Facebook scores deal to stream MLS matches

Major League Soccer and Univision Deportes announced on Friday a partnership with Facebook to broadcast 2017 regular season games in English on Facebook Live, starting with Atlanta United hosting the Chicago Fire on March 18. As part of this, MLS will also drive further social engagement with fans and produce more unique digital content.

According to Univision, over 18 million English-language viewers have tuned in to its networks to watch soccer.

As fans increasingly rely on the internet to watch games, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter Inc have stepped up their focus on signing live-streaming sports deals.

After striking a deal to stream Liga MX games on Facebook Live this year, Univision will be doing the same with MLS.

MLS will also produce 40 "Matchday Live" shows for Facebook that will include highlights and analysis and a preview of the day's upcoming matches.

Starting with Atlanta United versus Chicago Fire on 18 March, Facebook will stream at least 22 2017 MLS regular season games, that are being broadcast on Univision networks in Spanish, in the USA in English via the Univision Deportes Facebook page. Their approach will provide fans with an entirely new way to experience a live soccer broadcast that is optimized for mobile screens and social viewing.

"We are committed to serving our passionate fans", said Gary Stevenson, president and managing director, MLS Business Ventures, in a statement.

The three parties said the livestreamed matches "will be produced for consumption on mobile devices", and they will feature commentators exclusive to the Facebook Live presentations, interactive graphics and interactive features involving fans, such as question-and-answer sessions and polls. More recently, Facebook has been in talks with Major League Baseball to stream its content, Reuters reported this February.

The matches will be broadcast in English and available in the US only, while the live shows will be available globally, Facebook said.

With soccer season already started in both Mexico and the MLS, Facebook has nabbed rights to select games from the two biggest leagues in North America.

  • Arturo Norris