Report: WNBA games averaged more viewers this year than MLS

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Much has been made recently about the decline in viewers of regular season Major League Soccer matches on National TV, but according to the Sports Business Journal, MLS has a long way to go before it breaks into the living rooms of your average American.

Though this season’s numbers weren’t aided by being scheduled alongside the European Championships like in 2012 or the World Cup in 2010, the SBJ says in a report that regular season Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) games on national television earned higher viewership on average than MLS games.

The SBJ says that MLS’ average numbers on ESPN/ESPN2 (220,000) and NBC Sports Network (112,000) were lower than NCAA Softball games, IndyCar races, the X Games, and even the Solheim Cup, an international golf tournament that was televised last August on the Golf Channel. The SBJ points out that due to soccer’s traditional weekend schedule, their games were primarily outside of the primetime hours while the WNBA games were normally during the week in primetime.

In June, MLS hired Television veteran Gary Stevenson from the Pac-12 Networks to be president & managing director of MLS Business Ventures. It’s thought that the hiring was to help MLS renegotiate their national television deals, which all end following the 2014 season. Currently the league has deals with ESPN (eight years, $64 million from 2006) NBC (three years, $30 million from 2011), and Univision (eight years, $80 million from 2006) for U.S. broadcasts, and MP & Silva for international broadcasts.

The SBJ reported last August that this fall, MLS would begin talks with their television partners over new deals starting in 2015.


What do you think of this report? Surprised at the numbers? Do you believe that the World Cup next summer can give the league a boost in ratings?

Share your thoughts below.

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236 Responses to Report: WNBA games averaged more viewers this year than MLS

  1. Euroman says:

    Well that’s embarrassing.


  2. LL93 says:

    Uuuggghh. So embarassing. I dont think I accidentally switched to a WNBA game all year.

  3. DanO says:

    Flashy headline. Not exactly fair. Definitely a little apples to oranges. Different timeslots, different competition for viewers, etc. That said, it is a little concerning for MLS in terms of landing a decent contract going forward.

    Since MLS is still pretty regional, I would be curious to see how WNBA teams did in their own markets. Would also be interested in their attendance numbers. I also doubt they have anything like the fan support seen for MLS games.

    • MLSsnob says:

      We still had less viewers a than the WNBA! You can try to church it up with times lots and demographics but we still finished behind the freaking WNBA!

  4. DUDEEROO says:

    The article should also say that most WNBA teams average less than 8,000 people attending the games. Many less than 7000, and some less than 6000.

    People like basketball, but opt to watch on TV than take the time to go to the WNBA games.

    • THomas says:

      You’re missing the point. It’s not a one or the other situation. Both attendance and ratings are vital to league success. It’s the difference between the NBA and NHL. NBA has good attendance and good ratings on a huge network like ESPN. Hockey has similarly good attendance but not so good ratings on a smaller network like NBCSN.

      That difference TV money is huge, it’s even bigger to a fledgling league like MLS.

  5. Beto says:

    Embarassing but true, most ppl who watch a mls team are at the stadium or a bar watching it.

    A lot can be improved, better timespots more nationally recognizable players..

    • SFTony says:

      What bar are you at? I was once at the a bar in San Francisco watching a Quakes-Galaxy game (aka, the local team against it’s arch rival) and they changed the channel in the middle of the 1st half for a random mid-conference college football game.

  6. AcidBurn says:

    Have you seen the timeslots that MLS has? Sundays at 11 PM?

    First off, an MLS fan doesn’t know when the games are on, as it is a different time every week. Plus, seems like a LOT of the games are on “TV dead time” – late Saturday and Sunday nights.

    I am surprised though that the WNBA is beating it. Wonder why WNBA is getting 8k fans a game when there are so many people interested in tuning in? How can a game only get 8k to attend if there are 250-300K people watching on tv?

    • AcidBurn says:

      Article says that most wnba viewers are african-american men. Makes sense, they are too ashamed to say that they go to a game but will watch it on tv at home, haha.

      • says:

        Entertaining theory but in my case, it’s got nothing to do with being ashamed to go to attend WNBA games.

        Honestly, between MLS, NASL, USLPRO, NWSL, early season NCAA soccer–then throw in other NCAA sports, of course, NFL–I just don’t get out to see my local WNBA team, the Washington Mystics the way that I would like to. I wish that I did. But I do enjoy watching them on tv when I can. Every year, I say the same thing—I’m gonna take my kid to. Mystics game and I’m gonna pick a NASCAR driver to be “my guy” and really give a Cup chase a try without falling by the wayside.

        I think it’s cool that there other Bruthas checking out WNBA games. I wouldn’t have guessed that. Nice surprise, in my book.

  7. Scott e Dio93 says:

    Lack of “star” draw and MLS failing in CONCACAF : less viewers

  8. der says:

    Nielson ratings are wildly inaccurate, but part of the problem is that MLS doesn’t seem to have a constant schedule on TV. I know NFL games are Sunday 1pm, 4pm and 8pm, plus MNF and maybe a surprise Thursday game. MLS is sometimes Friday night, sometimes Saturday and sometimes Sunday. Depending on what game is scheduled to be aired, it may be 4pm, 8pm, or 11pm. Personally, this makes me not plan to watch, like I do with NFL games.

    How about MLS chooses one day for weekend games and some set times and stick with it?

    • slowleftarm says:

      There’s actually an NFL every Thursday now.

    • Mueller says:

      They should move them to the day, right after EPL games. They could have a East Coast game followed by a West Coast game with flexible scheduling so you get the best game on TV.

      Its kinda weird that their biggest demographic is people in their 20s and they put the games in time slots reserved for going out at night.

      • Anthony says:

        I would say that is not a bad idea, but then you compete with college football and NFL on weekends. The best might be Thursday and Friday nights.

        • jspech says:

          agree, other than a big NBA match up when the seasons cross, I have often wonder, why MLS does not claim Friday nights 7:30, as well Monday night when NFL season is over, which they cn have from April up to September, also more day game on saturdays & Sundays. MLS need to spend time to claim the calender when other leagues are down.

    • Sharkbait says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head so to speak. I try to watch MLS games when I can, but I have to go out of my way to check teams schedules and start times and then hunt and find what channel a game is on. The NFL became the dominant force in American sports for a variety of reasons, but one of them is for sure the consistency in when games are on. Before branching out with different days and times in the past decade you had YEARS of knowing that football matches were either Sunday at 1 or 4 pm and one game Monday night.

      MLS needs to settle on a day/time schedule for their games and then own it if they ever want to get anywhere with tv viewership. Human beings are creatures of habit, and there’s few things more habit forming than tv schedules.

    • bryan says:

      while i still think this is pathetic, there are plenty of factors for this. like you said, Nielson ratings can no longer be counted on as accurate or representative of TV viewership. i’d like to see the numbers for legal online streaming as well.

    • Joamiq says:

      This is absolutely right. There should be a national game every Friday evening, and Saturday games should be in the afternoon when possible, to take advantage of Premiership lead ins.

  9. Dean Stell says:

    Not surprising. MLS experiencing intense competition for eyeballs with lots of leagues that have superior players and better programming packages. Unless you have a defined rooting interest with an MLS team, there are probably 20 live games on TV per week that are higher quality than the best MLS game.

    If MLS wants to compete on TV, they have to get the quality on the field up to EPL/La Liga/Bundesliga standards. Or….MLS can just go with what they have that is special which is access to live soccer in their local markets. When you’re actually at the game, it’s a blast and those first touches don’t look so bad. The Euro leagues cannot offer than same attachment for the local fan.

  10. Snordo says:

    Hahahahahaha. That is so pathetic. Further proof that MLS is a sad league. People only show up to games because they like to jump around and yell not to actually to watch the sad display of “professional soccer” on the field where starters make less than school teachers. Soccer is supposed to be really popular in Portland and Seattle but their most hardcore fans show up and don’t even watch the game. No one wants to watch the MLS on TV. Why would you?

    Women’s Basketball. Think about that for a minute.

    • drew11 says:

      The city of Orlando thought about it and put down $40 million on MLS. Is that pathetic? What is really pathetic is soccer snobs. They need to find another hipster hobby because soccer is fast going mainstream in the US.

    • matt says:

      The median MLS salary of all players, not just starters, is $100K per year. Sign me up for that teaching job!

    • Joe Timbres says:

      I’m a Timbers Army STH and I laugh at your accusation. I think maybe you should remove your cranium from your rectum before you speak. But you are probably just another Johnny-come-lately Barca/Chelsea fan. Oh, did I make an assumption? That’s because you come off as an absolute a$$.

    • Yevgeniy says:

      No, the problem is people like YOU! Being a soccer fan in US, you should support your league or at the very minimum not be excited about its failures. If all people like YOU followed the league, the league would have 3 times more money to work with.

    • QuakerOtis says:

      Ignore this kid. He’s still trolling with the Wondow thing too.

