Apple’s MLS Partnership: The Messi Gamble and Its Impact on American Soccer

Apple’s media broadcast agreement with MLS has ignited widespread concerns and criticism within the soccer community. Originally intended to offer MLS content subscriptions through T-Mobile, this venture seemed to stall, ultimately leading to a desperate move to recruit soccer icon Lionel Messi in a bid to bolster subscription numbers.

However, this approach has inadvertently exacerbated the over-commercialization of the sport, resulting in skyrocketing ticket prices, with some matches demanding a minimum of $600 for entry, and Messi jerseys priced exorbitantly at $200. These steep costs increasingly marginalize regular fans, making it challenging for them to attend matches or support their local teams.

Another concerning aspect is the alleged drop in viewership for non-Messi MLS games on Apple’s streaming platform. Despite non-Messi MLS games typically drawing well below 20,000 attendees, the lack of transparency surrounding viewership statistics raises doubts about the league’s commitment to accountability. This issue has persisted since the league shifted away from regional TV distribution, with reported viewer numbers almost as dismal as stadium attendance figures.

Withholding actual viewership figures from the public is disconcerting, especially for a league that often portrays itself as America’s premier soccer competition. This lack of transparency erodes trust and leaves fans in the dark regarding the true consequences of the Apple deal on the sport they hold dear.

Apple’s partnership with MLS, exacerbated by the inclusion of Messi, has taken a disconcerting path. It has led to excessive commercialization, exorbitant costs for fans, and questionable transparency in reporting viewership data. This arrangement threatens to alienate the very supporters who have long been the sport’s lifeblood in favor of corporate interests, ultimately undermining the essence of the game.

The outlook for U.S. soccer appears uncertain as overall MLS viewership dwindles. It’s clear that America’s interest in MLS is waning without Messi, and the league’s heavy investment in bringing Messi over seems like a high-stakes gamble, potentially at the expense of the game itself and the fans who have passionately supported it for years.

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