The 2023 MLS campaign brought a world of change to the league. Not only did MLS sign on with Apple for a record-breaking streaming deal, but the development of the Leagues Cup and the addition of St. Louis made for several schedule changes.
The most prominent was the move to have almost all MLS games on the same day. Consequently, that is a Saturday. Games kick off in the evenings at 7:30 local time. Fittingly, much of that revolves around the actual location of games. For instance, those on the east coast start earlier than those on the west coast due to the four different timezones in the US.
This is far different from the scattered schedule of MLS in the past. Back then, games would be spread across the week. On the one hand, now there is no confusion over when games are. However, fans are generally watching one game at a time unless they tune into MLS 360, the whiparound show.
This leads to benefits and drawbacks for the league and its followers. Here are just a few of those.
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MLS and games on one night
There is next to no confusion when it comes to when MLS games are. There may be some infrequent midweek games, and a game or two on Sundays. However, there are anywhere from 11 to 13 games on each Saturday night. Therefore, viewers can bank on games starting then.
With MLS’s season running primarily in the summer, there is minimal competition on Saturdays, just Major League Baseball. Consequently, MLS fans can devote Saturday evenings entirely to Major League Soccer action. There is no need to set aside blocks of time on different days to watch the league. All the action is happening, more or less, simultaneously.
If there is concern over missing games due to the overlapping schedule, MLS 360 solves those woes. MLS 360 provides action from all the games. With so many happening at one time, it is now an essential tool for the MLS fan.
Also, strictly for attendance, MLS can make events out of Saturday nights. Weekend trips to games, regardless of times, are easier on the fans. With the league making an effort to prioritize attendance, it is easier for the supporters to show up and make a difference.
MLS 360 is great as it provides a glimpse into the league as a whole. However, let’s say you support one club and someone you are watching with supports another. There is going to be a conflict when it comes to who dominates possession of the remote to put the game on. In other words, packing these games into a handful of time slots in one day can decrease the total exposure of the league. Certainly, Saturday nights are ‘MLS nights’ with all the games, but that could be an MLS night for just one club.
One solution is if you have an Apple TV streaming device (the one that looks like a hockey puck). You can watch more than one game at once with the Multiview feature on MLS Season Pass.
Diehard fans miss out
One of the challenges of having most of the games played on the same night is that it ostracizes the diehard fan. For example, the fan who goes to his or her local MLS team. By the time s/he returns home, most of the MLS action will have been missed.
Meanwhle, many people complain that MLS Season Pass is simply too expensive. $14.99 per month, even with a one-month trial, can really stack up. If you are watching just three games per weekend, you are watching maybe 15 games as a whole. That math is skewed, of course, and the opportunity is there to get a glimpse of all the games when you desire. The fact remains, though. Subscribers to MLS Season Pass are paying for every single game. They are unable to watch every single game live when they are happening at the same time like this.
If you do not care about every single game, then that is no issue. MLS certainly has a trend of leading into passionate, but perhaps smaller, fan bases. The issue simply comes down to how much MLS fans actually get to watch with these kickoff windows. The depth of coverage may be greater than what it was before based on what Apple and MLS are putting out. Yet, the actual time to watch that is not maximized.
What’s your opinion about MLS having most games at the same time? Is it a benefit or deterrence for you? Let us know in the comments section below.
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