    • JCC says:

      “Further proof that MLS is a sad league. People only show up to games because they like to jump around and yell not to actually to watch the sad display of “professional soccer””

      A bit harsh, but probably true to a certain extent. I was in Portland last week and a couple of friends of mine to my surprise said they were planning to go to a Timbers game. They said they weren’t Timbers’ fans but just wanted to join in with the chanting and singing. It makes me wonder how many in the stands are actual soccer fans and how many are there just for the atmosphere.

      • Greg says:

        I guess I’d argue, does it matter? I mean, sure we want more “truly engaged” fans of soccer, but think about it from this angle, how many people go to watch a baseball game in person are actually FANS of baseball? I don’t know about you, but in LA it’s certainly the minority.

        Let’s get people into the sport to any degree possible, the game will come to them.

    • Chris says:

      The amount of people that “jump around and yell” at MLS games is a very small minority in every stadium I’ve ever seen.

      So this post is pretty pathetic, frankly.

  11. Love it or leave it says:

    ALL the blame goes on the owners and their stadiums !

    Watching games like: fc dallas, ne revs, san jose earthquakes, dc united, columbus crew, and the ridiculous roof on the Houston dynamo stadium where its puts blocks of shade on the field is not pleasing to the eye

    Next comes stadium placement by not having a world class stadium in the downtown, you built it out in the ghetto or suburbs: Chicago fire and Philadelphia

    Like Lalas said: Perception is reality.

    Formula for TV ratings ladies and gentlemen

    World class (40,000 – 30,000) stadiums in prime downtown locations in an area with restaurants and bars + More fans/packed stadium = more revenue

    More revenue = salary cap increase and quality players

    quality players = more TV ratings

    • slowleftarm says:

      You really think people are refusing to tune in because the stadium isn’t pleasing?

      • Waterlewd says:

        I think the poster was blaringly clear that people aren’t tuning in due to lack of quality players. Not sure how you could miss that point…

        • slowleftarm says:

          Well he has one line about players and three paragraphs about stadiums so I don’t know how you missed that.

        • Anthony says:

          Actually Lewd, I think that you missed the missed the point. It was a poorly structured argument on Love it or Leave it’s part as well. He discussed stadiums, but never connect stadiums to quality players. Just one disconnected line.

    • Jeff Carter says:

      It makes sense. Watching games with lame atmospheres like Dallas, Cbus, NE, etc is very difficult. As a neutral, it’s much easier and exciting to watch a game in KC, Pdx and Seattle due to the awesome atmosphere. My friends who don’t give a crap about soccer say the same thing.

      SSS were/are awesome for the league, but MLS team owners need to address the issues ASAP for new stadiums. Make sure a roof is over the supporters section so they can actually be heard. I don’t care what the civil engineers say, it makes a difference.

  12. mike says:

    for about a flex schedule…which has been floating around of late. at least set it up for the chance of a good game! no more primetime coverage of low table matches.

  13. Rey Pygsterio says:

    Well, I am one who is watching as many MLS games as I can, even the regional broadcasts of Comcast Sportsnet Houston.

    I love the business model MLS operates under, but the bottom line is that to be successful in this country they are eventually going to have to start paying players more to attract the top talent.

    • Frank says:

      I never know which games I can actually watch (i.e., which games are on ESPN, NBC, Fox Sports Whatever). And yes, I’m not one to stay up for a 10:30 or 11pm ET game on the West Coast. I do however try to catch games if my schedule allows and it actually happens to be televised on a major network (still disappointed with the playoff games that were only available through MLS Network or DirectKick or whatever it is called).

    • Waterlewd says:

      I also watch tons of MLS games, usually on MLS Live and I get the regional broadcasts of the Fire on Comcast Sports Network here in Chicago. MLS makes all their programming information available on their website, and any game on a major network or in your local viewing area will be blacked-out on MLS LIve. But otherwise, MLS Live has been a great bargain this year.

    • Hal says:

      you love the business model? The business model that no other league ever has used before?

      • Keith says:

        The one that’s allowed pro soccer to survive for 17 years in this country and still be on an upswing?

        Yeah, I’m a pretty big fan of that.

  14. Rey Pygsterio says:

    Yes, and TV networks should only show MLS games with full stadiums. If that means only games from Portland and Seattle, then so be it. Empty stadiums on national broadcasts are terrible for image.

    • RBNY says:

      What about Serie A and their empty, souless stadiums? People will still watch that, right?

    • Shawn says:

      Kansas City, Portland, or Seattle.

      Fixed for you. Sporting Park has 35 consecutive sellouts. The only question when it comes to fans there is how many will be standing on the concourse over the Cauldron.

      Why is it I can turn on the TV and find a WNBA game on the Four-Letter-Network whenever I look up during the season. OTOH, I have to search this page twice a week to discover ‘if’ there’s a game on TV that I can watch.

      More than anything, THAT is the prime factor to me. WNBA is on regularly, usually counterprogrammed against something its market wouldn’t watch. And honestly isn’t competing with MLS in anything but the vaguest sense. But MLS is never on at a convenient time. It’s usually programmed either so late at night working people can’t watch it, or slammed against other sports that guys do watch.

      I’ll support the League whenever it’s on. But I’ve missed a lot of games because I didn’t know when they’d be.

  15. Jim says:

    Oof, this isn’t good at all. Sure, there are a lot of factors that negatively influence the ratings (scheduling probably being the worst), but it’s definitely the biggest concern facing the league.

    The fact that MLS doesn’t hold its own against other sports is a negative, but the bigger problem is how it compares to other soccer leagues. Ratings for the Premier League and Champions League keep going UP, and MLS is trending down. And let’s face it, the money in sports nowadays is in TV. And it’s only going to increase in the coming years.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the league is starting to seriously reconsider their player acquisition and salary budgets. Stars (in their prime) = ratings = $.

    • Sam U El says:

      You sir are spot on… MLS has got to figure a way to enhance TV revenue while at the same time not going broke ala NASL 1.0 with player salaries… More overseas investors? Getting away from the single entitiy format? Let clubs control their destiny? In US Soccer only the strong should survive.

    • Keith says:

      No. you’re wrong. it’s 100% a scheduling issue. not trolling, you’re just wrong.

      • Jim says:

        Heh, it’s pretty comical that you can be 100% sure that you’re right. And have decided to make a blanket statement with nothing to back up your argument.

        Here’s one quick reason why it ISN’T just down to scheduling. MLS can’t hold viewers from other leagues. Case in point. Both MLS and the Premier League were on Fox Soccer for many years, and this fall were both on NBC Sports. Both networks promoted MLS matches heavily during the Premier League matches, and quite often scheduled MLS matches IMMEDIATELY after the late Premier League matches on weekends. But MLS has never been able to even get 40% of the Premier League’s ratings.

        NBC Sports has done a great job with the Premier League this year, and the ratings backed it up. 391,000 viewers averaged for every match, and the big ones drawing over 900,000. They also did a great job promoting MLS during those broadcasts, and specifically telling viewers when the next MLS broadcast would be on.

        The end result? Just a 20,000 viewer increase for MLS. So no, not JUST scheduling.

  16. Neruda says:

    MLS has a much higher ceiling than the WNBA. This is a setback and MLS has a long way to go to get TV viewership but there are a lot of signs of growth. New teams and cities trying to get their own MLS teams. If the US does well in Brazil it will continue to help soccer in the US and that includes MLS which needs to get out of the way of the WC schedule.

  17. Christian says:

    As someone who has played soccer my entire life and really wants the game to develop in this country it’s a bit troubling to see that MLS still hasn’t really taken off on the television side of things. I think having most of their games played on NBC Sports Network does hurt. Not too many people have this channel and I think MLS should work out a deal where more of their games are played on the flagship NBC and/or on ESPN/ESPN2. These channels are mainstream and even though no one goes to WNBA games, it’s still easy for someone to turn to these channels and just watch for even a few minutes. Not too many households have that ability when MLS games are on TV packages that they don’t want to pay for. Everyone will pay for ESPN/ESPN2…NBCSN not so much.

    • drew11 says:

      ESPN doesn’t give a darn about MLS. Terrible time slots. Forget them. Far better to find a partner like NBC interested in showcasing the league.

      • Christian says:

        I hear what you’re saying drew11, but I just hate the fact that NBC has placed most of MLS’s games on their Sports Network. I would love to see more and more games be placed on their flagship NBC channel, but unfortunately because of their TV shows that aired during Primetime hours during the week, I don’t see MLS breaking into that lineup. So that means only Saturday afternoon/evening games would be aired on NBC. Would love to see midweek games played on that channel or at least ESPN/ESPN2.

    • Sports Fan says:

      Huh, NBC sports is part of my (very basic) cable package. Figured anybody who got ESPN also got NBC sports. Maybe not?

      • Christian says:

        Sports Fan: I have DISH Network and NBC Sports Network is only offered on their most expensive package at $75/month. Their cheapest package is $40/month.

      • Christian says:

        It also looks like DirecTV offers NBCSN on their mid-tier package and not their basic package.

        • Sports Fan says:

          Wow, guess I’m lucky then. I have Mediacom cable/internet and was thinking about switching, but might stick with it. Nice to know I can still watch EPL and MLS games whenever. NBCSN really is pretty great with the soccer coverage. That sucks it’s not as widely available as I thought tho.

