The New MLS and Apple Streaming Deal will Cost the Union Casual Fans

Photo Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

EDIT – looks like we finally have some clarity here on whether you can purchase the package separate from an Apple TV+ subscription:



For the last several seasons, Philadelphia Union games have appeared locally on PHL17, and were available out of market on ESPN+ with a third option to stream on

That’s changing this coming season with Major League Soccer agreeing to a 10-year deal with Apple worth $250 million per. The money is insane for MLS, and this is a good business move overall, but it means that Union games are leaving PHL17 and going to Apple TV+ instead.

Some details here:

NEW YORK (Wednesday, November 16, 2022) —Apple and Major League Soccer today announced MLS Season Pass will launch February 1, 2023 — introducing an unprecedented subscription service to fans in over 100 countries and regions that features every live MLS regular-season match, the entire playoffs, and the Leagues Cup, all with no blackouts. MLS Season Pass will bring MLS to its biggest worldwide audience ever, in a more simple and streamlined way: All matches will be available on billions of devices through the Apple TV app on Apple devices, smart TVs, streaming devices, set-top boxes, and game consoles, and the web at The launch of MLS Season Pass marks the official kickoff of the 10-year partnership between MLS and Apple, a historic first for a major professional sports league.

During match days, MLS Season Pass will feature an exclusive live match whip-around show so fans never miss an exciting goal or save, as well as game replays, highlights, and analysis. Starting February 1, fans can subscribe to MLS Season Pass on the Apple TV app for $14.99 per month during the season or $99 per season, and Apple TV+ subscribers can sign up at a special price of $12.99 per month and $79 per season.

They bury a lot of important details here, namely that “a selection of MLS and Leagues Cup matches, including some of the biggest playoff matchups, will also be available at no additional cost to Apple TV+ subscribers, with a number of matches available for free on the Apple TV app.” There will be games in front of the paywall, and there may still be a linear agreement with ESPN or FOX to broadcast national games, but the bottom line is that if you want to have access to all of the Union games next season, you have to have the special subscription in addition to the base Apple TV sub, which is $6.99 per month.

I hate this personally, because if you’re a casual fan who watched MLS Cup and might be interested in checking out the Union next season, I can’t imagine most of those people signing up for something like this. They might watch PHL17 on their existing FIOS or Comcast package, but are they shelling out $14.99 a month for this? Probably not. That’s a steep price on top of an ala carte streaming service. You can get a decent amount of the Premier League games on Peacock for cheaper. The ESPN/Disney/Hulu bundle is also cheaper, and already has a bunch of soccer available on it. Most folks are already paying extra per month for various subscriptions on top of their FIOS/Comcast/YouTubeTV agreements.

Tweets like these were common on Wednesday:

On the flip side, if you were a cord cutter, you probably didn’t get PHL17, so you were streaming the games through the Union website. Or you were stuck in one of those annoying-ass blackout areas, which was a big headache. That’s no longer going to be an issue for you.

But I just keep coming back to the thought that this is going to appeal only to people who were already Union fans. We know that 55 year old Donnie Delco doesn’t give a shit about soccer, but if you were a casual Phillies family of four who watched MLS Cup and might be intrigued by the local soccer team in 2023, now you have to think about Apple TV+ to watch the games. My gut tells me it’s going to be counterproductive in growing the Union audience here in Philly, but it’s hard to say no to $250 million a year.