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Coffee with the Caps, Friday June 17

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Michael Thomas Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports

Good Friday morning Caps fans, hope you all are staying cool and are ready for a pleasant weekend.

Vancouver got some very good news Thursday, with the city announced as one of two Canadian host cities, a move that was expected but still is a big win for soccer fans and the city as a whole. Unlike other World Cup/Olympics boondoggles, it will require minimal infrastructure investments (except for a grass field at BC Place) and will perhaps serve as a way of galvanizing some interest in the local club team we all root for.

The city will get a good chunk of games as well, balancing out the fact that there are only two Canadian host cities and also giving us all a fun way of dunking on Toronto.

This bit of good news balances out the total drubbing the Caps got in Seattle on Tuesday. While such a fate has become normal for the Caps, it was a setback after a promising run of games, particularly for the defense, which went from looking rock-solid to rocky at Lumen Field.

The arrival of Andres Cubas, who got a half hour run out, was perhaps the only real positive to take away from the performance. We can hope that Cubas and Tristan Blackmon will get a start on Saturday against FC Dallas (though hopefully not solely because of a nasty looking eye injury incurred by Jake Nerwinski at the end of the match).

The last bit of big news from this week was the revelation that MLS is doing things a bit differently for its next broadcast deal — and it will impact basically all of us.

Instead of merely signing a bunch of linear TV deals, pocketing a modest increase and calling it a day, the league instead penned a $2.5 billion over 10-year deal with Apple that will come out to about $250 million a year.

With that, the tech behemoth will help MLS start a streaming platform available via their Apple TV service (but separate from Apple TV+ ... remember when we thought cable was complicated?) where you can watch every game. Period. Even games on linear TV or games that would otherwise be blacked out. All of it is available worldwide, meaning the 86 Forever gang, now spread across four countries, can still use one streaming service.

There will be linear TV deals with TSN, CVA, ESPN, Univision, etc. but given the paltry ratings there won’t be much money, especially because the rights are no longer exclusive.

This is essentially MLS making a big bet on streamers being the future and based on the experience of the past four years or so, that seems a wise bet to make.

While this is a downside because I will need to ditch ESPN+ and get a new streaming service, it makes perfect sense to me. Why keep doing something that wasn’t working (meh linear TV deals with channels that don’t really care about your product) when you can take charge, begin producing on your own and try and leverage the tech and content creating know-how of Apple into doing some new things to bring in eyeballs.

There are risks. Any new venture that hasn’t really been tried before carries risk. Axing local TV deals and putting things behind a paywall in this manner could cut out the ability to bring in new eyeballs. People could decide they just don’t want to pay the asking price for yet another streaming service, particularly if they’re a casual fan. And maybe in 10 years, the price Apple is paying will seem absurdly low.

But its worth a gamble. The Caps (and every other team) will be bringing in about $7-8 million a year in TV revenues, an exponential increase. New, MLS-specific content a la Drive to Survive or the Amazon Premier League documentaries could spring forth. Bored millennial streamers on Apple TV+ (where there will be games) could get hooked. It is a sign that MLS is on the cutting edge that I saw several stories speculating that new TV deals for the NBA and other leagues will follow the same path.

MLS isn’t always in the headlines for breaking new ground in a good way. This is a rare exception.

Shameless Self Promotion

Sam and I both made “Sleepless in Seattle” puns for our headlines for the match recap and report card. Our condolences.

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