          • Christian says:

            I agree! I really enjoy the coverage that MLS and BPL has on NBCSN….I just wish it was more easily available like what you have with Mediacom.

        • RB says:

          Christian is correct about DirecTV. Networks like Univision have been our savior since NBC started getting into the act with that bit of effective overpricing. Same problem with Fox’s changes.

        • Hal says:

          NBCSN is on DirecTV’s basic pkg

      • Jason says:

        My local cable company doesn’t carry NBC Sports. At all.

        Needless to say, I’m not signed up with them.

    • bryan says:

      NBC Sports and ESPN are on the same tier for AT&T…..

  18. John says:

    Does any one know what was the highest rated soccer match in the US this year?

    • Gary Page says:

      Just off the top of my head, I’m guessing it was the US vs. Mexico from Columbus. I remember reading that it got very high ratings and beat out a number of higher profile sporting events for that week.

      • Love it or leave it says:

        US vs mexico 2013 was the highest rated game ever

        2.5 million on ESPN
        5 million on the spanish stations

        US soccer ratings dont correlate with MLS ratings. US soccer is the highest quality of soccer in the US and playing other countries adds to the ratings

  19. Just saying says:

    Lol yes this is embarrassing a little. Don’t mention it to your buddies when you are having convos by the water cooler at work. You have to remember that the WNBA is backed by the NBA they have a lot more pull than MLS, I’m not surprised that those numbers are low. Sure NBC has better production value but at least with Fox Soccer I knew where to tune in to watch it and it was simple. This has nothing to do with how a stadium looks or how many people attend because obviously the WNBA games have less than 8000. Truth be told this is Don Garber making mistakes in business deals as well as league structure your soccer fan in the USA is exposed to other leagues around the world and the way they work so when you see the MLS small salary cap, poor performance at international level (dom kinnear fielding reserves in crucial CCL matches), poor playoff format, who wants to go out of their way. I’m an MLS supporter I will look and for a game and watch. However when you’re exposed to other leagues that take thing serious even the liga MX which knows 99% percent of the time they will win the CCL still take it serious and MLS teams don’t then why watch same with the playoff formats. Look at Houston or the revs cruise by all year long with crappie games all season just to sneaky in at the playoffs to turn it on. Playoff format needs to change with only the top three making it with the first place of each conference seeded and second and third place play to make it to the conference final. But until we understand that the whole we are Americans and it has to be how we do it then this will continue.

  20. Hogatroge says:

    Well, it’s hard to spin this in a good way, but there are a few reasons to think that it will get better:

    1. Bumps from other soccer events near a crucial tipping point for soccer fandom in this country. MLS ratings got a significant bump when NBC acquired the EPL. WC2014 will add another bump, and the people the demographic MLS is trying to reach is constantly emerging.

    2. This was only the second year that MLS has had relatively widespread distribution. It’s still a relative newcomer to the TV market in a capacity greater than what ESPN2 previously aired.

    3. New TV contracts will have more flexibility, so the attractiveness of each individual game airing will go up.

    4. MLS attendance blows WNBA attendance out of the water.

  21. Sports Fan says:

    Damn, I watch MLS games pretty much anytime they’re on tv. Figured other people did too, wow was I wrong. Still love the league, and will continue my viewership from here in my living room in the Midwest. It’s my way of supporting the league (no local MLS team here), and I’ve liked watching it more and more over the last few years. Hope this gets turned around, because that headline does not look good for anyone. I can already here the laughs from the MLB$NFL$NBA$ fans now. No disrespect to women’s hoops, keep ballin’ ladies. Just need to figure out what’s goin on with this, no reason MLS shouldn’t have better viewership.

    Best of luck in the future, and I hope you get the right team in place to work on these ratings. Stay strong, god bless.

    P.S. pleeeeeeeaaasssssseee no silly gimmicks, let’s keep things classy around here.

    Best Regards, HC

  22. Todd C says:

    The MLS scheduling, as it currently stands is atrocious. The marquee playoff games are on at terrible times and the regular season schedule is a complete crap shoot. You never know what time or day the games are on. This needs to be fixed immediately for the league to be successful. I don’t know how they MLS didn’t make a stronger attempt to improve this leading up to re-negotiations with the various tv networks. Hopefully Gary Stevenson can improve the situation significantly this coming season. There is absolutely no reason to maintain the sub-standard schedule that is currently in place. It’s not rocket science. MLS should advertise a lot smarter too. No casual fans have any clue about the playoff situation or even that it’s going on…ummmm was going on and will pick up again in a few weeks. ugh. c’mon now! The MLS business model has been very smart the past 10 years. The sudden expansion and awful scheduling are detrimental and need to be fixed asap to get more lucrative TV contracts which will lead to more quality players and play which in the long term is a win win for all. It can be done. Hopefully the powers that be hire some quality people and don’t execute the 5-10 year plan recklessly.

    The WNBA comparison only shows that the national MLS tv schedule is extremely poor. nothing else. I’d bet most MLS fans only watch their team and then European leagues. Not all, but a large %. DOOOP

    • bucsfan says:

      The WBNA is run by the NBA; that is how that unwatchable league survives. If the WNBA is ran by some Joe Schmoe that has no NBA connections, the league would have been gone years ago.

    • bucsfan says:

      MLS needs a flex schedule like the NFL does to show the best teams on national TV. Last week of the season should be scheduled all in one day to create viewership and buzz for the league. As for the MLS playoffs, the schedule is terrible as well especially the MLS Conference Finals, one game Sat, one game Sunday. To add spice to the league, just like the NBA, NHL, NFL and MLB, have their own network 24/7 to show exclusive coverage like postgame interviews from the players and press conference from the coaches on both sides. Carry some of the USOC tournament games on that channel as well.

  23. jones says:

    Also, can we get rid of the slew of obnoxious, grating commentators for these matches (and the clueless ones, don’t forget them)? Not saying there aren’t any good ones, but I just find myself loosing patience and more likely to stop watching if the commentary is bad in addition to the play.

  24. Jesse says:

    I would watch games but I don’t have cable so can’t.

    I subscribe to MLS Live which blocks many of the good games.

    I watch all the the champions league games on-demand online, why can’t MLS do the same?

    Seems like they are shutting out many viewers by going with the closed networks and choosing odd times that their possible viewers don’t like.

    • Waterlewd says:

      Not sure what you mean by on-demand. MLS Live had Full Matches available usually within a day of the match if you wanted to watch it online.

  25. Travis says:

    Its been stated before but they need to do some flex scheduling and put the game at a set time each week. It is impossible to know when a game will be on national television. I know NBCSN did some on Friday night this year but it was random and ESPN usually does something Sunday night but again it isnt a set time.

    • Waterlewd says:

      Go to link to It’s possible.

      • Travis says:

        Of course it is possible but it makes way more sense to just have a set time for a GOTW each week. You are never going to draw in viewers with game times being all over the place.

        • Fredo says:

          I recall ESPN had MLS Thursday nights as their game/day of the week several years ago. That didn’t seem to help.

          Local TV broadcast rights have been more important to clubs. But, that obviously needs to change.

  26. slowleftarm says:

    MLS has made tremendous progress, especially when you consider it didn’t exist 18 years ago and now has 19 teams (and possibly 24 soon), most in soccer specific stadiums, with average attendance higher than the NBA and NHL. But tv ratings are what MLS really needs to get to the next level. Being able to get big dollars for tv rights is how MLS teams will be able to increasetheir budgets and attract a higher caliber of player.

  27. Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

    Anyone who is embarrassed by that needs to think about it for a second.
    Did you get left off of the junior high lunch table with the popular kids ?

    Soccer isn’t that popular in this country. Sure when the World Cup rolls around, sure when Manchester plays Manchester, or Seattle plays in a big game it is.
    But who cares ? Why would I care one bit about this ? I don’t think the league is folding, it is great soccer, enjoy it.
    Listening to guys named Snordo who don’t know anything about soccer rip on soccer in this country ? Is that what you want your life to be, caring about his rediculous opinion ? No.

  28. Meromasta says:

    I agree with what a lot of others are saying. This is a result of a lot of minor factors all adding up to dismal numbers.

    I wonder how the internet numbers are looking. Streaming on-demand is the future if you ask me. Even for sporting events. I wonder if it’s possible for MLS to work out a deal with HULU, Netflix, or Amazon Prime to stream their games.

    • Snordo says:

      Is bad soccer a minor factor?

      • Waterlewd says:

        Hey everybody! Snordo doesn’t like MLS soccer!!! You hear that everyone? You heard it, right? Ok good. Snordo, I think everyone knows you don’t like MLS. You can go about the rest of your day now. Bye.

        • Yevgeniy says:


        • Snordo says:

          Well, it should at least be admitted. The quality of MLS soccer at stage in the league’s progression does not make for good television.

          • wandmdave says:

            The top half of the league is watchable now. It used to be like watching a high school game no more than 10 years ago and it didn’t even exist a decade before that. I’d said the trajectory is good.

