This past Sunday’s MLS Cup Final on ABC received a 0.7 Nielsen rating. Last year’s final between Houston and New England received a 0.8 rating. From my vantage point this is a disappointing number considering the game started at 3:30 PM ET instead of 12:30 PM ET as it did last year and it featured a team from the nation’s largest media market. Even more disappointing is the reality of the situation for MLS: that only about one fourth of the viewers who watched the Euro 2008 final on ABC tuned in for the cup final of our domestic league. In fact this 0.7 rating is lower than the average ABC received when showing regular season MLS games between 1996 and 2000. In that period of time European football was not as accessible via cable and satellite TV as it is today, and MLS arguably had more stars of international note: the likes of Carlos Valderrama, Roberto Donadoni, and Lothar Matthaeus among others. MLS at the time represented perhaps the only consistent viewing option for football fans aside from the two hour Fox Sports Net EPL recap show hosted by the wise cracking Lionel Bienvenu.
In the past I have editorialized against the Euro-snobic tendencies of futbolistas in the United States. These fans would rather watch a game between Spain and Germany which has little relevance or meaning domestically than the MLS Cup, USL or NCAA Soccer. Many of these fans complain about the lack of mainstream media coverage of the sport we all love when they do not make the effort to support the sport in its indigenous American form. I have my numerous issues and complaints with MLS, but not watching the MLS Cup or following the playoffs is not an option from where I sit. Honestly, I feel the same way about college soccer, the USL and the youth national teams. It’s important to support the sport at all levels in this country if we are really to become a football loving and playing nation of some note.