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

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Major League Soccer is finalizing its roster of play-by-play and color commentators who will serve as talent for MLS Season Pass broadcasts on Apple TV, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

These 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 that have struck deals with MLS.

Others who should be on this list, or are 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 of St. Aubin, Ross Smith, Tony Meola and Jamie Watson. Former MLS players Maurice Edu, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan are also in advanced talks with the MLS, the sources said.

UPDATE: In a press release on Tuesday, MLS confirmed that the following talents have been signed: Max Bretos, Steve Cangialosi, Jake Zivin, Pablo Ramirez (Spanish), Frederic Lord (French) for play-by-play, match analysts: Kyndra of St. Aubin, Maurice Edu, Lori Lindsey, Danielle Slaton, Taylor Twellman, Marcelo Balboa (Spanish), Sebastien Le Toux (French), Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Diego Valeri (Spanish) and studio hosts: Liam McHugh, Jillian Sakovits, Tony Cherchi (Spanish).

MLS is expected to reveal 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 final group of commentators, some will be guaranteed a minimum number of games throughout the season, while others will have more flexible arrangements.

Some household names who have been told they won’t be a main focus of early coverage, but may be featured in some form in the future, include JP Dellacamera, Dave Johnson and Shep Messing.

Several sources have said there is some concern about how much remains in the air so close to the season, which kicks off in 47 days on Feb. 25. The league has opted to move game production to sports media giant IMG, sources say, and multiple sources say IMG has hired John McGuinness, who has worked on NHL and Olympics broadcasts, as one of its top 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 all MLS regular seasons and playoff matches on its Apple TV streaming service from of this season. Most of these matches will be shown 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 Apple TV+ subscribers and $14.99 per month or $99 per season for non-subscribers. MLS season ticket holders receive a free subscription to the service per account.

The new season pass The app will also include a significant amount of content created by the club in channels called “Club Rooms”. According to an internal league document acquired by the athletic this week, these club rooms require specific pre-season and in-season content including club profiles, player profiles and a fan/culture specific feature called “The Ritual”. These channels will also have videos about club ‘legends’, team traditions and big games from the team’s history, as well as weekly and monthly content during the season, including first team reports, player interviews, MLS Next Pro and academy reports. and community reports.

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

League considers best-of-three series for playoffs

MLS is considering changing its playoff format to include a best-of-three series in the first round, multiple sources say. the athletic.

If adopted, it is likely that only the first phase will be played in a best-of-three format. The sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the proposed changes, said the rest of the playoff tournament would likely be single-elimination. The proposed format would be split by conference and would include 16 teams, eight on each side of the East and West.

Sources did not know the exact details of how the potential best-of-three series would play out, but several noted that MLS used the format in the first two rounds of the playoffs during its early years. In that series, the first team to reach five points advanced, with extra time added to the third game if the teams ended the regulation tied at three or four points.

The sources said the best-of-three proposal now looks more likely to be adopted than the previously discussed proposal, which would have changed the playoff format to include group and knockout stages. This proposal was revealed by the athletic in October.

As reported by the athletic in October, MLS aims to increase the total number of playoff games from the 13 played in 2022 to around 30. new media rights agreement.

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

The sources said the format that would have included group and knockout stages is now more of a long shot than the best-of-three proposal, 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 stages.

The 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 for them to take effect in 2023.

Sources optimistic MLS will allow intra-league transfers

Momentum is building within MLS for the establishment of an intra-league transfer market, with some sources saying the athletic that such a mechanism could be introduced as early as this summer.

Currently, MLS teams are not allowed to buy/sell players for money to/from other MLS teams. They can exchange them for allocation money, but that’s not real-world currency, just an MLS budgeting device. The policy made sense during the league’s turbulent beginnings, when a few owners controlled several teams, but MLS has grown to the point where an internal market is easily beneficial. There was some concern about creating new areas where teams would have to pay training compensation to other MLS clubs due to inside sales. These payments are avoided with negotiations. There were also questions about how this would be legally enforced, because all the players are signed by MLS, not specific clubs, and therefore technically not an interclub sale. The sources were not clear how those questions would be answered should an intra-league transfer market be introduced.

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

Sources were unsure of exactly how an intra-league transfer market would work if one was adopted. One source expected that only players who already earned more than the maximum budget ($651,250 in 2023) or those whose new teams planned to immediately give them a contract that raised their salary above the maximum budget would be eligible for intra-league transfers. That same source expected intra-league transfer fees to count towards a team’s budget in the same way as under the current system; the buy team would amortize the fee and add it to the player’s salary to generate their budget charge, while the sell team would be able to pocket the money or convert at least a portion of it into general allocation money.

The introduction of an intra-league transfer market was a very popular idea in the athleticAnonymous 2022 survey of MLS executiveswith 21 of the 21 executives polled 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’m looking to sell a player, I’m cutting off a potential channel to sell. It makes no sense. And it’s not just that bigger clubs will buy from smaller clubs. If a big club wants to get a better DP than what it currently has, another club can accept that (current big club) DP. They can say, ‘I know him, he’s in the league and I’d rather pay to sign him than go to South America and try something less certain.’ I just saw several benefits. And why not?

“Yes absolutely. One hundred percent (we should have one)”, added another. “I don’t understand. Why, if there is a very good player, who fits the league very well, he has to leave the league if a club does can offer a better contract or want to sell? Why can’t another team buy him as a DP? 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 they have to sell the player, but we can’t buy him. Why? Why let the players walk instead of creating a new market?”

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