          • Fredo says:

            Good television is when The LA Galaxy win. Great television is when The LA Galaxy crush San Jose, Chivas and Seattle.

    • beto says:

      that would be excellent!

  29. RBNY says:

    ESPN games are shown to infrequently to matter – unless you knew it was on, you would be lucky to flip to it by mistake. ESPN can’t even be bothered to show the results of matches on the bottom line much less showing highlights during SportsCenter.

    I like NBCSn’s converage, but nobody has it – so thats not helping here We wont get total control over 2 or 3 networks for games like the NFL does, so let’s look towards the NBA model and try to nail down one network, one day, one timeslot. Play back to back or even triple headers on big boy NBC on saturday or sunday afternoons like the ESPN Sunday Showcase NBA has on ABC. Only the best games for like 3 or 4 hours.

    We can still have our regional games, the odd game here and there on ESPN during the week – but there needs to be a huge showcase. We also need to claim a holiday to bombard the TV with games on… NBA has Christmas, MLB has 4th of July. NFL has Thanksgiving, we need something like this… Easter (just brainstoriming here)??

  30. Jersey2Colorado says:

    WNBA is a joke

  31. John says:

    I think MLS needs to do more to promote the and build up the CCL matches. The one thing NBA NFL and NBA have in common is they are the best in the world for that respective league. MLS is just never going to be that. However the one thing MLS has and those leagues don’t is international matches. You already have the US – Mexico rivaraly that draws well, why not do more to translate that to the club game. One of the best things about soccer is the global aspect, while other American sports are so isolated.

    • RBNY says:

      I agree. Only problem is CCL coverage would be CONCACAF’s problem not MLS’. That being said, CCL needs to be trumped up and given a more serious tone than the average league match in MLS when it is covered on TV. Fox Soccer Channel makes them seem like glorified friendly matches..

    • wandmdave says:

      I agree but I think the salary cap will need to be raised before that can happen. Teams that are actually successful at champs league competition have deep rosters and MLS isn’t close to that. There is usually a pretty big drop off once you get passed the first couple bench players on even the deepest teams due to the salary cap.

      I guess if MLS was as popular as the NFL the size of the regions each team commands could make up for having a salary cap but that is also a long ways off.

  32. Snordo says:


    • Kosh says:

      You berate one sport (probably because it has something to do with women) to mock another entirely differnt sport in an enitirely different situation – man, are you just spewing information about yourself.

  33. Jay says:

    Just like everyone else says, we need standard times. The EPL has an early Saturday match, followed by a bulk of matches at the same time on Saturday afternoon and then a late Saturday match. This is generally the schedule on Sunday, just with fewer matches and no late match. Then they also have Monday and Wednesday night games.

    What MLS needs to do is have set times for matches on the weekends. Have most matches on Saturdays 1 PM to 7 PM EST windows. No more 10 PM EST games for those west coast match ups. Seattle vs Portland should be a national draw but most people have plans on a weekend night so no wonder that time slot doesn’t draw.

    Have the same window on Sundays as well, just with less matches like the EPL. Loading up on Saturdays is a good idea because there isn’t much on TV during the afternoon and early evening on Saturday. College football only overlaps with a couple months of the MLS schedule. Also make Tuesday and Wednesday the weekday prime time days for MLS. Always a 7:30 PM EST start like the NFL does for its Monday and Thursday games. You could do a doubleheader some weeks for some of those west coast games, not an ideal slot but it would still give the league exposure knowing that every Tuesday and Wednesday night there is a MLS game on NBCSN. I chose Tuesday and Wednesday because the NFL has Monday and Thursday and the NBA does Thursday games as well.

    • Gary Page says:

      Every team in England is in the same time zone and we have 3 here. Also, there is a lot more variation in the weather here. Who wants to play during the day in the summer in Texas, for example? I think you have to respect your home fans first and that means playing at a time that brings the most fans into the stands. That may not be the best time to get ratings, unfortunately.

      • Sharkbait says:

        3 time zones? Did we lose one somewhere along the way? Oh and don’t forget Alaska and Hawaii. So really there’s 6 time zones across the 50 states, 4 for the contiguous 48.

    • Waterlewd says:

      MLS teams are concerned about gate and concession revenue in the current environment, and is the reason why MLS has been pushing for soccer-specific stadiums. Not sure what kind of gate figures you’ll get Tuesday and Wednesday. To me, MLS is in a highly competitive business going after individual and family entertainment dollars. They’ve been doing ok there, and MLS isn’t going to forfeit that for increased TV ratings. And if they do, it will be a balanced and well-thought strategy.

      • wandmdave says:

        Squeezing every game into that same window might be a bit much but I don’t think that making sure that 2 or 3 games are available in that Sat afternoon window every weekend would be too much to ask. Throw in flex scheduling to make sure they are enticing matchups as well and you’d have a winner.

  34. tga says:

    relax. the league is making progress. for the first time, this 45 year veteran soccer fan, watched the MLS playoffs. pretty good stuff.

  35. Reid says:

    I’m all for in the beginning of the season to help people get into it is put games on directly after the noon EPL match. In the northern US and Canada its the perfect time of year to schedule day games (enjoy higher temps) and keep people watching soccer all day.
    I know for myself i’m not going to do a 4hr round trip drive or 5hr round trip train ride to watch the revs or redbull just to freeze and then get home at midnight.
    This would also work at the end of the season as well to get people more involved in upcoming playoffs.
    During the summer I have no helpful solutions.

  36. Mueller says:

    Most of you guys that take this as an opportunity to just hate on MLS are cnuts. You should support your league so it can become the EPL or La Liga instead of complaining that the quality is not good enough. Those ratings and the dollars that come from them are the only way you MLS to grow into a top league.

  37. Andre Mariner says:

    Americans are creatures of habit.

    Get a consistent marquis time slot. Flex scheduling. Always put the best match up in the fixed slot. Boom. Off to the races.

    Here’s a bigger hint: Clint Dempsey is not a TV draw. The casual fan drives the media markets. The casual soccer fan has no idea who Clint Dempsey is.

    Most importantly–


    For some inexplicable reason player brand creation isn’t a big deal here. Get these guys to take their shirts off. Do some modeling.

    Lionel Messi being a wild, wild outlier–the stars are sex symbols. Get the moms. Get the teenage girls.

    Cristiano Ronaldo has a female fan club larger than the entire domestic viewership of MLS.

    • QuakerOtis says:

      Sorry to say, but some of these guys can barely hold a microphone, just don’t have the looks or charisma for primetime TV. There are only so many Beckhams and Ronaldos in the world, and one of them just retired. Might as well ask for us to develop the next Messi.

      • Andre Mariner says:

        There are some really good looking guys in MLS with great physique for male modeling. Lean muscle.

        Is it hard to build the charisma? Yeah. But luckily professional athletes are generally of that mindset.

  38. Clyde Frog says:

    The MP & Silva deal is up this year. It’d be cool if the great minds of SBI could dig into what could replace it in 2014.

  39. Gary Page says:

    I played soccer in the early 70’s, after learning it in a college gym class in the 60’s. Hardly anyone knew what soccer was back then, just some foreign game you played with your feet. I remember when about the only soccer game on TV was the World Cup finals. And you never saw any articles in the newspaper sports section. After the US qualified in 1990 they started to show more WC games. I remember the start of the MLS. I have watched soccer slowly but steadily increase its popularity because it really is the beautiful game. This latest report is disappointing, but that’s all. Who knows the reasons? Lots of possibilities. What’s more important is that attendance wise, MLS is approaching a per game average of many MLB teams and other more established sports. This is just a bump in the road.

    • Quit whining about soccer in the US says:

      Amen Gary. I was there too. Tulsa drawing 15k was deemed above average, of course no games on TV….and almost no one knew we had a league.

      At least now you have trolls making fools of themselves who know there is a league.

    • Adi from Oregon says:

      Interesting insight and perspective about the growth of US soccer! When I came to Oregon in 1954, there were only a couple of college soccer teams and about 6 amateur teams in Portland made-up of immigrants like me. Now, the Timbers are known across the US and little school kids are playing soccer every day during recess. Hopefully this great growth in US soccer will continue. I also believe US parents are becoming more interested in getting their kids to play the fairly safe and very healthy sport of soccer versus the violent contact sports such as football or hockey.

  40. Ron says:

    The NHL’s regular season national ratings aren’t much better than MLS’s or WNBA’s. The NHL does fine because it understands that it is a gate dsriven league far more than a TV driven league. The same is true for MLS. The WNBA is at its high-water mark. It won’t go any higher. MLS needs to conectrate on getting payiong customers into the stands and buiuldiung regional ratings. Once that is done it can concentrate more on national ratings.

    One big problem facing MLS on the national ratings front is the playoffs get lost in the sea of college football, then profootball, then the NHL and NBA starting their seasons. There are no or few decent time spots for MLS playoff games.

    • Dante says:

      Look at the TV ratings for NHL playoff games them come back and say this again with a straight face. The NHL is booming, and their biggest games get big ratings.

      There’s always going to be competition for TV.

