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

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.

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

Others expected to be on that list, or 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, sources said.

UPDATE: In a press release Tuesday, MLS confirmed the following talent has been signed: Max Bretos, Steve Cangialosi, Jake Zivin, Pablo Ramirez (Spanish-language), Frederic Lord (French) for play-by-play, matches. analysts: Kyndra de St. language) and studio executives: Liam McHugh, Jillian Sakovits, Tony Cherchi (in Spanish).

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 mentioned above will be included in the full list of commentators. Of the latter group of punters, some will be guaranteed a minimum number of games during the season, while others will have more flexible arrangements.

Some familiar names who have been told they won’t be part of the initial coverage push, but could appear in some capacity down the road, include JP Dellacamera, Dave Johnson and Shep Messing.

Multiple sources said there is some concern about how much is left up in the air so close to the season, which begins in 47 days on Feb. 25. The league has opted to turn over game production to sports media giant IMG, sources said, and multiple sources said IMG hired John McGuinness, who has worked on NHL and Olympic broadcasts, as one of the lead 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 MLS regular season and playoff game on its Apple TV streaming service starting from this season. Most of those matches will be featured on the MLS Season Pass subscription service, although more than 40 percent of them will be available for free.

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 a free subscription to the account service.

The new Season Pass app will also include a significant amount of club-created content in channels called Club Rooms. According to an internal league document obtained by The Athletic this week, those clubrooms require specific content before and during the season, including club profiles, player profiles and a fan/culture-specific feature called, “Ritual.” These channels will also feature videos on club “legends”, team traditions and big games in team history, as well as weekly and monthly content throughout the season, including first team reports, player interviews, MLS Next Pro and academia and community relations. reports.

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

The league considers best-of-three series for the playoffs

MLS is considering changing the playoff format to include a best-of-three series in the first round, multiple sources have told The Athletic.

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

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 the early years. In those series, the first team to reach five points advanced, with overtime added to a third game in case the teams finished regulation tied at three or four points.

Sources said the best-of-three proposal now appears more likely to be approved than the previously mooted proposal that would have changed the playoff format to include group and knockout stages. That proposal was revealed by The Athletic in October.

As reported by The Athletic in October, MLS is looking to increase the total number of playoff games from the 13 contested in 2022 to about 30. Sources said the league is looking to do so in part so it can increase its total inventory of playoff games in the first year of its new media rights deal.

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

Sources said a format that would include group and knockout stages is now more of a remote possibility than a best-of-three proposition because 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.

Sources also cautioned that none of the proposed new playoff formats have been approved. League owners must sign off on the changes before the season opener on Feb. 25 in order for them to take effect in 2023.

Sources optimistic that MLS will allow intra-league transfers

Momentum is building within MLS to create an intra-league transfer market, with several sources telling The Athletic that such a mechanism could be introduced as early as the summer.

Currently, MLS teams are not allowed to buy/sell players for cash/from other MLS teams. They can trade them for allocation money, but that’s not real world currency, just a budget MLS device. The policy made sense during the league’s turbulent beginnings, when a few owners controlled multiple teams, but MLS has grown to the point where an internal market could easily be useful. There was some concern over the creation of new zones where teams would have to pay training compensation to other MLS clubs due to internal sales. These payments are avoided by trading. There were also questions about how it would be legally executed because all players are contracted to MLS, not specific clubs, and thus technically not a club-to-club sale. The sources were not clear on how these questions would be answered if an intra-league transfer market was introduced.

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

Sources were unsure how exactly an intra-league transfer market would work if one were to be approved. A source expected only players who already make more than the maximum budget fee ($651,250 in 2023) or those whose new teams plan to immediately give them a contract that would take them above the maximum budget fee , would be eligible for intra-league transfers. The same source expected that intra-league transfer fees would be calculated into a team’s budget in the same way as under the current system; the buying team would amortize the fee and add it to the player’s salary to generate their budget fee, while the selling team would either be able to pocket the money or convert at least some of it into general money .

Introducing an intra-league transfer market was an overwhelmingly popular idea in The Athletic’s 2022 anonymous survey of MLS executives, with 21 of the 21 executives surveyed saying they wanted the league to allow them.

“The most successful leagues, the most active transfer market is domestic,” said one executive. “By definition, when I look to sell a player, I’m cutting off a potential channel to sell. No sense. And it’s not just that bigger clubs will buy from smaller clubs. If a big club wants to go and get a better DP than what they currently have, 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 go to South America and try something less secure.’ I just see multiple benefits. And why not?”

“Yes absolutely. One hundred percent (we should have one),” added another. “I dont understand. Why, if there is a very good player, a very good fit in the league, should he leave the league if a club cannot offer a better contract or wants to sell? Why can’t another team like DP buy him? Or if a team like Salt Lake has all three DPs taken and they can’t make a player like (Damir) Kreilach a DP and they have to sell the player, but we can’t buy him. Why? Why are you letting players walk instead of creating a new market?”

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

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