MLS, Apple have high expectations with launch of Season Pass (copy)

Don Garber smiled as he showed off Major League Soccer’s new state-of-the-art facility, which will host studio shows for the Apple TV Season Pass package.

While flashy studios and graphics work to produce a wow factor, the longtime MLS commissioner knows the importance of this weekend’s season launch.

The 10-year, $2.5 billion partnership between Apple TV and MLS kicked off on Feb. 1 with the launch of Season Pass. Every match — regular season, postseason, Leagues Cup, the All-Star game, and developmental leagues — can be accessed on the Apple TV app, allowing fans to watch without local blackouts or restrictions.

“We feel like we’re the Usain Bolt of television production. This has been a wild sprint for the last number of months, but it’s one where we’re really confident,” Garber said during an interview with The Associated Press at the league’s media seminar last month in San Jose, California.

The MLS/Apple model abandons the traditional framework where most games are available through a national or regional network. Even though MLS had some favorable local agreements, most teams struggled for visibility when they weren’t on either Fox, FS1 or ESPN.

It is also a novel undertaking for a sports league and a tech giant to come together to launch a direct-to-consumer product.

“We’ve looked at sports and acknowledged that there’s never been a better time to be a sports fan, and there’s also never been a worse time to be a sports fan,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice pr