  41. Boyd says:

    Not really surprising. Why would anybody watch MLS when you can watch much better games from the best leagues in the world?
    SS stadiums, packed houses and famous over the hill players don’t mean much if the product on the field sucks.
    Even the Liga MX games are way better than what you can get from MLS.
    If they want me to watch their games they need to put something worth watching on the field otherwise I got plenty of better options.

    • Yevgeniy says:

      Why would you watch? How about because it’s OUR league and because a lot of USMNT players players play in it.

      • QuakerOtis says:

        I agree with you Yevgeniy, but the league can only just get by on fans like us.

        MLS sees a catch 22 here. It needs more money to pay for better players to attract more money. Other popular US leagues use TV revenue as a primary means of closing that loop, and this isn’t an option for most if not all MLS teams.

        Ultimately, MLS needs to keep teams from losing money in the near term, attract stronger owners with deeper pockets, and THEN spend more on players as circumstances and finances allow. It will be a slow build yet, but with more SS Stadiums — and indicators like NYCFC and Orlando — I think we’ll make another decent jump in quality in 3-4 years.

        • Yevgeniy says:

          That’s fair. For what it’s worth, I think they spend a ridiculously low percentage of revenues on salaries. But as is, quality is decent and competition is great. The quality justifies more eyeballs at this point

  42. SamInMaine says:

    Not surprising at all — soccer isn’t a major sport in the US.
    Don’t really care that WNBA has better ratings.

    When I watch MLS on TV I am happy with the quality. Handful of world class goals this season. Proud that we have an improving league.

  43. bottlcaps says:

    These “reports” are sponsored by the networks and publicists who are getting ready to bargain for the MLS rights that expire soon. This is a common ploy, you bend a few stats to give you a better prognosis for your side of the bargaining table. The facts are, while viewership is up for WNBA, the demographic groups watching are not the best. Soccer on the other hand appeals to the best demographics markets, except the older, male high income bracket (ie Golf) ESPN has spend considerable more for the rights fees for the WNBA as it is tied to the very lucrative NBA propert rights.

    ESPN hold the rights for the WNBA and they market and advertise the hell out of it on their NBA, college football and other properties. Something they DO NOT DO with the MLS properties.

    ESPN has been a poor rights holder for the MLS and attempts like this show they want to lo-ball the negotiations. Ives has done a bit of a disservice in not recognizing the trap ESPN iand its surrogates s trying to lay.

    It will be somewhat of a blow if ESPN does not spend some cash and retain some of the MLS rights, BUT, with NBCsn and the Fox Sports network and now CBS looking to a new sports network , there will be a lot of media companies looking for content and media rights. Soccer fits the bill for it’s appeal in most of the desirable age group and media markets.

    Do not let the spin deter the MLS from negotiating a great deal. The MLS is s great property and with the lead-up to the WC, the next great leap soccer in America will take, is a measurable increase in rights fees, one that will increase salary levels across the board, bring back USMNT stars to this country and bring exiting new (and old) foreign stars to these shores.

  44. Kosh says:

    man, some of these comments take me back to the early years of our league – Mickey Mouse, it will fail, it sucks…and yet here we are. Do we still have a ton of work to do? Yup. But we are trying and doing what we can – whcih is a heck a lot better than those who take the easy path to bash a league they never had the courage to stand behind. I love other leagues as well and grew up a life long Manchester United fan. I love Man U and the quality of the Prem and the other top leagues but DC uniTed and MLS are No. 1 in my heart. Why? Because they are ours and I will do all I can to help it succeed.

    This is why the Accington Stanley’s of thw worl exist because they certainly may not have the quality but they have the love and support of people who know the value of owning and enjoying somethig that is theirs, unlike many who latch onto the existing success of others while they thumb their nose at wht is turely theirs.

  45. Kosh says:

    Are these rating considering other outlets? Because I bought a ROKU specifically for MLS. Do these ratings consider those media as well? I don’t know how this works so one bit and would like to better understand.

    • Joe+G says:

      Ratings are usually driven by “Nielsen families” — paid or volunteer TV watchers who have a monitoring device on their TVs (or perhaps some keep a hard copy viewing diary — I did when I was a watcher back in the 90s). Their viewing habits are extrapolated to give an idea of how many households watch a specific show.

      Online viewing can be counted pretty easily, but they usually are included separately. And someone show ask FirstRowSports how many people *really* watch MLS games in the US. :)

  46. Norman says:

    A soccer league witout promotion/relegation, single table etc. is a league no on wants to see on TV.

    • Kosh says:

      A league with promotion/relegation in the US is one that won’t be around long eough to have a chance for anyone to see on TV.

    • Mueller says:

      Really. You support Sunderland, Palace, Fulham, Norwich, etc? Some fans scream they want pro/rel but they even don’t support relegation candidates. They support teams like ManU who never have the threat of relegation. The reality is fans enjoy when others are relegated, but dread the thought of their club being relegated.

      • Hal says:

        most American soccer fans i know support teams that have American players on them. So for awhile it was Fulham. Now it seems to be Stoke and Sunderland.

        • Mueller says:

          Thats completely different. Americans watch American players but they don’t care what happens to the team. If they had a vested interest in the team (not only the player) they would understand how fearful some of the fans of lower premiership sides are that their team will be relegated and end up like Leeds, Sheffield United, Wolves, or Pompey.

          We don’t have that here. We just get to sit back and watch the crash without being a part of it. If pro/rel was here you might still like it but you would definitely have a different opinion of it.

  47. Trent says:

    Ever have a day that just keeps getting worse?

  48. Yevgeniy says:

    Having grown up with soccer as #1 sport and pretty close to #1 thing in my life, when I immigrated to the US in 1993, I was quite disappointed and frustrated by lack of interest and support for the sport in the US. That has improved by a lot. At this point, I have to say, I am more annoyed by soccer fans like Snordo (see his comments above) than people who tell me that soccer blows, is boring etc. We are such a small community already, it just pains me to meet people who are not just indifferent to MLS (and in many cases USMNT), but they actually take pride in putting the league down and are happy to see any negative news. Why in the world would you not want your domestic league get better and better?!?!?!?!?!?! Yes, MLS is far from the best. However, I am pretty sure that NYRB is no weaker than let’s say my former home team in Ukraine (they actually just collapsed) and I have never, ever, ever heard anyone in Ukraine make fun of domestic league or someone to be shocked and laugh at me when I tell them they I support my hometown team instead of being another bandwagon Man Utd. fan. And by the way, while the quality of play in MLS puts it in perhaps Top 20or Top 25 in the world, by most other parameters, the league is way higher (integrity of results, competitiveness of teams, average attendance, TV broadcasts, stadium quality etc.).

    If all USMNT fans started following the league next year and on, TV contracts would increase several-fold, salary cap would easily double and quality of play would improve dramatically. Following the league to me would be attending 3-4 local team’s games a year, watching 1-2 games per week on TV and buying 1 jersey every 3 years.

    • wandmdave says:

      I hear you and I’ve been making a concerted effort to watch MLS recently in order to support it and to brainwash my 2yo son into liking it. I even have an MLS Live subscription. However the nearest team to me is DCU which is 6 hours away. I don’t get local DC stations so I can’t see them regularly. There was rarely a nationally televised game during the regular season (heck two playoff days weren’t on national TV) let alone a nationally televised DCU game so it was difficult to follow them easily and impossible without the MLS Live. If there was more than one nationally televised game then one would undoubtedly be on the spanish only channel Univision which doesnt help me in the slightest. That Univision broadcast would blackout the MLS Live coverage so I couldn’t watch it there either. I have NBCSC but I’m not sure that is included in basic cable packages so that doesn’t help many other people.

      Put all that together and its clear you have to be a pretty dedicated fan to even watch even one random game every week let alone your own team, especially if you are outside the local broadcast market. That has got to change to allow all USMNT fans to start supporting MLS (as they should).

      • Yevgeniy says:

        First of all, I applad the effort! Secondly, if someone lives more than 3 hours away from a city that has a team, then I agree that things are different and the threshold is higher. I would still expect someone like you to follow play-offs, watch MLS Cup and perhaps watch big games like Seattle-Portland. I believe that NBCSN is available to vast majority of people. And I also believe that between them and ESPN that has been on average about 1.5 games per week

    • Gary Page says:

      Great comment. Thanks. One thing they could do immediately–take away a DP and double the cap. It wouldn’t make much of a financial difference for those teams with 3 DP’s and i think it would improve the quality of play if you could pay more guys in the $200 to $400 k range. An example I used elsewhere is 1 Dempsey vs. 10 players getting $500 k. I’m a big Dempsey fan, but I’d take the 10 players every time.

  49. Cabrito says:

    Several reasons/excuses for this:
    -If you want to watch basketball in the summer, the WNBA is you’re only choice
    -MLS has to compete with the best leagues in the world, and international tournaments, for television viewers. You could have watch dozens of European league games on a typicall Saturday, before the first MLS game kicks off.
    -Most soccer fans want to watch the world class teams play and don’t care for the parity of MLS
    -Summer is traditionally the time of year people watch less television

    If league sponsors were turning their back on MLS, I’d be concerned. That doesn’t seem to be happening. Aso, I’m sure ratings for the demographic advertisers want (18-44 years old, male) are just fine.

