MLS Season Pass launches: What you need to know about watching the Columbus Crew in 2023
Last summer, MLS and Apple announced that, beginning in 2023, every MLS game would be broadcast by Apple, eliminating local broadcasts across the league.
Now, with opening weekend of the 2023 season just over three weeks away, the promised new platform has launched. Called MLS Season Pass, it will be the home of every MLS game for the next decade, as well as Leagues Cup, Campeones Cup and MLS Next Pro. The deal is reportedly worth $2.5 billion over the next 10 years.
In addition, Fox will broadcast select matches on linear television each season. An average of 34 regular-season games and eight postseason games will be available on Fox, including each MLS Cup through 2026.
ESPN, which had been MLS's primary TV partner since the league's inception, will no longer carry matches.
Here's more information on how to watch MLS games through MLS Season Pass, both this season and beyond:
MLS Season Pass:Apple's purchase of MLS streaming rights makes waves in a roiling TV world | Michael Arace
How do I access MLS Season Pass?
Let's start with arguably the most important information. Because MLS Season Pass is an Apple product, it is, of course, available on every Apple device through the Apple TV app. That means Apple TVs, iPads, iPhones and Macs.
The Apple TV app is also available on a wide range of smart TVs, gaming consoles and other streaming devices – such as Amazon Fire Stick or Roku.
Apple TV can also be accessed through a web browser, and a full list of devices that support the Apple TV app is available here.
How much does MLS Season Pass cost?
A key distinction here is the difference between Apple TV and Apple TV+. Apple TV+ is Apple's paid subscription streaming service, which is housed within the Apple TV app but isn't a requirement to use the Apple TV app; the two are not one and the same.
The base cost of MLS Season Pass is $99 per season or $14.99 per month. For people who already subscribe to Apple TV+, there's a slight discount, and the price is $79 per season or $12.99 per month.
Crew season ticket members, as well as all season ticket holders across MLS, will receive free access to MLS Season Pass via a one-time use unique sign-up code that will be emailed to them. Only one of these codes will be provided to each season ticket account, though a single MLS Season Pass subscription can be shared with up to five additional people via Apple's Family Sharing.
Additionally, every game of the opening weekend will be available for free, and approximately six games each week throughout the season will be in front of the paywall. Apple TV+ subscribers may get access to additional free games.
What content is available with MLS Season Pass? How will game broadcasts work?
During the preseason, MLS Season Pass subscribers will be able to watch a replay of the 2022 MLS Cup and a 2022 season review show. There will be a show called "The Ritual," which focuses on the traditions and culture of each club.
MLS Season Pass also features full match replays dating back to the 2019 season, and once the season begins, each match will be available for replay as soon as it is over and will be stored for the rest of the season.
For the game broadcasts, rewind, pause and fast forward will be available, and it will be possible to join matches already in progress and rewind to catch up on what happened before. All live matches will be broadcast in both English and Spanish, and the Canadian teams' matches will also be broadcast in French.
There are no blackouts, so anyone can watch any live match they choose.
There will not be a split-screen or quad box option available at launch, but it is in the works for the future.
The Athletic reported in January that each team will additionally have what is called a Club Room, which will be required to have fresh content throughout the year, including first-team updates, player interviews, reports from MLS Next Pro and the academy. The Dispatch has learned that the Crew hired several staff members to create the necessary content.
There is an option to follow your favorite clubs so their content shows up at the top of your feed, for example, following the Crew means their page will move to the front of the Eastern Conference tab.
Who will be calling MLS games this season?
So far, MLS and Apple have hired 49 broadcasters to form their commentary teams, and a third round of hires is expected before the season begins Feb. 25. The group includes 25 analysts, five studio hosts and 19 play-by-play announcers.
Some of the analysts, such as Christina Unkel, who will be a rules analyst, as well as Sacha Kljestan, Bradley Wright-Phillips, Shep Messing and Diego Valeri, will be studio analysts. Other analysts, including longtime ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman, will be match analysts. Studio coverage will include pregame, halftime and postgame shows, as well as a Saturday night whip-around show that will touch on each match.
Though there will no longer be local broadcasts, World Soccer Talk reported last week that many of the broadcasters will have a regional focus, so they'll largely cover games within their own geographical region.
As a theoretical example, Inter Miami play-by-play announcer Dre Cordero was hired by Apple, so with a regional focus, he would primarily cover games within Florida and the Southeast.
The home team's radio broadcast will also integrate with MLS Season Pass, and there have been reports that the visiting radio broadcast could also be integrated in the future.
The former Crew broadcast team featured Neil Sika doing play-by-play, Jordan Angeli as an analyst and Brett Hiltbrand on the sideline, but it doesn't appear that any of them will be involved with MLS Season Pass. Broadcasts will not have sideline reporters, Hiltbrand shared in November. The Colorado Rapids announced Tuesday that Angeli has been hired as an in-stadium analyst. Sika has not been included in the first two waves of hiring.
Get more Columbus Crew news by listening to our podcasts
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: How to watch Columbus Crew on MLS Season Pass, Apple TV