The Good, the Bad, and the Opportunity for MLS and Apple

The Good, Bad, and the Opportunity for MLS and Apple

2023 was the first season of MLS on Apple Season Pass (Apple TV+). Overall, I liked the service as a New York City Football Club Fan mainly because I never liked watching the games on the YES Network in 2022. The Yes Network regularly put MLS games on the app to watch, not on TV, and it was buggy and laggy, and the entire production could have been better. Also, the only way to watch the YES Network was to have cable, which was becoming expensive.


Below are my thoughts on what I liked about year one, what I didn’t like, and what I hope the service will improve upon next season with MLS and Apple.


What I Liked – I Got Rid of Cable and Could Still Watch MLS

What I Liked - I Got Rid of Cable and Could Still Watch MLS

You had to have cable in 2022 to watch the YES Network for NYCFC matches. However, the moment the Apple deal went through for the 2023 season, I got rid of cable and picked up Apple TV.


I paid $99 for an entire year (March – December), totaling $10 a month without taxes, compared to $70 a month for cable if I were to keep that. 


What I liked – No Blackouts

What I liked - No Blackouts

Blackouts are a great way to alienate your fanbase. For example, I like the New York Yankees and grew frustrated in 2022 with how many games I was blocked from watching while in New York because the game would drop from YES and go to a streaming service.


For instance, weekend games for the New York Yankees were on Apple TV, Amazon, Peacock, and so on in 2022. That meant that even though I had cable in 2022, and thus the YES Network, I was blocked from being able to watch these games, which was crazy. Those blacked-out games were why I got rid of cable in 2023; I only had cable to watch YES (Yankees and NYCFC), and those games were not even on cable for various reasons.


In 2023, I knew exactly how to watch MLS matches. All I needed to do was go to Apple TV, and there would be no blackouts.


What I liked – Access to All Games / MLS 360

One positive of the MLS and Apple deal was putting every game on one service. Having every game on one service allowed me to watch different games throughout the season. 


What I enjoyed the most was MLS 360, as it was a way for me to learn more about the league at once. I enjoyed the perspectives from the hosts and seeing live game footage of a match. MLS 360 is a terrific way to build a fan base for the league because it is the perfect thing to have on in the background while doing something else. I regularly had MLS 360 on my phone (or laptop) while playing a video game to keep tabs on the games taking place.


What I liked – The Production

What I liked - No Blackouts

I mentioned numerous times how inadequate the YES Network MLS coverage was. The app had no content, and the production was a joke.


With Apple TV, you could tell there was investment in the production with the camera angles, the pregame coverage, and much more. Even basic stuff, like drone coverage for Inter Miami games, felt better than the few basic video cameras that the YES Network would bring to games.


What I Didn’t Like – All Games Starting at the Same Time

What I Didn't Like - All Games Starting at the Same Time

The biggest issue in 2023 was that every MLS game would start at the same time (7:30 PM), which made watching other games difficult. For example, if I went to an NYCFC match at 7:30, I wouldn’t be able to watch the other matches that also began at 7:30. 


MLS should have staggered games throughout the day like they do with College Football and the NFL. They should have a few games at 1, a few at 4:30, then 7:30, and so on. As an MLS 360 fan, I would gladly have this service on throughout the day to see all the action taking place on matchday. 


Another major issue with the 7:30 PM start time was how much of a prime time slot that was for me. Saturday nights tend to be the night I would hang out with my friends, but I also wanted to watch the game. The fact that every match was 7:30 PM on a Saturday became tricky for me to navigate. If I had a few NYCFC games at one or 4:30 on Saturdays, I could plan my calendar to be more accommodating to others.


What I Didn’t Like – The Announcers

One major issue I had with the Apple coverage was the announcers. It was clear who knew NYCFC and who didn’t. Instead of taking the approach of a national broadcast, I could count a handful of times a former Red Bull Arena player would call the game and bring up the pitch size at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium. They would also bring up the “Red Wedding” game. It felt annoying because these are things that fans have heard constantly over the years. 


While MLS and Apple are catering to potentially new fans, it doesn’t look or sound great for someone to crap on a team they are watching. It would be like if Fox was covering the Miami Marlins for a game and made fun of how empty the stadium is or talked about a game where they beat the Marlins a few years back. This type of batter is acceptable for pregame coverage, but let’s move past that for the game.