    • Hal says:

      good points except for the first one. WNBA gets horrible ratings. MLS’s are just worse.

      oh and the demo ratings are not just fine. They are horrible.

  50. the original jb says:

    This comes as no surprise to me and is a result of the horrible scheduling. I am more than a casual soccer fan and have wanted all season to try and catch more MLS matches, and have largely failed. Why? I am not going to pay an extra fee for MLS live or whatever mostly because I don’t have time to watch enough to make it worth it. Like everyone else says, it’s hard to figure out when a match is actually on, and when it is, it is usually a crappy team like DC (sorry DC fans). And the most irritating thing for me on the east coast is that the more exciting teams in the west (RSL, galaxy, seattle, Portland) have games that don’t start until 10 or 11pm! I am not in college anymore and simply cant stay up that late.

    1. flex scheduling
    2. pick a consistent timeslot
    3. start the west coast games earlier – I know this may annoy hardcore fans who go to these games but if we want the league to grow you HAVE to get these better teams on tv where the entire country can watch!

    • wandmdave says:

      I have MLS Live and I’d add that having it is still not a 100% guarantee you can watch every game. Games that are natonally broadcast are blacked out from MLS Live. That is all well and good for games on NBC and for most people its all well and good if its on ESPN as well. However I’m not sure NBCSC is part of a basic cable package and Univision steals about one game a week which can then only be seen in Spanish even when you have MLS Live due to the blackout. Not very cool.

    • Gary Page says:

      I have the Direct TV sports package and even without the MLS package I can watch at least about 3 MLS games a weekend. What with the games from Europe, I could be watching 60 to 70 hours a week of soccer. As big a a soccer fan as I am, even I get tired of it sometimes.

  51. Yevgeniy says:

    Also, this ignores ESPN Deportes figures which would easily tip the scales in favor of MLS. Unimas average was 229,000 for the year.

  52. wandmdave says:

    Pretty much everything people have posted contributes to the low numbers but my guess is the main cause is lack of a consistent schedule. If they picked a time slot and always had 1 or 2 games on Saturday after the last BPL match came on I’d watch both, no question. As is games can be at a number of times and days and I’m not sure there is a guarantee that there will even be one nationally aired game each week (that isn’t on Univision at least; sorry no habla espanol).

    I’m sure its not an easy problem to fix because of the networks wanting to air other sports on weekends during the day and due to scheduling conflicts in stadiums but it really needs to get fixed to allow people who aren’t completely hardcore MLS fans (and how to become a hardcore fan without starting out as a casual one) or who aren’t living in an MLS market to catch regular games easily.

  53. Mike R says:


    WNBA is crapola and those women are hideous !!
    The again watching MLS hack a man is crapola compared to most other leagues.
    I support my local team out of love of soccer but can’t bring myself to watch the hack a man unimagintive league with low skilled players when other teams are playing. Heck I really don’t even enjoy my teams games.

    Playing a nicer styles and having more skilled players will lead to better viewership. Expanded the league to where the talent is so watered down and hacks can still find a place in a starting lineup will not help

  54. dan says:

    The major problem no one seems to consider is the fact that TV viewership is all about fans in other cities caring enough to watch other teams, or for people in cities without MLS attach to an MLS team somewhere else. Getting supporters from other parts of the country for the teams seems to be a high priority.

    • scottishkyle says:

      I agree about the problem of caring about other teams and games other than my own home team. It is one of the reasons I don’t like the 3 games in one’s conference and only one against the other. If we played each team home and away, we would build up favorites and hated opponents. We would also care about all the other games being played, but when it is mostly (3 to 1)intraconference games, we don’t care about or watch games in the other conference since they only rarely affect our situation in the conference standings. Unfortunately, the growth in the teams to 24 precludes the two (home-away) approach. I hope that at least, we will home-away in the conference and 1 game against all of the other conference. Hope they do not go for a three or four division situation which would make it a lot worse.

    • Coughney says:

      Tru dat. All 30k fans in Seattle are already at the stadium.
      nobody home to watch

  55. Ben says:

    Lack of consistent schedule and the difficultly of local broadcasts. Are the KC games widely available in Missouri / Kansas? Can Salt Lake be seen through all of Utah? Still, people read too much into this. The fact is the NBA gets to go to bat for the WNBA, especially concerning TV interests. MLS does not have a larger, more powerful entity helping them.

  56. Boyd says:

    It’s not only WNBA.

    “The SBJ says that MLS’ average numbers on ESPN/ESPN2 (220,000) and NBC Sports Network (112,000) were lower than NCAA Softball games, IndyCar races, the X Games, and even the Solheim Cup, an international golf tournament that was televised last August on the Golf Channel.”

    My guess is that since MLS games are not on TV not so many people watch it.

  57. Kingsly Alexander says:

    God ppl, there’s a job to be done you know. I DVR every televised match, whether I intend to watch it or not. If I don’t watch I delete, but it counts the same.

    Get to it!

    • bryan says:

      unless you have a Nielson box or whatever, it does not matter.

      • wandmdave says:

        As Bryan said you need to be a “Nielson Family” and I’m pretty sure Nielson has a second, less lucrative category for time shifted viewing (as opposed to watching as it airs) and even then it only counts shows that are watched within 3 days of the air date so all those ones you didn’t get to watching wouldn’t count.

  58. BamaMan says:

    Too many MLS fans treat the league like a charity. MLS has a bunch of billionaire owners who, unlike their Euro counterparts, are unwilling to take the risk of relegation in their investment. The league is (like the bad old NASL) increasingly reliant on expansion fees to make ends meet. In the big markets, MLS is an afterthought at best (does anyone doubt that LAG or NYRB aren’t the most popular soccer clubs in their local markets?). The small markets clubs (sometimes) have great atmosphere and attendance but little outside appeal.

    I’m a neutral soccer fan. I want to follow MLS. It’s as though the league goes out of its way to turn me off. The model is there in the Bundesliga and J-League for a successful league. Play fall-spring; take a winter break; have secure finances but focus on player development; consistent scheduling; and take your domestic cup competition seriously.

    Set aside pro/rel (I think it’s the one thing that would draw in otherwise uncommitted fans, but I digress). For one year, let’s get back to balanced schedule; let’s try single-table. Let’s try fall-spring with a winter break (Heck, just follow the German schedule exactly, including when they play DFB-Pokal games). Let’s get a consistent tv schedule going (maybe a Friday night marquee game; Saturday afternoon games in NFL markets; Sunday afternoon games in non-NFL markets?). Just a thought.

    • Hal says:


      spot on. I think there are so many soccer fans in the US that think like this. The problem is whenever someone says something this they get called a “euro snob” by MLS homers.

      • Yevgeniy says:

        It’s definitely better to see this tan someone saying “Mickey Mouse League” without any explanation. If you are not watching now, I don’t understand why a switch to Fall-Spring will make you watch? This can’t possibly be a turn-off. Consistent scheduling – I agree. Single table just doesn’t work in US and you definitely can’t make it work with 20+ teams that we will have shortly.

        • Hal says:

          calling MLS a mickey mouse league is not an argument. I agree. But saying “single table just doesn’t work in the US” is also not an argument.

          I don’t think its just one thing that turns soccer fans off of MLS. It’s not just the schedule. It’s the accumulation of everything. I’ve tried to get into MLS but I can’t.And I talk to a lot of soccer fans (I’m involved in my local American Outlaws charter) and the complaints about the league are not just “if they would only do X then I would watch.” it’s the accumulation of everything: parity that harms the quality, salary cap that harms the quality, lack of free agency that would bring interest to the off-season, drafts, pointless regular season, playoffs, unwillingness to implement a long term plan for promotion/relegation (99% of soccer leagues on the planet have it), discovery claims, bad scheduling. The list goes on and on.

          Soccer fans are tuning out the league. Do you want to know why?

          • Yevgeniy says:

            It’s not unreasonable. However, I am pretty sure that if you or one of your AO brothers sat down with someone who follows MLS as closely as I do and took the time to discuss all these things, you would realize that there are valid reasons for all thins that MLS does. I may disagree with some of them, but at some point I have to also respect that there are dozens of smart people who are in charge and they know more than I do. For example, a single table with 21 teams assumes 40 games a year. It’s just not doable. Average MLS team already travels about 20 times more per season than average EPL team. You can’t just ignore things like this. 99% of soccer leagues in the world don’t have 90% of constraints that MLS has.

            • Northzax says:

              Also, let’s not forget that 99% of leagues in the world are pretty bad.

              I don’t understand why people say pro-rel will bring in viewers. That many folks burning to watch Orlando and the Cosmos get spanked around for a season?

              People with reasons like ‘no single table’ or ‘no pro-rep’ as their justifications for not watching MLS are not being honest with themselves. And that’s fine. I’d rather watch Bayern-Arsenal than Galaxy-Sounders any day. Who wouldn’t? I confess, I don’t watch a lot of MLS on TV, but I am a sth at rfk, frankly, there is too much soccer on TV, that’s a good problem to have but MLS is competing with the noise from the big leagues, who frankly put on an often better show.

