Apple signs a 10-year deal with the Major League Soccer
Apple and Major League Soccer (MLS) today announced that the Apple TV app will be the exclusive destination to watch every single live MLS match beginning in 2023. This partnership is a historic first for a major professional sports league, and will allow fans around the world to watch all MLS, Leagues Cup,1 and select MLS NEXT Pro and MLS NEXT matches in one place — without any local broadcast blackouts or the need for a traditional pay TV bundle.
Not here to brag, but I was expecting something like this. The previous efforts of Apple with sports — namely Friday Night Baseball, a show around a sport that seem to be only popular in a limited number of countries — looked a lot like dipping your toes in the water before jumping in the pool. With the FIFA World Cup happening this year, and the following edition being hosted in North America, it was only natural that football was the next big step for Apple.
What I was not expecting was a 10-year deal, for every game of the league. This is unprecedented according to Eddy Cue’s quote in the press release and I believe it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple soon achieves similar deals with second-tier football leagues like the MLS: maybe the Chinese league, maybe the Dutch league, or even the British Championship (where Ted Lasso’s team is supposed to compete). I think it is a bit too late for the next World Cup but I wouldn’t be surprised if other big international football competitions end up on Apple TV like the MLS.
For the big 5 leagues and national cups — England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and France — and European cups, I don’t think it will happen anytime soon, but maybe for lower divisions: I would love the idea of watching all the Ligue 2 games of my beloved team of AS Saint-Étienne on Apple TV: it would somehow ease the pain of this year’s relegation.
The announcement explains the reasoning behind the deal:
Major League Soccer is the fastest-growing soccer league in the world, more than doubling in size to 29 clubs over the last 15 years. The momentum will continue as soccer will grow throughout North America on the road to the 2026 FIFA World Cup hosted by the US, Canada, and Mexico. With players representing 82 countries, MLS has the most global player pool in all sports, and its fan base is one of the youngest, most diverse audiences in North American sports.
This deal is obviously a great opportunity for Apple and for Apple TV, but this is also a big deal for the MLS. As far as I am concerned, if some games are free to watch on my devices, along with this special programming they announced, I might take a look at a few games, and I might even end up taking an interest in following the US “soccer” league, something I never thought I would say. I cannot be the only person like this, and the MLS knows this. This deal could mean millions extra viewers for the league, which will obviously increase its attractiveness for sponsors, players, and investors.
This deal also means that Apple will be taken seriously during the next negotiations. Maybe for the other sport showcased during WWDC?