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Loons broadcasters Callum Williams, Kyndra de St. Aubin will return for 2022, but unclear for ’23

MLS’s current media-rights contract expires at the end of 2022, and the league’s next deal leaves decisions up in the air, including how broadcast teams will be employed.

060719.S.STP.UNITED
Minnesota United color commentator Kyndra de St. Aubin, right, and Callum Williams set up the Loons’ game against the Philadelphia Union on the Fox Sports North pregame show at Allianz Field in St. Paul on Sunday, June 2, 2019. Williams, a native of Birmingham, England, is excited to call Wednesday's game against his hometown club, Aston Villa of the Premier League. John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Callum Williams and Kyndra de St. Aubin — Minnesota United’s only broadcast team during its MLS era — will return for the club’s sixth season in 2022, but their futures in 2023 are hazy.

MLS’s current media-rights contract expires at the end of 2022, and the league’s next deal leaves decisions up in the air, including how broadcast teams will be employed.

“We are changing our model,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told the St. Paul Pioneer Press in early October. “We are doing that because we want to be on the front foot as media is getting disruptive and changing on a macro level. Our league media package is really going to be aligned with where the media business is going in ’23 and beyond.”

Perhaps in the new media-rights deal, MLS goes to a format in which a group of broadcasters works out of a centralized location to call games across the league. That set-up could sacrifice the connections and institutional knowledge broadcasters such as Williams and de St. Aubin have built over the past five years.

Garber, however, said it is premature to say how non-national games will be broadcast and streamed into local markets.

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“We will work and ensure that we still have local connections and we still have games that are broadcast by local people,” Garber said. “Where and how they are going to be presented to fans is something that we are still working on.”

Bally Sports North, the Loons’ primary broadcast and streaming partner, had issues with interrupted feeds or technical difficulties during some matches this season. BSN, and parent company Sinclair, also have contractual issues with providers such as YouTubeTV. Working around that, the club also had The CW carry the majority of non-national games.

New United CEO Shari Ballard said at her introductory news conference in August that the club’s broadcast arrangements were on her to-do list. She is fully taking over for exiting CEO Chris Wright this fall.

The Loons’ regular-season finale against L.A. Galaxy will air nationally on FS1 at 5 p.m. Sunday.

Dotson in for Alonso

The Loons have benefited from the veteran leadership of Ozzie Alonso in their push toward the MLS Cup Playoffs, but the Cuban will be suspended for yellow-card accumulation in the Loons’ Decision Day game against L.A. So, Hassani Dotson, who has displayed versatility at both fullback spots down the stretch, will step in for Alonso in midfield.

“This is the moment where people like Hassani come to the fore,” manager Adrian Heath said Tuesday. “We know what he’s going to deliver. We don’t have any worries about playing Hassani, for sure.”

Playoff scenarios

There will be a lot on the line Sunday afternoon, but the Loons won’t be playing for a home playoff game for a third straight season. Portland Timbers sealed that fourth and final spot with a 3-1 win over Real Salt on Wednesday. Minnesota can lock in anywhere from fifth to seventh place in the playoff field or could find itself eliminated from postseason play the first time since 2018.

MNUFC will clinch a playoff spot with a win or a draw at L.A., but the Loons also will back into the playoffs if any of these three combinations happen:

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— Vancouver Whitecaps lose to Seattle Sounders, and Real Salt Lake lose/tie vs. Sporting Kansas City

— Vancouver loses to Seattle, and Los Angeles FC loses/ties vs. Colorado Rapids

— RSL loses/ties vs. Kansas City, and LAFC loses/ties vs. Colorado

Calvo done in Chicago

Former Loons captain Francisco Calvo will not have his contract with the Chicago Fire picked up for 2022 season, ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported Wednesday. Calvo has since left the Fire, who have one game to go, and has traveled to join Costa Rica’s national team for World Cup qualifiers starting next week.

When MNUFC traded the Costa Rican center back to Chicago in spring 2019, the deal came with a 50 percent “sell-on” clause for Minnesota to receive half the sum if Calvo were to be transferred to a club in another league. His career arch has not brought on those outside suitors.

Related Topics: SOCCER
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