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Joe Tolleson joins Apple TV’s MLS broadcast team

NYCFC's play-by-play voice from the YES Network days will begin calling MLS matches on Apple in 2024.

Joe Tolleson, the play-by-play voice of New York City FC’s matches for the entirety of the team’s run on the YES Network, will be back on the mic for MLS match broadcasts in 2024. 

Tolleson was announced as a new addition to the group of more than 80 broadcasters who will be a part of Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass crew of play-by-play announcers and analysts.

In the official MLS write-up that includes first word of Tolleson’s hiring, he’s referred to as one of three “hometown voices”—along with longtime Columbus Crew announcer Neil Sika and Kansas City broadcaster Nate Bukaty—joining Apple’s play-by-play team for next season. 

One complaint regularly raised about broadcasts on Apple during the first season on the streaming service: Some of the commentary crews sounded less familiar and less comfortable discussing certain teams at length or with any depth. 

Hudson River Blue readers didn’t hand out good grades to the Apple TV commentators calling NYCFC matches during 2023. The Apple announcers received a 4.4 out of 10, on average, across an entire season’s worth of Player Ratings surveys we conducted following NYCFC games.

The Apple broadcast schedule seemed to rotate through a variety of announcer teams across the season, and nobody seemed like they were close to becoming a consistent “voice of NYCFC,” which may have influenced some of the complaints. Tyler Terens, who struggled at times to use his “inside voice,” handled play-by-play for the most NYCFC matches (six) of any Apple MLS announcer last season.

There’s also the matter of the high number of ex-Red Bulls and Red Bull-affiliated commentators on the Apple TV-MLS broadcast roster. Our executive editor Oliver Strand lamented the high percentage of Jersey Boys involved in MLS match presentations last January, a reality that was unavoidable when tuning in to MLS coverage on Apple. There’s Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan on the MLS 360 whip-around show, Steve Cangialosi is one of the league’s top play-by-play men, and analysts like Lloyd Sam and Shep Messing are also still in the mix. 

MLS at least nodded at the Apple talent pool’s overly red tint by having enthusiastic ex-NYCFC analyst Ian Joy join MLS 360 during one of the 2023 Hudson River Derby match nights, but that brief Ian Joy appearance was the only moment it felt like NYCFC had real representation among the Apple-MLS Season Pass crew. 

That changes with the hiring of Joe Tolleson, who became synonymous with NYCFC match commentary after providing it for eight seasons.

It’s not yet exactly clear how Tolleson’s hiring will impact the announcer assignments for NYCFC matches on Apple. There’s no announcer schedule set yet, so Tolleson could not say how many NYCFC matches he’ll be calling in 2024 when asked by Hudson River Blue

Tolleson’s last time doing televised play-by-play for NYCFC was on Decision Day in 2022, alongside his usual YES Network analyst partner, Ian Joy. Joy is not a part of the new slate of announcer talent hired by Apple, but he’s remained connected to NYCFC since the YES Network’s days as a broadcast partner ended.

The news of Tolleson-to-Apple sadly doesn’t bring with it a reunion of the iconic, long-running “NYCFC on YES” broadcast booth, who produced calls and on-air moments many NYCFC fans still cherish today. 

Tolleson returning to NYCFC broadcasts does still feel like progress ahead of Year Two of MLS on Apple, as though it’s a sign of recognition that New York City fans deserved a chance to, at least on occasion, have someone on the mic that has a connection to their club. MLS Season Pass reportedly now has over 2 million subscribers, and the portion of them who follow NYCFC will likely be happy to hear a familiar voice on match broadcasts in 2024.