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Philadelphia Union’s broadcast to feature more on ESPN+ going forward

Photo courtesy Philadelphia Union

If you live outside Philadelphia Union’s regional television market, you might have heard something a bit different while watching the Union’s 6-1 Saturday night victory over New England Revolution at Talen Energy Stadium.

Philadelphia’s Hall of Fame play-by-by anchor JP Dellacamera opened the broadcast alongside the iconic color commentator Tommy Smyth.

For those in the Delaware Valley, you’d be forgiven for wondering why this was unusual. For the rest, you know this was the first time this season MLS’ streaming partner ESPN+ featured the Union’s home broadcasting team.

“ESPN+ selects the feed for each game at their sole discretion,” Philadelphia Union told Philly Soccer Page in response to the national platform’s infrequent use of the team’s broadcast. “In the past, there has not been a lot of visibility into what drives feed selection.”

Clarity has since been provided. The acclaimed voice of Dellacamera and Irish charm of Smyth will feature more prominently going forward.

“We’ve recently met with MLS and ESPN to discuss how the Union feed can be used more frequently (at least for home games),” said the Union. “We discovered that there were technology challenges that led [to] our home feed (and other MLS teams as well) not being selected.”

This helps explain why the Union’s broadcast was only selected twice during the 2018 MLS season per PSP’s Jim O’Leary. Conversely, while ESPN offers subscribers a choice of home or away, no such option existed for MLS games on ESPN+.

“Through our great partnership with 6abc, they helped us with workarounds that now enable ESPN+ to take the Union’s feed for home games.”

Philadelphia’s ability to find a solution offers hope for out-of-market fans of other MLS teams hoping to connect with their club’s local broadcast.

For Union fans scattered across the country, they can look forward to hearing a few more “Doops in the old onion bag.”


  1. pragmatist says:

    Now if we can work on the ESPN+ blackouts, when I’m already paying for the damn service…

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I am considering getting it. Almost every day I think about just trying it out. Other than the blackout issues – is it worth it?

      • It’s been good. It’ll be much better without the opposing teams feed. A few of them are terrible. I watched a game against the Fire last year in Spanish because I just couldn’t handle listening to those clowns.

      • pragmatist says:

        It’s absolutely worth it for, but it’s because of the full package. You get all of the Insider articles on, on top of all of the coverage on ESPN+.
        I like to have games on in the background while I’m working sometimes, so I’ve seen more Norwich games and Ajax games than I have Union games this year.
        Just don’t get it expecting to watch the Union.

      • I’m glad I have it but that I also use it for fantasy football content and to watch Leeds in the EFL Championship. I’m really disappointed that the Union games are blacked out, though. That part seems like BS.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Thanks all. I’m gonna make the move one of these days for sure. I have broadcast to watch the Union so it would be for other soccer and sports for sure.

      • Tim Jones says:

        they do not offer replays of Union games.
        Watch live, or use the DVR.

  2. Credit to the Union powers that be for hearing the complaints and addressing whatever issues were preventing them from being selected.
    Living in NC, I have no other option then ESPN+ to watch Union games. Listening to the other team’s broadcast all season has been painful. They have butchered names (Aaron Trusty has been said by at least two different sets of announcers), used wrong names (including mistaking Przybylko as Haris), provided incorrect insights/story-lines on the team, argued every call that went against their side, etc.

  3. I have complained about this for years. Some of these other markets’ broadcast teams are REALLY bad. Glad they’re doing something about it and will help raise the club’s profile a bit.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    I’ll reiterate my call to get rid of team based announcers and go to an NFL model of neutral announcers. Given that they are calling the road games from the studio, the current situation makes no sense. Then this won’t be an issue.

    • Yes, please.

    • I agree 100%. This should be the standard, not only for MLS but for all sports.
      Adding ESPN+ to the mix only increases the likelihood that the people who are watching the broadcast aren’t a fan of “your team.” Who doesn’t seem to be considered at all is the neutral fan, who has to sit through a broadcast team rooting for one team and against another.
      Some particularly bad examples that come to mind:
      During a Union away match a couple years ago, I think it was against the Crew, after halftime the broadcast showed the available Crew subs and said something like “look for so-and-so to come on in the 2nd half.” They completely ignored the Union available subs. Even if I was supporting the home team, wouldn’t I want to know about their opponents?
      Yesterday, while being particularly productive at work, I was watching the Pirates Rangers baseball game. In the top of the 8th, Hunter Pence hit a game tying grand slam. This is an exciting moment for everyone, met with the call of “that’s not what you want to see.”
      Broadcasters should act as a fan of the game, not a fan of the team.

      • that hit by Pence, man… exciting. would not want that diminished.
        conversely, the Phils: all the Montgomery memorial content during the game yesterday was great to hear.

        there’s a balance here, i don’t dislike the highlighted (national) matches by neutrals but think there’s a place for homers. do i think a cheap-o call from a studio is good? no. but i can’t expect MLS investing in up to 15 teams of broadcasters at each match.

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