcasters who have reached agreements with MLS.

Others expected to be on the list, or are in various stages of discussions, include play-by-play commentators Keith Kosigan, Ed Cohen, Steve Cangialosi, Taylor Terrence, Eric Krakauer and Kevin Egan. Color commentators include Brian Dunseth, Lloyd Sam, Kyndra de St. Aubin, Ross Smith, Tony Meola and Jamie Watson. Former MLS players Maurice Edu, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan have also been in advanced talks with MLS, the sources said.

Update: In a press release on Tuesday, MLS confirmed the following talent have been signed: Max Bretos, Steve Cangialosi, Jake Zivin, Pablo Ramirez (Spanish-language), Frederic Lord (French-language) for play-by-play, match Analysts: Kyndra de St. Aubin, Maurice Edu, Lori Lindsey, Danielle Slaton, Taylor Twellman, Marcelo Balboa (Spanish-language), Sebastien Le Toux (French-language), Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Diego Valeri (Spanish-language). language) and studio hosts: Liam McCue, Jillian Sakowitz, Tony Cherchi (Spanish-language).

MLS is expected to unveil at least some of the talent on Tuesday as part of a preseason media event in California. Other broadcasters not named above will be included in the full list of commentators. Of the final group of commentators, some will be guaranteed a minimum number of games over the course of the season while others will have more flexible arrangements.

Some notable names who have already said they won’t be part of the main thrust of the initial coverage but could be featured in some capacity down the road include JP Dellacamera, Dave Johnson and Shep Messing.

Several sources said there is some concern about how much remains up in the air so close to the season, which begins in 47 days on February 25. , and multiple sources said that IMG hired John McGuinness, who has worked on NHL and Olympics broadcasts, as one of its top producers for MLS.

The league and Apple announced a 10-year, $2.5 billion broadcast deal last June that will see the tech giant show every single MLS regular season and playoff match on its Apple TV streaming service starting this season. Most of the matches will be shown on the MLS Season Pass subscription service, however More than 40 percent of them will be available for free.

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The league previously announced that the Season Pass app will cost $12.99 per month or $79 per season for those already subscribed to Apple TV+, and $14.99 per month or $99 per season for non-subscribers. MLS season ticket holders receive one free subscription to the service per account.

The new Season Pass App will also include a significant amount of club-created content on channels called “Club Rooms.” According to an internal league document acquired by The athletic This week, the club rooms require specific content before and during the season, including club profiles, player profiles and a fan/culture-specific feature called “The Ritual.” The channels will also have videos on club “legends,” team traditions and great games in the team’s history, as well as weekly and monthly content during the season, including first team reports, player interviews, MLS Next Pro and academy reports and community. reports.

MLS will also simulcast games on linear television: 34 regular season and eight postseason games will be shown on Fox Networks, 21 Leagues Cup games will be shown on Univision/UniMás/TUDN in the US. it. And a significant number of matches will be shown on TSN and RDS in Canada.

League considering best-of-three series for playoffs

MLS is considering changing its playoff format to include a best-of-three series in the first round, multiple sources said The athletic.

If accepted, it is probable that only the first round would be contested as a best-of-three competition. The sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the proposed changes, said the remainder of the playoff tournament would likely be single-elimination. The proposed format would be divided by conference and would include 16 teams, eight each from the East and the West.

The sources did not know the exact details of how the potential best-of-three series would be contested, but some noted that MLS used the format in the opening two rounds of the playoffs during its early years. In the series, the first team to score five points advances, with extra time added to the third game in the event that the teams finish regulation with three or four points.

The sources said the best-of-three proposal now appears more likely to be accepted than the previously discussed proposal that would have changed the playoff format to include group and knockout stages. That offer was Revealed by The athletic In October.

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As reported by The athletic In October, MLS is looking to increase the total number of playoff matches from the 13 contested in 2022 to around 30. The sources said the league is looking to do this in part so it can increase its overall inventory of playoff matches in the first. year of his new media rights agreement.

Contesting eight best-of-three first-round series before moving to a single-elimination format in the conference semifinals would give MLS between 23 and 31 total playoff matches.

The sources said that the format which would have included group and knockout stages is now more of a long shot than the best-of-three proposal as the league does not want to end up in a situation where teams would play a group stage match that would have no bearing on which teams advanced to the knockout round.

The sources also warned that none of the proposed new playoff formats had been approved. League owners need to sign off on the changes before the season opener on Feb. 25 to take effect in 2023.

Sources optimistic that MLS will allow inter-league transfers

Momentum is building in MLS for the establishment of an inter-league transfer market, with several sources saying The athletic That such a mechanism could be introduced as soon as this summer.

Currently, MLS teams are not allowed to buy/sell players for money to/from other MLS teams. They can trade them for allocation money, but that’s not real-world currency, just an MLS budgetary resource. The policy made sense during the league’s turbulent beginnings, when several owners controlled multiple teams, but MLS has grown to the point where an internal market could be beneficial. There was some concern in creating new areas where teams would have to pay training compensation to fellow MLS clubs due to internal sales. The payments are avoided with trades. There were also questions about how it would be executed legally because all players are contracted to MLS, not the specific clubs, and so it’s not technically a sale between clubs. The sources were not clear on how these questions would be answered if an inter-league transfer market was introduced.

Allowing teams to buy and sell players internally would create an additional revenue stream for selling clubs and add another mechanism to keep talented players in the league.

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The sources are unsure how exactly an inter-league transfer market would work if one is adopted. One source expected that only players making more than the maximum budget fee ($651,250 in 2023) or those whose new teams plan to immediately give them a contract that will take their salary above the maximum budget fee would be eligible for transfers from Inter-league. The same source expected that inter-league transfer fees would count towards a team’s budget as they do in the current system; The buying team would amortize the fee and add it to the player’s salary to generate its budgeted fee, while the selling team would either be able to pocket the money or convert at least a portion of it into general allocation money.

The introduction of an intra-league transfer market was a wildly popular idea in The athletics anonymous 2022 survey of MLS executivesWith 21 out of 21 executives surveyed said they want the league to leave them.

“The most successful leagues, the most active transfer market is internal,” said one executive. “By definition, when I’m looking to sell a player, I’m cutting off a potential channel to sell. It makes no sense. And it’s not just that the bigger clubs are going to buy from the smaller clubs. If a big club wants to Get a DP better than the one they have now, another club can take that (big club’s current) DP. They might say, ‘I know him, he’s in the league, and I’d rather pay to get him than to Go to South America and try something less safe.’ I just see multiple benefits. And why wouldn’t we?”

“Yes absolutely. One hundred percent (we should have one),” added another. “I don’t get it. Why, if there is a very good player, a very good fit in the league, he has to leave the league if a club cannot offer a better contract or wants to sell? Why can’t another team buy him as a DP? Or if a team like Salt Lake has all three DPs occupied and they can’t make a player like (Dmir) Kreilch a DP and they have to sell that player but we can’t buy him. Why? Why let players go instead of creating a new market?

(Photo: Bill Barrett/ISI Photos/Getty Images)


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