With the season opener only 2½ weeks away, D.C. United is in negotiations with Sinclair Broadcast Group about Sinclair returning as the local TV partner after the MLS team’s disastrous move to a streaming service last season and faltering talks with NBC Sports Washington this winter.

Three people familiar with the discussions said Tuesday that Sinclair is the front-runner to carry 27 matches on its local outlets, WJLA (Channel 7) and WJLA 24/7 News. Those stations showed United’s matches from 2016 through 2018.

United officials said they are working on a TV deal but did not want to comment on the specifics. Michael Miller, WJLA’s general manager, did not return messages.

One person said United has also spoken to WTTG (Channel 5), the Fox affiliate.

Last season, United abandoned traditional platforms and signed a four-year, $12 million deal with FloSports, an online subscription service. Fans were furious with the move, at first because of the limited access and cost and then because of persistent technical problems.

Days before the regular season finale, United and FloSports severed ties. The matter was settled out of court.

Sinclair’s prior coverage of United was not without problems. WJLA 24/7 News, formerly known as NewsChannel 8, showed most of the matches but did not have the regional reach (via cable systems and live streams) of NBCSW, United’s partner for all but one of United’s first 20 seasons.

For the 2020 season, WJLA 24/7 News probably would show 22 or 23 matches; WJLA, an ABC affiliate, would carry four or five.

United will appear on national TV seven times: three games on ESPN, three on Fox Sports 1 and one on Spanish-language Univision. The season opener Feb. 29 against the Colorado Rapids at Audi Field is slated for a local broadcast.

Sinclair would also provide pregame and postgame shows, as well as a midweek show, one person said.

To extend its reach, United would presumably aim to have matches on some of Sinclair’s other stations in the region. Sinclair owns, operates and provides services to 191 stations in 89 markets, including Baltimore, Richmond, Norfolk and Roanoke.

The team would have final say on the announcers. Dave Johnson has handled play-by-play since the 1996 inaugural season, and Devon McTavish, a former D.C. player, is the color commentator.

United’s first choice for a local partner was NBCSW, and for weeks, the sides seemed on the path to a deal. But several people familiar with the talks said there has been little engagement of late.

Part of the problem, it seems, is NBCSW’s programming conflicts in the spring and fall, when it shows Washington Capitals and Wizards games.

An NBCSW spokesman said he did not have any updates.

WTTG would also have programming issues, particularly in prime time, and would need to show matches on alternative platforms, including digital channels.

Pursuing Dibassy of Ligue 1

The French defender the team has been pursuing is Bakaye Dibassy, a center back and left back for Amiens, people familiar with the talks said.

Team officials have acknowledged interest in a player from the French top division, Ligue 1, but declined to identify him.

United is prepared to pay a transfer fee in the upper six figures, one person said, but Amiens, which is fighting to avoid relegation to the second division, has balked.

Dibassy could become available when the French season ends in May.

United has not abandoned hope of acquiring him in the coming weeks but continues shopping in the international market for back-line depth.

The team has only six defenders under contract. Joseph Mora is the lone natural left back.

Dibassy, 30, has started regularly for Amiens for four seasons. He was born in Paris and represents Mali’s national team.

Read more: