In the buildup to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV launching on Feb. 1, a major milestone arrived Tuesday.
Major League Soccer and Apple officially welcomed some of the initial broadcast talent that will call matches and provide studio analysis as the unprecedented subscription service begins during the 2023 season.
Among the 18 names revealed was analyst Taylor Twellman, who spent the past 11 years as ABC and ESPN’s lead soccer analyst and is among the most prolific goalscorers in MLS history. He’s confident this new project will be a game-changer.
"Sixteen years ago [Apple] created the iPhone," Twellman said at the San Jose Convention Center in a live-streamed event alongside MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Apple Senior VP of Services Eddy Cue.
"None of us knew what that was 16 years ago, and yet here we are. So for them to say to Major League Soccer, ‘We’re in,’ I now can unapologetically be myself. I can cover the league that all of us up here love, that all of us have been involved with this league can do something with no excuses, and just do it.
"… I’m just very fortunate to be sitting up here and be part of a project that I think, 10 years down the road, we may be talking about the same way they talked about the iPhone 16 years ago," added Twellman, who recorded 101 goals in 174 matches with the New England Revolution.
While some games will still be available on linear TV, the 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple will provide a new broadcast experience for fans. And these voices and faces will take center stage when MLS Season Pass is available in more than 100 countries and regions.
MLS Season Pass will feature every match of the regular season, Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and Leagues Cup all in one place, with consistent match times and no blackouts – a first in live sports broadcasting. It will also feature pregame shows, a whip-around show that will provide analysis and discussion from all the key moments, and a postgame wrap-up to close each night.
The global reach is what most appeals to analyst Maurice Edu, who spent the past five years as an analyst with FOX Sports and called Atlanta United games. The former Toronto FC and Philadelphia Union player has also provided soccer commentary for CBS Sports.
"The reach that this is going to expand [MLS], now reaching fans from across the world, to watch these games," Edu said of what appeals to him. "When I was in Europe, I had so many question marks from my teammates about, 'What's going on in MLS, what's happening with MLS?' Then I come back here, they're still reaching out to me like, 'How I can see these games?' Well, now I actually have an answer to how they can see these games on a consistent basis.
"There's no blackouts, there's none of that," Edu continued. "To be a part of that project, to be a part of this project, to be with all these people on here in front of the camera, the team that's being compiled behind the camera as well, it's just an exciting time."
"That’s how you storytell"
All matches will feature commentary in either English or Spanish, while matches involving Canadian teams will also offer commentary in French. Pregame shows and the postgame wrap-up will be available in English and Spanish. Fans in the US and Canada will also have the option to select their home team’s radio for broadcast audio on the Apple TV app where available.
US women's national team legend Lori Lindsey, who’s joining MLS Season Pass from ESPN and CBS Sports, said she can already feel camaraderie developing in the initial group.
"For me, when playing, the thing I loved the most was the team aspect," said Lindsey, who worked as a sideline reporter for Nashville SC. "And when this started to come together and to fruition, I was like: ‘Yes!’ Because this feels so much like a team.
"And that’s how you storytell, when you’re in collaboration, when you’re in it together and acting as one. I think with the most innovative company in the world, with Apple, to be able to tell the stories in MLS, it’s a no-brainer for me."
The complete on-air broadcast team and the full production plan for MLS Season Pass will be announced before the 2023 season begins on Feb. 25. All matches will be available on billions of devices through the Apple TV app, from anywhere in the world.
"I grew up a fan of this league and I'm not joking when I say that I think MLS is one of the most exciting leagues in the world," said Sacha Kljestan, who recently retired and served as a digital host and analyst for FOX Sports’ coverage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
"Then when you partner that with a company like Apple, one of the biggest companies in the world, I just feel fortunate to be part of the future of this league. I think the next 10 years are going to be awesome."
Apple and MLS unveil broadcasters for MLS Season Pass