              So it’s enough right now, support your local (or favorite) club. Buy some tickets and a jersey. Watch their televised games. Watch the playoffs. (Seriously, do that) but a midweek Colorado-New England game? Eh.

            • Hal says:

              single table might be more difficult now that they are going over 20 teams. But they never should have gone over 20 teams.

              People have crunched the numbers on travel with balanced schedule vs unbalanced and if you double up games, meaning a road trips of a saturday game vs LA and Wed vs Chivas (and did this with other cities) you would be adding roughly 4k miles to travel depending on the team.

          • Mueller says:

            Parity and salary cap are only bad because the league is small. If you support the league now so that it grows parity could be great.

            I still always envision MLS more like other US leagues than Euro Leagues. You get 32 teams with $50million+ payrolls and the league could be great. All of a sudden a lot of the top players are here playing.

            The problem is it takes time and patience. Americans want a great league now but they don’t want to support it now while it isn’t as good as the Euro Leagues. The problem is if you don’t support it now it never becomes great because you aren’t going to get the owners to operate at a loss forever. If we as fans want a league here, we have to invest in it, and one of the ways we do that is by watching them on TV.

      • kd says:

        I think euor-noob or euro-pouser is much much more apt.

  59. Ali Dia says:

    At first this made me wince with embarrassment but it wore off after about a minute. MLS is so clearly moving in the right direction, it’s actually good (in a weird way) to know that there is there is so much upside left if they can just take advantage of it. With a World Cup on the horizon (in our time zone, for the first and last time in a while), here’s hoping they can leverage what they have and make another big step.

  60. sdflash says:

    I have been supporting soccer in this country since 1974 when the NASL came to San Jose. I have all kinds of ideas on why MLS doesn’t get TV ratings, but I would love to see somebody really ask people why they don’t watch. MLS has to have conducted some focus groups and it would be nice to see some actual data.

    I do agree with the point that having more names that the casual fan can identify with would make a lot of difference. Since Messi or Ronaldo are not coming here, this will need to come from young US and Mexican players who we develop. Even if MLS went out and started bidding for players that command ridiculous pay packages in Europe-how many extra tickets would say Gareth Bale or Vincent Kompany actually sell here? If the league had to start raising prices to EPL levels to pay for this spending spree, how many of the people who attend MLS now would still be able to pay for these elevated ticket prices? TV Sports is a star driven game, either talent or scandal created, and this can be seen by the teams and players that are always on national telecasts in the other sports. MLS just does not have the star power to compete and may never have it.

    I am a Dynamo season ticket holder and have noticed that there is a much better understanding in the community about MLS and the Dynamo today than there was in 2006 when they arrived. This increased awareness, however, has not translated into a lot of people taking the next step and either paying to attend a Dynamo game or watching them on TV at home. The attendance at the midweek play in game against Montreal was pathetic. There were a million excuses offered, but if it were an Astros or Rockets playoff game people would have figured out how to make it to the stadium or arena. The fundamental issue is that MLS, and soccer for that matter, is just not that popular in many parts of the country. Spectators may attend once to see what it is all about, but there is little staying power. As for TV, I personally think a part of the issue has to do with the types of people who are attracted to MLS. A lot of the fans are young and many don’t even have cable or satellite TV packages. Many times when they watch games they are in bars or restaurants or with a crowd at a friends house. A lot of them do not really focus on English language media either.

    I personally think that MLS needs to spend most of their time and money capturing these kinds of audiences in the future. Trying to measure the success of MLS on the same playing field as the NFL, MLB or even the WNBA is a losing game.

    I personally think this will take another generation and I am not talking about the sport of the future nonsense. I am not sure I will be alive to see it, but I believe the league will make it in a fairly big way eventually in a very different way than measured today.

  61. martin says:

    This is an MLS problem, not a soccer problem. I’d bet that the average liga mx game gets more viewer than the average nhl game.

    • Yevgeniy says:

      You are right on both counts. Now what? Does it mean that this is not a problem worth discussing?

      • martin says:

        You bring a dozen Mexican national team (past and present) players to MLS.

        • Hal says:

          been done before

          its about authenticity. MLS lacks it. People don’t like the single entity model.

          • Yevgeniy says:

            At the end of the day, it’s about the level of play I think. That’s one clear area for improvement. I think eveyrthing else is an excuse

          • Joe+G says:

            Do fans really care about “single entity” as a reason not to watch a game on TV? People watch a sport because they are fans of the sport or they are emotionally connected to a team. Americans will watch sports they don’t really understand if there is some national team angle (Olympic water polo anyone?)

            Either the league doesn’t have the quality/entertainment value to attract soccer fans or there isn’t enough local/league interest to get more casual fans to watch. You can see things like single entity or the draft or the lack of free agency as holding back the quality, but I don’t think most people say that the business model or even the competitive model is the *primary* reason they don’t watch.

            • Hal says:

              i don’t think its one thing. It’s just just single entity even though it turns off a lot of people. It’s everything MLS does that is different that turns people off.

              American soccer fans are tuning out the league. We know that much

        • Scott e Dio93 says:

          mexicans will never support MLS.

          Luis Hernandez piss-off Centrel Americans that supported Galaxy, there was a drop in the Rose Bowl, and Galaxy had less fans.

  62. Jay says:

    Ok guys this news today is a cold splash of reality. Look MLS is in a tough spot one that I don’t think they can fix any time soon. Americans unlike the rest of the world have no loyalty to (Professional) teams that A stink or B aren’t talented which is mostly one in the same. The NFL has the best players for its sport in the world, so does the NHL, NBA, BASEBALL, GOLF, and even the WNBA. What you guys want is for Americans to ignore their eyes and watch anyway and most will not do that its even hard for me. And no college sports don’t count because they aren’t seen as the highest level of their sports and a lot of people don’t watch them because of that anyway. The problem is that when Don Garber spoke about to much soccer on TV, in my opinion he knew the more soccer on TV the harder it would be on MLS. Not because casual people cant watch MLS its because they won’t want to. Most casual Americans taste of soccer comes from two events, the Champions League final and the World Cup and so when they watch MLS they are expecting to see that skill and when they don’t they tune out. Now with more high level soccer on TV now its just going to make MLS seem less and less appealing. And another thing stop boasting about attendance, its worth nothing in the grand scheme of things. If you asked any owner of any sport would you rather have 40k at the game and 200k watching on tv or 20k and 2mil watching he is taking the eye balls on the tv. That’s where your money is, more money better players, better players more people watch, more people watch, more money and the cycle continues. So Seattle getting 35k means nothing really since nobody is watching it on tv. Nascar is another sport going threw a rough time, they still get a lot of people in the stands but TV numbers are down and they are losing money. In the end you have to have a good balance of both but if you had to choose you take the people watching over people in the stands. It takes time, but with so many options in this country MLS may not get to where people want it to be anytime soon. So instead of freaking out about this news just accept this is where MLS in the pecking order and enjoy it for what it is. That’s what all other niche sports in the country have to do.

  63. Mike R says:

    WNBA is the top and best women basketball league in the world.
    The NBA is the best basketball league in the world
    The NFL is the best Football league in the world
    NHL is the best hockey league in the world…..

    MLS is minor league soccer compared to Premiership,
    La liga, and serie A.

    Mexican league soccer would be the equivelant of AAA baseball and
    MLS would be AA. Therin lies the problem

    • Hal says:

      no, that’s not the problem

      Soccer is way more popular than woman’s basketball. You should be able to get a TV audience. MLS is just not connecting with the majority of American soccer fans.

  64. Karl J says:

    Time to pull the plug on this farce. If after 18 years you cannot attract more viewers than college softball then it wasn’t meant to be.
    Thanks to FIFA for forcing us to create this league but we’re going to stick with football and basketball from now on.

    • Hal says:

      oh please…

      soccer is getting more and more popular in the U.S. It’s the way that MLS is structured that turns people off.

  65. Adam M. says:

    To be clear, the ONLY thing the WNBA/MLS comparison proves is that more people watch tv during prime time hours when WNBA games are on than off-peak hours when MLS games are on. In fact, MLS is only a few thousand viewers shy of WNBA on ESPN DESPITE the non-peak hours. The report strongly suggests that MLS games during prime time would generally do much better than WNBA. It also suggests that MLS isn’t maximizing its tv potential with its current schuedule (and that NBCSports needs time to move viewers to its new network). The report does NOT mean that WNBA is more popular or more of a tv draw than MLS. MLS clearly has a ways to go on tv, granted, but not because of this false comparison to WNBA.

  66. Hal says:

    what have we been telling you MLS fans? You’ve alienated the majority of soccer fans in this country with your constant “euro snob” BS anytime someone suggests changing something in MLS.

