MLS commissioner Don Garber says the league ‘OVERDELIVERED’ on Apple’s expectations following Lionel Messi’s first season with Inter Miami

  • MLS signed a streaming rights deal with Apple TV starting with the 2023 season
  • Lionel Messi signed with Inter Miami in July and increased MLS viewership
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MLS commissioner Don Garber summarized the success from the past season in his state of the league address on Friday, saying the league ‘overdelivered’ on Apple TV’s expectations in their first season working together. 

Garber delivered the address ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup final between the Columbus Crew and LAFC in Columbus, Ohio. Garber touched on several topics, including how MLS ‘overdelivered’ Apple’s expectations in the league’s first season on Apple TV. 

Without disclosing metrics, Garber paraphrased Apple CEO Tim Cook as saying on a recent earnings call that Apple was exceeding its expectations in terms of subscriptions. Garber also referenced comments by Apple SVP for Services Eddy Cue, stating that multiple games drew over 1million viewers.

‘What we’re focused on is the amount of subscriptions that we’re selling,’ Garber said. ‘The amount of time that those people who are watching those games in front of and behind the paywall are spending on our broadcasts.’ 

Apple TV spokespeople did not immediately respond to Mail Sport’s request for comment about Garber’s statements.  

MLS Commissioner Don Garber claimed that MLS ‘overdelivered’ Apple’s expectations 

Garber acknowledged that MLS' viewership spike came as a result of Lionel Messi's arrival

Garber acknowledged that MLS’ viewership spike came as a result of Lionel Messi’s arrival

Garber acknowledged that the massive spike in viewership comes from Lionel Messi’s arrival in MLS this season. Messi shocked the world in July by signing with Inter Miami after leading Argentina to the World Cup in December. 

‘The eyes of the world are now on Major League Soccer because the best player to ever play the game is here and he’s succeeding,’ Garber said. 

Following a transformational season, Garber put heavy emphasis on MLS’ future, particularly in 2027 after the US, Canada and Mexico host the FIFA World Cup. 

‘First, I hope Leo (Messi) decides to stay longer than 2025,’ Garber said. ‘So maybe 2025 isn’t the deadline, but our plan is being the league we want to be in 2027, which gives us enough time to continue to do the research, speak to our fans, evaluate what the impact is of some of these changes and then be able to move forward in a positive and productive way.’ 

Messi joined Inter Miami in July and helped the club win their first trophy in the Leagues Cup

Messi joined Inter Miami in July and helped the club win their first trophy in the Leagues Cup

Besides the success of MLS and Apple TV’s partnership, Garber mentioned the success of the inaugural Leagues Cup, which Messi and the Herons won upon his arrival. 

Garber described the new tournament involving MLS and Liga MX teams as a ‘smashing success on every measure.’ 

Garber also stated how both leagues want to expand the tournament and allow MLS teams to travel to Mexico next year. 

On the contrary, Garber received negative feedback for keeping the number of designated players per team at three and insisting that the new playoff format has done well for MLS despite fans’ displeasure.