Sports industry analyst Andrew Marchand believes that it’s unlikely that ESPN will renew its MLS TV deal, which would be a huge blow to Major League Soccer.

ESPN has had the rights to MLS in the United States since 1996 when the league launched.

MLS TV deal: ESPN likely to take a pass, says expert

Speaking on The Marchand and Ourand Podcast, New York Post columnist was not optimistic about MLS’ chances with ESPN:

“I think that the [MLS] linear deal is trending towards just being with FOX, and no ESPN,” speculated Marchand. “The issue has been because Apple is all inclusive, they want all those games to have the Apple branding. And for ESPN, they have a streaming service. Do they want to promote Apple’s streaming service? And will [ESPN] even be allowed to put [games] on their own streaming service?

“So I think that’s trending towards [MLS] having a deal with FOX and FS1 for MLS, and not with ESPN. I’m not saying it’s 100% done but that’s where that’s going most likely.”

World Soccer Talk reached an ESPN spokesman who offered no comment.

MLS finds itself without a deal

In the summer of 2021, ESPN along with Univision and FOX Sports were presented with an opportunity to renew their TV deals with MLS that expired at the end of 2022. All three of them passed on the opportunity at the time with ESPN, in particular, wanting to delay discussions until after the Premier League rights TV deal concluded.

The drama continued through early 2022 after NBC Sports renewed its deal with the Premier League. At that time, MLS Commissioner Don Garber indicated that a deal would be completed by the end of March 2022. However, no deal materialized.

Finally, more than two months later, MLS signed a 10-year streaming deal with Apple TV. And then more than six months later, we’re still waiting for MLS to finalize a TV deal for the season that starts in just a couple of months.

In a poll conducted earlier this year, ESPN was the number one choice when asked which network MLS fans would prefer for live games.

What is known for sure is that every single MLS game from 2023 through 2032 is available via streaming on MLS Season Pass.