MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+ Will Stream Games in 1080P

MLS Season Pass UI on mobile phone
(Image credit: MLS)

Apple and Major League Soccer have unveiled more information about their plans for the MLS Season Pass streaming offering on Apple TV app, which kicks off with Matchday 1 on Feb. 25 and will offer live coverage of all MLS regular season games and extensive additional content. 

As more sports rights shift to streaming platforms like Apple TV+, the effort will provide a notable example of how leagues are rethinking sports production to take advantage of new features available on streaming platforms. 

"MLS Season Pass is a global project that required assembling a team of the most talented and accomplished leaders in every aspect of the broadcasting industry from all over the world," said Gary Stevenson, Major League Soccer’s deputy commissioner and president of MLS Business Ventures. "Our focus, with our partner Apple, is delivering an exceptional level of quality and storytelling that entertains and engages MLS’s passionate fans, improves their experience, and engages new fans through the reach of Apple and MLS Season Pass."

MLS and Apple have partnered with IMG Productions and the NEP Group for productions of over 900 matches representing over 2,000 hours of live coverage, as well as the production of live studio programming on MLS Season Pass.

Live studio programming will be created at a newly-rebuilt production facility in New York City with a trio of state-of-the-art studios that will serve as the central hub for all MLS Season Pass studio programming. 

For the new season, the league is also making a concerted effort to upgrade its production quality and to improve the way the games are covered with more cameras and camera angles, improved graphics, enhanced data, better storytelling, a more consistent look and features that will take advantage of the Apple ecosystem. 

One key upgrade will be offering all MSL matches in 1080p and Dolby 5.1 audio, which will mark the first time that all MSL games have been produced in 1080p. The production teams will also be using more cameras, over 20 for Championship matches. 

Besides IMG and NEP, key vendors for the production effort will include Sports Solutions, Vizrt, Deltatre, IMG Arena, TGI and AT&T.  

IMG is producing all the matches and studio content. It is doing the studio show production and is responsible for the editorial tone, look and feel of the production. They are also staffing the producers and directors for the production.

NEP, which helped produce 50,000+ live broadcasts in 2022, is providing the technical infrastructure, including all the mobile units for up to 14 games in a single day. It is also providing all the technical crews, camera people, replay operators, audio, crew and so forth.

NEP is also supporting those crews and productions with facilities in New York, Miami, Dallas, L.A. and Washington D.C. It is providing its largest studio facility in New York City, which will host the MLS studio production.

While the League is planning to offer new ways of covering the matches and changing the viewing experience for fans, the actual production infrastructure and approach will be fairly traditional in the first season. All the trucks will have control rooms and the games will not be remotely produced.

For the moment, MLS and Apple are also not saying when they might consider upgrading to 4K, which would use significantly more bandwidth than HD.

Another notable development for viewers is a streamlined schedule that will offer around 13 matches each Saturday and Wednesday, with matches starting at 7:30 local time. 

The MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app will also feature every match of the MLS regular season, Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and Leagues Cup1 in one place, with more consistent match times and no blackouts – a first in live sports broadcasting, MLS said.

Another major focus will be providing both English and Spanish language programming, which two of the new studio shows being produced in English and in Spanish and matches in both languages. French will also be available for those games involving Canadian teams. 

In addition to the live games and thousands of hours of on demand programming, the MLS Season pass will offer three major studio shows: "MLS Countdown," "MLS 360," and "MLS Wrap-Up. "MLS 360", a new live whip-around show, provides live look-ins from every match, and features every goal, penalty kick, and big save, as well as analysis and discussion.

The league has hired a MLS Season Pass coverage team of more than 80  announcers and soccer legends presenting to fans in English and Spanish, plus French for matches involving Canadian clubs.

More than 60 play-by-play announcers and expert analysts will be in the booth calling matches each week. All MLS and Leagues Cup live matches will be produced at MLS stadiums, including on-site talent, using a fleet of production units to produce simultaneous coverage of up to 14 matches each game night.  

Fans in the US and Canada will have the option to select their home team’s radio broadcast for audio on the Apple TV app where available. Viewers will also have the ability to watch any match from the start and have access to the full game replay immediately after the match has ended.

MLS Season Pass is available in over 100 countries and regions, and is on billions of devices via the Apple TV app on Apple devices, smart TVs, streaming devices, set-top boxes, game consoles, and the web at Existing Apple TV+ subscribers can add MLS Season Pass for $12.99/month or $79/season; new subs will pay $14.99/month or $99/season.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.