    • Yevgeniy says:

      I suppose there is some of that, but when suggested changes are showing clear lack of understanding the constraints, there is not much of a choice. Examples: relegation, single table, playing in the winter

      • Hal says:

        relegation could be done if planned properly. A 10 year plan to implement pro/rel would be ambitious and exciting.

        single table – nothing preventing the league from adopting a single table.

        fall to spring schedule would have a winter break.

  67. Nephi says:

    Maybe this wouldn’t be true if the league & networks would put the entertaining matches on TV instead of assuming that large market means greater viewership. Check out this tweet from John Ourand.

    Of course, if more teams played entertaining football we’d have more entertaining matches.

  68. Hal says:

    the problem for MLS is that the majority of Americans are learning about the game of soccer through the Premier League. And then they look at the MLS with its conferences, playoffs, single entity, no free agency, franchises, no pro/rel, discovery claims, drafts(lol), salary caps and it just looks like a gimmick league. It’s trying to be the NFL.

  69. Kojo says:

    A lot of good comments here. The main point is that the league needs to get a time slot and stick with it. Soccer is an unusual sport in that as players get older they become fans but continue to play the sport meaning that you are either playing Sat or Sun morning. And if your no longer playing you are driving your kid to their youth game. I cannot think of many guys in their 20’s and 30’s who are playing hardball or tackle Football but I know a lot of guys in that age bracket who still enjoy playing Soccer. think the best time slot is Fri night 9:00pm ET. Yes it will be difficult for the fans in the West coast to attend but they are by far the most loyal fans today. Fri @ 9:00 does not conflict with any other major sport. It allows the 14 to 32 year olds to watch and then the 21 year olds and older can head out to the bars and have something to talk about. “Hey did you catch that Portland-Red Bulls game?” It allows for the older fans to turn in for the night to wake up early to take their kids to the Sat morning youth game. ESPN came out with an article on Sept 20th that pronounced soccer as America’s second-most popular sport for those age 12-24. The league needs to capture this demographic and grow with them.
    One thing that has not been mentioned and that is the quality of TV production namely the number of cameras picking up different views of the game. For example their are things that Nagbe does on the field that are not captured very well when watching the game in panorama sometimes you need the tight up close view and right now the production values are not there. The one thing I give the Premiere League credit for is good production value in televising the game which means having a lot of cameras on the field in comparison to the other major European leagues. Just like the best way to learn soccer is to simply play one of many ways to capture fans is to have good TV production.

  70. Lorenzo says:

    I am not worried. Stadiums are getting packed, academies are producing talent, league is expanding. It isn’t great, but they will figure the TV thing out.

    • Falstaff says:

      the old NASL expanded to 24 teams. They had great attendance. During the peak years they were getting better than MLS gets now.

      The old NASL also got better TV ratings than MLS does now. But there were fewer channels back then and they got on to network TV.

      You said stadiums are getting packed. I disagree. I go to a few LAG games a year and they are maybe 3/4 full. I went to a Chivas game and it was really sad…didn’t even look like 5k had showed up. People will say “yeah, that’s just Chivas,” but they are one of the teams in the top tier. There’s no relegation rule to get rid of them.

      in America revenues come from TV. Until MLS can get a TV audience they haven’t really made it. Getting beat by the WNBA is shocking.

  71. Joamiq says:

    Panic! Everybody panic! Ignore the fact that average attendance is one of the highest in the world among soccer leagues! This will never translate to TV viewership!

    Also, why is there a “but” in the first sentence of the post, and a “[t]hough” in the second? Those ideas are all complementary, not contrasting…

    • Cosmosfan says:

      MLS attendance is so inflated its not even believable half the time.

    • Hal says:

      The US is a massive country. All sporting events get a sizable crowd. The old NASL used to have great attendance too.

      Btw..take away Seattle and Portland and MLS attendance has really fallen.

  72. Cosmosfan says:

    Is it really a surprise? MLS ratings have always sucked, soccer fans don’t care about forced parity leagues with 3 million salary caps. HEll even Comsos Classics on SNY in NY got higher ratings than a live Red Bull gae on MSG inthe same time slot.

    • Hal says:

      forced parity, no free agency, the whole single entity gimmick, drafts..what a mess. This is what happens when ex-NFL goobers try to run a soccer league. I have to suppress a gag reflex to follow MLS. And I think most American soccer fans feel the same.

      We have the proof now. What us “euro snobs” have been saying all along. American soccer fans have rejected MLS. WNBA gets better TV ratings. That’s all you have to say to the MLS homer that WONT LISTEN.

  73. Cosmosfan says:

    Lost in all the points mentioned is the obvious one, MLS just isn’t popular as a soccer league in the USA. Ratings in this country for EPL,USMNT and UEFA CL are huge…the spanish language ratings for Mexico and Liga MX are great.

    No one wants to watch MLS because the league sucks. Its forced parity and watching teams play boring games against each other, with no real stars, and no real great teams…18 average teams fighting in an average league run by a commish that allows jokes like Red Bull and Manchester City to run clubs to promote other things. Lame-o

  74. Falstaff says:

    when the whole narrative of the MLS regular season is all about who is going to make the playoffs and what seed they will get, how can you expect fans to tune in to watch the games? They’ll just tune in when “the games matter”. Except, they aren’t tuning in “when the games matter” either. Probably because by that time they have no real relationship with the league. It’s games are hard to find etc. It’s not like the NBA where its in your face all the time.

    Also, parity is killing this league. MLS is the only soccer league on the planet that purposely makes its product worse all in the name of fairness. Yeah, the NFL does this too. But the NFL is the only American football league. So it doesn’t matter what they do. They are a monopoly.

    I’ve been saying this forever but MLS is never going to get a TV audience with the current structure of pointless regular season + playoffs. Playoffs make work in the Mexican league but there’s no evidence they will work in the U.S. Most American soccer fans are watching leagues without playoffs. They are being educated and socialized into the game through Europe.

    Japan gets it. They made their reforms and the J-League is skyrocketing in popularity. Does MLS get it? Does Garber? I think Garber plays it too safe. I think part of him gets it but he knows he’s stuck with MLS owners who really don’t have any soccer DNA.

  75. GalaxFan10 says:

    Lets be honest, the presentation just sucks for MLS, just look at the NFL, thats a league that knows how to present a sport on television and the numbers don’t lie. Announcers, Music, just the whole feeling of watching a game is superior to all sports, the NBA does it well on TNT, its not always about the game, but you need to be entertained in the process, beyond the game itself. MLS lacks in this aspect and local coverage of games are just pathetic, even though it has gotten somewhat better in Los Angeles with the Galaxy, its still lacks that feeling.

    • Hal says:

      I disagree. It’s all about the game. Sports is not entertainment. It’s sports. If a soccer match is not about the game then what is it about?

  76. dude says:

    ESPN, NBC Sports numbers are bad, so what?

    The only thing that is really “mickey mouse” about the league TV coverage are the amount of blackouts for those who don’t spring for DirectKick- which, as a one team fan, I absolutely have no reason to buy. It stands to reason that a large amount of people aren’t riveted to the one random “match of the week” on ESPN- who do we root for? Who cares, Golf is on.

    It will take time for the average number of people willing to watch that “soccer thing” on ESPN to grow, but there should be a better way to give regional areas access to THEIR team with minimal black outs. That’s a better way to attract viewers to the fold than hoping for a random surge in the larger broadcast numbers. First get a solid TV fix for the local team, it’s the first step out of apathy.

  77. Leon de Collao says:

    I haven’t had the time to check other comments but I am close to 100% sure that the wnba has always had better ratings. Not sure why the surprise or “embarrassment” as some put it.

  78. Scott e Dio93 says:

    Real money comes from TV, not gates. Many clubs in Italy and Spain have smaller crowds than MLS teams, but these Latin clubs have more spend money from TV renueve. Garber has to do changes in salary cap and changes in DP rules, avoid failure Dynamo in Champions, and changes in turf (yes, that helps draw more stars and fans). This time I am giving my viewpoint as South American and not as an American, that lives in Florida now and still loyal to Galaxy.

  79. Coco says:

    the truth is most American soccer fans are what MLS snobs call “euro snobs.”

  80. derrick says:

    not suprised and stop thinking people will watch mls because the want to watch the world cup. they are not the same. Unless you want to sign all the world cup players to mls teams it doesn’t matter. the only thing that matters to mls viewership is improving mls quality. Not some other tournament that’s got completely different players and the greatest players in the world at that.

  81. James says:

    TV is the last or perhaps I should say one of the last pieces of the puzzle.
    First, we needed individual team ownership to stabilize the league – Done
    Then, we needed soccer specific stadiums so we could create an atmosphere and control scheduling – Done
    Then, we needed better pay to keep and attract better quality players – better on both parts but still a work in progress
    Finally we need better TV numbers – also still a work in progress.
    I didn’t get into MLS until 1998 when I became a season ticket holder for the Kansas City Wizards. Ugh, some of those early games were painful to watch and the attendance was pitiful. But now, just a few years later the games are much more fun to watch as the quality of play is better and with the re-branding of my local team – Sporting Kansas City – the future looks very bright indeed.
    Isn’t going to happen overnight folks but things are definitely going in the right direction.