Apple’s partnership with Major League Soccer has been a game changer, but have you noticed the impact it has had on the MLS Season Pass voices who cover the games?

One of the benefits to Major League Soccer of bringing all of the production of games in-house is that it has complete control over the broadcasts streamed across Apple’s MLS Season Pass. In previous years, you had networks such as FOX Sports, ESPN, and Univision televising games. Under that arrangement, MLS had no control over what FOX, ESPN, and TUDN talent would say. The talent was hired by the respective TV broadcasters.

Under MLS’ deal with Apple, all of the commentators, co-commentators, and analysts are hired and paid by MLS. What difference does that make? When the league you’re covering is the same league that’s cutting your paychecks, quite a lot.

MLS Season Pass voices silenced

Since MLS Season Pass debuted in 2023, we’ve seen two major developments:

First, we’ve lost a lot of dissenting voices to MLS who could be relied on in previous years to speak their mind. The best example is Taylor Twellman who criticized the US Men’s National Team after they crashed out of World Cup 2018 qualifying. His What Are We Doing? rant on ESPN’s SportsCenter is one of the most famous soccer rants of all time.

Twellman was at it again in 2019 when he took to the ESPN airwaves to criticize the US Open Cup‘s structure.

By MLS hiring Twellman, the league has ensured that he now remains silent on controversial topics that involve MLS. When MLS announced in mid-December to remove its teams from the US Open Cup, the majority of MLS Season Pass talent was silent on social media. The most you got from Twellman was a retweet of his original ESPN rant. Gone was the anger and criticism of a competition that is near and dear to Twellman’s heart.

The same thing happened this week with the latest US Open Cup reports. You won’t see MLS Season Pass talent speaking up about it. They’re playing the silent game.

Opinions replaced by silence

The same can be said for other usually opinionated voices of US soccer. MLS Season Pass co-commentator Max Bretos, who appeared alongside Twellman on the infamous What Are We Doing rant, has been silent on social media about the US Open Cup controversy. So too were many others who in previous years could have been counted on to share their honest opinions.

With Apple publishing the weekly podcast entitled, Offside With Taylor Twellman, it’ll be fascinating to see if this week’s episode (or Wednesday night’s MLS season opener) even mentions the US Open Cup since it directly impacts MLS.

To date, the only mainstream media that is consistently vocal in their criticism are Herculez Gomez and Sebastian Salazar on their Futbol Americas show. In the meantime, we have been unable to find any CBS Sports Golazo clips this week where they share their analysis of the developing story.

Some MLS talent has effectively become fanboys

Second, the vast majority of soccer talent hired by MLS Season Pass have effectively become fanboys for the league. Take a look at any of the Twitter timelines for any of the talent hired by MLS, and you’ll see countless examples of the same messages promoting MLS Season Pass. Many of the tweets come from messaging that is provided by MLS to the talent.

For example, here’s a communication sent by MLS to its MLS Season Pass talent ahead of the launch last year. It’s one of many that MLS sent throughout the year to encourage talent to amplify news about MLS Season Pass:

Playing the PR game

It’s normal operating procedure for a public relations team to ensure consistent messaging. What’s different here is that we’re not used to MLS announcers or talent being controlled in such a manner. The reason why many of us enjoy listening to or reading what the talent says is because of their honest opinions. We don’t want them to be fed lines. We want them to be themselves, which is the reason we listen to them during broadcasts. Otherwise, we’d hit the mute button.

Other leagues don’t have this problem. With Premier League games, we hear the world feed featuring commentators from Premier League Productions. Meanwhile, we love hearing Jon Champion and Peter Drury calling it as they see it. Neither of them works for the league. They both work for NBC Sports.

What we want is for MLS talent to be themselves without fear of what league executives may think or do. The best commentators and analysts are the ones who tell us how it is. We don’t want to hear the voices of MLS Season Pass silenced.

Photo: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire.

Guide to Major League Soccer

Here are some resources to help you get the most out of MLS Season Pass!
TV Schedule: All the info on where and when to watch every game
Season Pass FAQ: We answer your questions about MLS Season Pass
Sign up: Learn how to subscribe to MLS Season Pass
Commentators: Check out who's calling the action for the MLS season
Android users Tips for fans Android users on how to watch MLS Season Pass