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MLS will tap Apple ecosystem to turbocharge growth

League president Mark Abbott says broadcast partnership with tech giant will be “transformational”.

28 September 2022 Ed Dixon

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  • MLS inked ten-year ‘US$250m a season’ global rights deal with Apple in June
  • Abbott also reveals league in no rush to grow beyond 30 franchises

Major League Soccer’s (MLS) new broadcast partnership with Apple will be “transformational” for the competition and enable it to be incorporated into the technology giant’s wider ecosystem.

The US soccer league’s deal with Apple, which was revealed in June, kicks in next season and runs until the end of 2032. As part of the agreement, reportedly worth US$250 million per year, every match will be offered through a new, MLS-dedicated subscription streaming service available exclusively through the Apple TV app.

At the time of the announcement, the league’s commissioner Don Garber believed the partnership would provide the catalyst for further growth, describing it as “a bit of the icing on the cake”.

Now, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott has shone further light on the ambitions plans for the tie-up.

“We recognised with the advent of streaming and how that market’s changing, that there was going to be a demand for someone like Apple,” said Abbott, who was speaking at the Leaders Week sport business conference. 

“We’re fortunate that they wanted to do [the broadcast partnership], to want to have all the games without territorial restriction.

“I think that the deal with Apple is transformational for the league without question, but also transformational for our industry. When we think about the global reach of Apple, to be able to partner with the most innovative [and] successful company in the world, there could be no better partnership for us.

“There’s so many aspects that are exciting about it. Among the most, is the ability to incorporate MLS throughout the Apple ecosystem.

“Just look at what happened when Apple got into music and how it transformed that business. Now it’s going to happen that they’re into sports.”

Abbott, who is stepping down from his position at the end of the 2022 season after nearly 30 years with MLS, also gave an update on the league’s franchise expansion plans. He confirmed the league was focusing on bringing a new club to Las Vegas, reaffirming comments from Garber last December that the city was the favourite to secure a 30th franchise slot.

Among those interested are Wes Edens and Nassef Sawiris, the co-owners of Premier League side Aston Villa, with the Las Vegas Review Journal (LVRJ) reporting in January that the pair had entered exclusive talks.

While Abbott did not reveal a specific timeframe for a Vegas franchise, he did state that MLS currently has no firm plans to grow beyond 30 teams, even though he feels the US is comfortably big enough to accommodate additional clubs. He added that interest from potential new franchise owners is high and sounded out San Diego as a “really dynamic market”.

The league, though, will not be rushed into making a decision.

“We want to be strategic about that,” Abbott said. “We’ve always been strategic in the way we grow. But we’re getting towards the end of our growth plans.”

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