The Major League Soccer deal with Apple brought the revolutionary MLS Season Pass to global audiences. In doing so, it largely lost its presence on more traditional TV. While MLS still broadcasts games on FOX or FS1 every week, the streaming nature of the league has changed the viewership landscape of the league. Alexi Lalas, a former MLS star and a polarizing analyst, says that the Apple deal has hurt MLS. Lalas argues MLS has lost its visibility to a larger audience with its dedicated home on streaming.

Responding to fans on Twitter, Lalas commented on the state of the league and how MLS’ move to Apple may have hindered growth. He says the money Apple offered was too good for the league to pass up in the present. For reference, Apple paid a total of $2.5 billion for its 10-year deal with Major League Soccer. However, the trade-off has been losing access to traditional fans who may not be as devoted.

“MLS’ move to Apple was progressive and potentially prescient,” Lalas wrote on X. “The bird-in-hand money was also too good to pass up. Trade-off was being out of traditional sight/mind of fans/potential fans.”

The 2023 campaign has been pivotal for several reasons. On one hand, it debuted this deal with Apple TV. It also brought Lionel Messi to the league to much success and acclaim, both on and off the pitch. Lalas says Messi joining Inter Miami has been crucial to recapture some of those uncommitted fans to watch MLS. Still, the league has drifted in the minds of many.

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Alexi Lalas says Messi has helped MLS and Apple

“Messi has helped, but the sense that MLS has lost some visibility is real.” After the Argentine’s arrival, Apple set records in terms of both subscribers and viewers on MLS Season Pass.

Next season, MLS will have a full complement of Messi to broadcast. However, it faces the challenge of drawing in viewers now that the novelty of the Argentine has faded away.