MLS finalizes 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.

These 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 who should be on this list or are in various stages of discussion include play-by-play commentators Keith Costigan, Ed Cohen, Steve Cangialosi, Tyler Terens, 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 that the following talents have been signed: Max Bretos, Steve Cangialosi, Jake Zivin, Pablo Ramirez (Spanish), Frederic Lord (French) for play-by-play, match analysts: Kyndra de St. Aubin, Maurice Edu, Lori Lindsey, Danielle Slaton, Taylor Twellman, Marcelo Balboa (Spanish), Sébastien Le Toux (Francophone), Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Diego Valeri (Spanish-speaking) and studio hosts: Liam McHugh, Jillian Sakovits, Tony Cherchi (Spanish speaking).

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 latter group of commentators, some will be guaranteed a minimum number of games during the season while others will have more flexible arrangements.

Well-known names who have been told won’t be part of the main focus of the initial coverage, but may feature in some capacity in the future, include JP Dellacera, Dave Johnson and Shep Message.

Multiple sources said there was some concern over what remained up in the air so close to the season, which kicks off in 47 days on February 25. The league has opted to outsource game production to sports media giant IMG, sources said. , and multiple sources said IMG had hired John McGuinness, who 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 broadcasting deal last June that will see the tech giant broadcast every regular season and MLS playoff game on its Apple TV streaming service from this season. Most of these matches will be shown on the MLS Season Pass subscription service, however more than 40% of them will be available for free.

The league previously announced that the Season Pass app would 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 subscription holders receive one free subscription to the service per account.

The new Season Pass The app will also include a significant amount of club-created content on channels called “Club Rooms”. According to an internal league document acquired by Athleticism this week, these club rooms require specific pre- and in-season content, including club profiles, player profiles, and a fan/culture specific feature called “The Ritual”. These channels will also feature videos about club ‘legends’, team lore and great games in the team’s history, as well as weekly and monthly content over the course of the season, including reports. from the first team, player interviews, MLS Next Pro reports and from the academy and the community. reports.

MLS will also simulcast games on linear TV: 34 regular season games and eight postseason games will air on Fox Networks, 21 League Cup games will air on Univision/UniMás/TUDN in the United States. United and a significant number of games will be broadcast on TSN. and RDS in Canada.

League considering best of three series for playoffs

MLS plans to change its playoff format to include a best-of-three series in the first round, multiple sources have said. Athleticism.

If adopted, it is likely 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 rest of the playoff tournament would likely be a knockout round. The proposed format would be split by conference and include 16 teams, eight each from East and West.

Sources did not know the exact details of how the potential best-of-three series would be contested, but several noted that MLS used the format in the first two rounds of the playoffs in its early years. In those series, the first team to reach five points advanced, with extra time added in Game 3 in the event that the teams ended regulation tied on three or four points.

The sources said the best-of-three proposal now looks more likely to pass than the previously discussed proposal which would have changed the format of the playoffs to include the group and knockout stages. This proposal was revealed by Athleticism in October.

As reported by Athleticism in October, MLS is looking to increase the total number of playoff games from the 13 played 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 games in the first year of its new media rights agreement.

Playing eight best-of-three first-round series before moving to a knockout format in the conference semifinals would give MLS between 23 and 31 playoff games overall.

The sources said the format that would have included group and knockout stages is now longer than the best-of-three proposal as the league does not want to end up in a situation where teams play a group stage . match which would have no impact on the teams qualified for the round of 16.

The sources also warned that none of the proposed new playoff formats have been approved. League owners must approve the changes before the season opener on February 25 for them to take effect in 2023.

Sources optimistic that MLS will allow intra-league transfers

Momentum is building within MLS for an intra-league transfer market, with some sources telling Athleticism that such a mechanism could be put in place this summer.

Currently, MLS teams are not allowed to buy/sell players for cash to/from other MLS teams. They can redeem them for allocated money, but it’s not real currency, just an MLS budget device. The policy made sense during the league’s turbulent early days, when some owners controlled multiple teams, but MLS has grown to the point where an internal market could easily be beneficial. There was some concern in creating new areas where teams would have to pay training compensation to other MLS clubs due to inside sales. These payouts are avoided with trades. There were also questions about how it would be executed legally because all the players are contracted to MLS, not the specific clubs, and so it’s technically not a club-to-club sale. Sources were unclear on how these questions would be answered if an intra-league transfer market was introduced.

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

Sources were unsure exactly how an intra-league transfer market would work if adopted. One source expected only players already earning more than the maximum budget load ($651,250 in 2023) or those whose new teams plan to immediately give them a contract that would take their salary above the budget load maximum would be eligible for intra-league transfers. This same source expected intra-league transfer fees to be factored into a team’s budget in the same way as in the current system; the buy team would amortize the fee and add it to the player’s salary to generate its budget charge, while the sell team would be able to either pocket the money or convert at least some of it into general allowance money.

The introduction of an intra-league transfer market was a very popular idea in Athleticism2022 Anonymous Survey of MLS Executiveswith 21 of 21 executives surveyed saying they wanted the league to allow them.

“The most successful leagues, the most active transfer market is internal,” said an executive. “By definition, when I’m looking to sell a player, I’m cutting off a potential channel to sell. It does not mean anything. And it’s not just that the bigger clubs are going to buy from the smaller clubs. If a big club wants to go for a better DP than the one they currently have, another club could take this (big club’s current) DP. They might say, “I know him, he’s in the league, and I’d rather pay for him than go to South America and try something less safe.” I just see several advantages. And why wouldn’t we?

“Yes absolutely. One hundred percent (we should have one),” another added. he’s leaving the league if a club can’t 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 she can’t make a player like (Damir) Kreilach a DP and she has to sell the player but we can’t buy him. Why? Why let the players walk instead of creating a new market?

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

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