Garber sees linear TV deal, expansion on MLS’ horizon

Even as MLS enters into a groundbreaking 10-year partnership with Apple to broadcast matches next season, some will still be available on linear channels.

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Even as Major League Soccer begins a groundbreaking 10-year partnership with Apple to broadcast games next season, there will still be some on linear channels.

Commissioner Don Garber said during Thursday’s State of the League speech that the league is in the process of finalizing deals to simulcast some games over broadcast or cable networks.

Saturday’s MLS Cup final between the Philadelphia Union and Los Angeles Football Club will be played on Fox, which has been broadcasting games since 2014. ESPN has been a league partner since the inaugural 1996 season.

“During the season there was no real rush to do that. It might be for those wondering what’s going to happen in the future,” Garber said. “For us, we have been focused on getting through this year and spending time and energy developing the production process and strategy to produce the games at super high quality with a team of announcers and content that we believe will that they will be new and innovative.”

Garber, who has been the league’s commissioner since 1999, said building the framework with Apple and taking over production is on track.

Fans can watch any game on the Apple TV app with no local outages or restrictions. In addition to all regular season and post-season games, the package includes all Leagues Cup games – the competition between the MLS and the Mexican Liga MX. This competition will be extended to all teams in both leagues next year.

MLS will make at least $250 million a year from the deal, but Garber said he doesn’t see any increased revenue impacting the league’s roster rules. Under the Designated Player Rule, teams may sign up to three players whose salaries exceed the league’s maximum salary cap fee.

The streaming deal with Apple isn’t the only thing MLS has to look forward to over the next year. St. Louis CITY SC will debut as the league’s 29th team, with an announcement expected on the 30th by mid-2023.

San Diego and Las Vegas emerged as the front runners. San Diego has a football-ready facility after the opening of Snapdragon Stadium on the San Diego State University campus. The potential Las Vegas ownership group is still trying to finalize plans for an indoor stadium.

“It’s not about who’s first and who’s second. Both are very active discussions,” Garber said. “We’ve always believed in San Diego, and I would say we’re probably closer to there than we’ve ever been. I believe Las Vegas, like all other leagues, will be a growing market in terms of the number of people and its ability to drive the success of professional sports.”

The Leagues Cup also serves as the unofficial kick-off for the promotion of the 2026 World Cup, hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Garber also said the league believes Merritt Paulson should not sell the Portland Timbers after he resigned as chief operating officer of the Timbers and the Portland Thorns of the National Women’s Soccer League.

Paulson took these steps following an investigation that uncovered abusive behavior, misconduct, and administrative failures across the NWSL.

“Merritt has publicly admitted his mistakes. The resignation and termination of two employees were steps in the right direction,” Garber said. Garber sees linear TV deal, expansion on MLS’ horizon

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