What I Didn’t Like – The Price

What I Didn't Like - The Price


The service was either $14.99 a month or $99 per season. The price was way too high, especially for MLS. The first season should be $10 at most for the month-to-month plan because this is a league that not everyone knows or watches. $14.99 is what I pay for HBO Max, which I use daily. MLS Season Pass is something I use once a week to watch games.


There were free games throughout the year, but a more affordable price plan should have been. And yes, season ticket holders can get this for free, but the cost-per-acquisition for users, especially new fans, should be the goal.


How the Service Can Improve – Show Pre and Post-Game Coverage

My biggest issue with MLS games is that when they end, they end. 


As an NYCFC fan, it typically takes till Wednesday (if a game is on a Saturday) for many podcasts about the game to come out. I’ll list a few of my favorite podcasts below, but I always found it odd that there would be a pre and post-game recording from the coach on some of the podcasts. But it felt strange that it took days for this information to appear as a podcast. 


At the moment, I would love Apple coverage to bring in a camera for the pre and post-game and allow me to watch it on game day. Otherwise, waiting three or four days to hear a five-minute part of an interview on a random podcast feels amateurish.


NYCFC Forever Podcast – YouTube

NYCFC The City Boys Show – YouTube

NYCFC – Post 90′ Podcast – YouTube


How the Service Can Improve – Choose the Local Radio Option Directly in the Service

Again, I’m an NYCFC fan, so I follow what that team does daily. One of my enjoyments was listening to the radio commentators throughout the season when I was traveling. Listening to soccer games on the radio is interesting, but the commentators for NYCFC know the club and explain much more about what is happening, which adds a new perspective to a match. 


One podcast I like, The Sick Podcast, would constantly remind their audience that they could sync the radio to the live TV coverage to listen to them, but that is an additional step that now requires two different devices (TV, laptop, phone, etc.) to pull off. A casual fan won’t do that because you just want to put the game on.


How the Service Can Improve – Change the Start Times

How the Service Can Improve - Change the Start Times

I’ve mentioned this before, but changing the start times would help the product gain more viewership. For example, I have a friend in NYC who is an NYCFC season ticket holder. That means they leave for a 7:30 game around 6 (ish) since the train ride to Yanke Stadium or Citi Field takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour plus (assuming there is no express train). That means they get to the stadium around 6:45 – 7:00 PM EST. The game then goes from 7:30 to 9:15, then factor in the 45-minute – 1 hour plus train ride, and you aren’t getting home till after 10:00. With that being the case, you missed every game that also started at 7:30 PM to watch. You can watch the 10:30 game start times, but that game will end at midnight on the East Coast.


I explain this scenario because I live three hours from NYC and have a much longer commute to and from games. Therefore, if I go to any Saturday game, I won’t be able to watch anything besides the match I’m going to. If I were driving (or taking Amtrak from Saratoga Springs to NYC), I would gladly listen to the radio (or watch) an MLS game for a 1:00 start, or at least have MLS 360 on to get excited for a full day of soccer. There is so much wasted time on Saturday, and MLS 360 would only begin 45 minutes or so before 7:30.


How the Service Can Improve – Create a Prime-Time Game at a Location

One thing that can make MLS more attractive is to spotlight one game each week. For example, imagine having the MLS 360 crew (or some crew) set up outside a stadium before a game. Think of a regular season game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, where they have the hosts outside the stadium via the pregame. MLS could do something like this to help spotlight different cities, teams, and cultures and add a spotlight to the energy the crowd brings to the game.


Again, I’ll say this for the tenth time, but being an NYCFC fan is a lot of fun. The chants are mesmerizing, the passion is there, and the energy is electric. I’m sure other teams have as much, if not more, passion, and I would love to feel that same energy watching a game on TV. 



Overall, I liked the first season of MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. However, I felt early on in the season that many things would need to change in the future to improve the service. With Messi in the league, things will change for the better and maybe for the worse, which I will share in a different blog post. However, I purposely left that part out of this post because looking at the league and coverage is essential instead of looking at one aspect that will only be in the league for a short time.


Anyway, I would love to hear what your thoughts are as well. Please leave your comments below so we can chat! 

Did you like my points? Did you disagree? Do you think of better ways to improve the partnership between Apple and MLS? 

Let me know!

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