Major League Soccer has announced TV coverage plans for the 2017 season, which will include plenty of changes that will disrupt the consistent television windows that fans have only recently become adjusted to after the 2016 season.
In the 2016 season, the vast majority of MLS games had consistent television windows where many Friday night games were on UniMas, Saturday games were on MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick and Sunday games featured an early afternoon match on ESPN followed by Sunday night games on FS1.
Most of that is thrown out the window for 2017 with ESPN and UniMas, in particular, making significant changes.
In 2017, MLS fans will need to more carefully scrutinize the MLS TV schedules in order to find out where to watch games on TV or streaming.
By reviewing the MLS TV schedule for 2017, the most noticeable change is that ESPN won’t be broadcasting as many Sunday games as they did in 2016. ESPN’s MLS broadcasts in 2017 encompass more Friday and Saturday games. Plus, FOX Sports will broadcast several Friday night games, too. At the same time, UniMas won’t be showing as many Friday night games and will instead show more games on Saturdays in particular.
Altogether, the MLS TV schedule for the 2017 season features the following number of games on each network (the numbers in parenthesis are the number of games the networks showed in 2016):
ESPN: 28 (35)
ESPN2: 3 (5)
FOX broadcast network: 4 (7)
FS1: 29 (35)
Univision: 6 (1)
UniMas: 18 (31)
Univision Deportes: 0 (1)
As can be seen from the above numbers, ESPN and UniMas will be showing fewer games, while FS1 and the Univision broadcast network will be showing more. By Univision expanding the number of games it’ll shown on its broadcast network, that alone will give MLS a significant bump in TV viewing numbers.
Other points to note include:
• FOX Sports will broadcast the season opener on Friday, March 3 between Portland and Minnesota on FS1,
• FOX Sports will air the 2017 MLS All-Star Game from Chicago in either late July or early August. Although the opponent hasn’t been finalized, World Soccer Talk reported in October that Barcelona has been invited to play,
• MLS Rivalry Week on ESPN will feature the Cascadia Cup — Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders — on Sunday, June 25,
• The second MLS Rivalry Week on ESPN will feature last season’s four Eastern Conference finalists in a weekend doubleheader – New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC on Friday, August 25, and Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC on Sunday, August 27,
• ESPN play-by-play commentators Adrian Healey, analyst Taylor Twellman and sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks will handle English-language commentaries,
• The 2017 schedule includes a break for the CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage for the first time. Group stage matches for the CONCACAF Gold Cup will be played from July 7 through July 17 on FOX Sports and Univision,
• Richard Méndez and former New York/New Jersey MetroStars (New York Red Bulls) striker Giovanni Savarese return to call the matches in Spanish on ESPN Deportes.