Don Garber provides few details about MLS and Apple agreement

MLS Commissioner Don Garber gave a state-of-the-league address, short on details but filled with optimism, Thursday from Los Angeles, where LAFC will host Philadelphia in Saturday’s MLS Cup.

The league has entered into a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal with Apple that will start next year. There haven’t been many details released since the agreement was announced in June. Garber didn’t offer many Thursday, other than to repeat that there will be consistent game days (Wednesdays and Saturdays), pregame and postgame shows and improved production quality.

“I read articles that we’re behind,” Garber said. “We’re not behind. Our season doesn’t start for a while. We certainly will be launching our season with Apple with great production teams, with all the bells and whistles that we’ve been talking about. So stay tuned as we’ll be soon announcing a brand suit.”

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Garber said the league is finalizing deals with its linear TV partners for certain games. He notes that viewership on ABC and ESPN increased by 16% this season, year over year. He said that was among the best records the league has had on television. He also noted the league produced highs with merchandise sales, social media and digital engagement. He didn’t include any statistics.

Asked if the revenue from the Apple deal will result in a change in league rules for player acquisitions, such as adding a fourth Designated Player, Garber said some of the rules may be tweaked but not eliminated or wholly changed.

“Leagues around the world come to Major League Soccer, even the biggest leagues, and look at the system that we have,” he said. “And they say, ‘Boy, how can we figure out ways that we could utilize some of your strategy, some of your technology, some of your innovation, some of the commercial energy, kind of things that we’ve done with the Apple deal, we’ve done with some of our investment in ventures, and how do we take all of that and put it into systems that have been around for 100 years?”

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