Major League Soccer made its leap into the unknown on February 25 when it began broadcasting all games in a partnership agreement with Apple. The 10-year deal is bold, risky and exciting, but how has the streaming subscription service had its first month? We take a look with the MLS season pass report card.
We divided the rating into several different categories.
Image qualityFunctionalityCommentatorsStudio talentProgramming
Image quality: A
The viewing experience on MLS Season Pass is exceptional. So much so that when you compare any game FOX is showing at the same time as MLS Season Pass, the difference is substantial.
Courtesy of MLS Season Pass, MLS has never looked so good. There are still a few random errant camera shots during games, but overall, the look and feel has improved significantly.
This is the category where Apple needs to improve the most. Android users still feel left out. Many Comcast Xfinity subscribers who watch the MLS season pass have given up. Meanwhile, the issues with spoilers as default settings still persist.
In general, the user experience is not intuitive. For a company that prides itself so much on creating quality products, it still feels like Apple TV+ and MLS Season Pass weren’t built for live sports. Figuring out how to watch full game replays is a chore unless you know how to pull it off. Similarly, trying to disable spoilers from scoring isn’t as simple as it sounds.
For the most part, the MLS commentators in MLS Season Pass have been an excellent addition. And if you don’t like the ones you hear, the added bonus is that you can choose the local broadcaster directly within the game. We all have our favorite commentators, so the fact that we can choose between two options in every game is nothing short of revolutionary when it comes to streaming football.
In particular, commentator Keith Costigan and separately co-commentator Danny Higginbotham have been fantastic. You can tell they do their homework before games. And listening to them is always a pleasure.
However, we are still missing a world-class commentator at the level of a Jon Champion.
Recommended display option
Includes: all regular season games, MLS Cup playoffs, League Cup and more
Study Talent: A-
Sacha Kljestan in MLS 360 has been a revelation. So comfortable and captivating on camera that he has been the biggest surprise in the MLS season pass. Confident, his analysis has hit the nail on the head. The other blow has been Bradley Wright-Phillips. The way he reads the game and shares his vision based on his experience as a former striker is very helpful to the viewer.
We’re starting to see more post-match interviews on MLS 360, which is good news. Notably, we particularly enjoyed Costigan’s post-game interview with Phil Neville a few weeks ago in Miami, where the Irish-American asked several thought-provoking questions that elicited revealing responses from the coach.
One thing we have found is that when MLS 360 hits the 10:30 pm to 11:00 pm ET time window, it loses steam and starts to feel repetitive. Part of the reason is that they start showing game highlights from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm ET. The other reason is that the talent sometimes starts to sound repetitive in what they say, bringing up some of the same analysis they gave earlier on the show.
Outside of the games themselves and MLS 360, the quality of the shows available on MLS Season Pass has been disappointing. There is no series that comes close to Welcome to Wrexham. Similarly, we haven’t been able to find any team-specific shows that are as good as NBC Sports’ old series Behind The Badge that took viewers behind the scenes.
MLS is working with the producers responsible for the Netflix series Drive to Survive, so there is hope for the future.
In conclusion, MLS Season Pass has passed the test with flying colors. There is certainly room for improvement. But the biggest remaining challenge isn’t the streaming subscription itself. It’s the league format and the lack of big new signings.
Major League Soccer Guide
Here are some resources to help you get the most out of the MLS Season Pass!
Photo Credit: Apple