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Apple sign billion-dollar deal with MLS: MLS on its way to global prominence?

My Football FactsArticles

By Martin Graham | 17th Jun 2022

Earlier this week, tech giants Apple signed a deal with the Major League Soccer organisation, the body in charge of club football in the United States of America and Canada.

The deal is reported to be worth $2.5 billion and will see MLS matches streamed to the rest of the world exclusively via Apple’s streaming platform, Apple TV, for the next ten years.

For fans of MLS clubs living outside the US and Canada, this is a breakthrough as MLS games are not readily available outside these regions. There are also the expansion opportunities that the league stands to benefit from, as American football – or soccer – will now be available for the rest of the world to watch, enjoy and interact with.

In every way, this is a win for the league that has struggled to gain some kind of relevance in the football community since the Americans chose to take football seriously. And it is a move reminiscent of the deal between Sky and the Premier League in the 90s which helped English football grow to become the global giant that it is today.

MLS growth trajectory

Major League Soccer is the fastest-growing football/soccer league in the world. Since its establishment in 1993, it has experienced an unprecedented growth that has seen the number of clubs grow to 29, more than doubling in size from the number of clubs in the league 15 years ago.

In that time, it has seen investment from Hollywood actors who are football fans and former footballers. These celebrities have started their own clubs and more are on the way. In addition to this investment from well-known global personalities, many global stars who have made a name for themselves in European football have also played on MLS pitches.

Thierry Henry, Sebastian Giovinco, Luis Nani, Gonzalo Higuain, David Villa, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Beckham, who went on to start his own MLS club Inter Miami, are but a few of the big names who have played for different MLS clubs.

Their influence brought eyes to the league and also grew the fanbase of the various clubs they featured for. The MLS also featured a number of players who have gone on to make the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) that have been putting up some solid showings in global or continental football tournaments.

For observers, it was only a matter of time before a deal like the Apple one came to the fore for the league.

Can Apple be Sky for MLS?

The details of the deal which have been revealed are textbook. Apple TV will provide matches, both free and on-demand, as well as highlights, analysis and features focusing on clubs, managers and players. All of these have the aim of demystifying the league to the rest of the world and to help existing MLS fans keep up even better with their favourite teams.

If done right, there is no telling how much growth the league can achieve. But herein lies the problem for the MLS.

Most of the matches are behind a paywall, to start with. The older fans could find this difficult to follow but for some reason, both Apple and the MLS believe it can give the league the push it needs. MLS content will be less on traditional television as they will try to push their followers to Apple TV as well.

The solution lies in the transfer of global superstars to the league, much like how the Premier League clubs started to pool in the best players from several countries during their time. The MLS is currently attractive enough as a retirement league for players who have strutted their stuff in the gruelling leagues in Europe and South America. However, many clubs – like Beckham’s Inter Miami – are working on changing this fact.

That will serve as the finishing touch to an already great structure which has seen them grow their league to 29 teams and build world class stadiums that are capable of hosting the world come 2026.

We could be looking at the next big football league and Apple will have a big role to play in it.

Martin Graham is an MFF sports writer

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