Steve Goff of the Washington Post reports that the US-Brazil final on ESPN garnered a 2.7 overnight rating. (I had received a text message earlier in the day that the match had received a 2.8 rating) which is the highest rating ever for a non World Cup, US game on ESPN.
What is most surprising however is that the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market received the highest market share nationally and that the West Palm Beach market ranked 4th. The South Florida market tends to watch most of its football on Spanish language stations, and these numbers do not include viewers on Univision which were sure to be numerous.
South Florida actually is a more football savvy market than many in the U.S. That’s why Jamaica, Honduras, Colombia, and Haiti among others consistently play well attended friendlies in either Fort Lauderdale or Miami. CONCACAF continued to bring Gold Cup matches to Miami right until the demolition of the Orange Bowl and announced the launch of the CONCACAF Champions League in Miami, not New York or Mexico City.
In February, the Mexico-US game beat American Idol locally in TV viewership among the key 25-54 year old demographic. So despite the perception among the fans of many MLS or USL clubs that the market is weak, the truth is that it is actually quite strong for the game.
Latin fans, who make up the majority of the local supporters are picky. I’ve seen commentary about how South Floridians do or do not support other sports teams in other leagues. But we are comparing apples to oranges. The NFL, NBA and MLB are the top professional leagues on the planet in their respective sports. MLS, is to put it diplomatically a nice domestic league with a set of rules that are odd for World Football and a bunch of players that most Latino fans have never heard of.
Part of the reason MLS did not agree with south Florida when the Fusion were around was because quite honestly the product was completely inferior to what local fans were accustomed to. But it wasn’t just inferiority to Latin or European football but the product was in the mind of many inferior to the beloved NASL which left a permanent imprint on South Florida’s Soccer/Football community.
USL-1’s Miami FC struggles to get a decent gate week in and week out and in fact plays in three different home stadiums spread over a 40 mile radius. But the club averages the lowest attendance in USL-1.
This TV rating gives me pride as a South Floridian but also makes me angry. I wish the Latino fans and other European oriented fans that made that rating seem unwilling to give USL a chance and created little buzz when MLS was actively looking at returning to the area earlier this year.
A disconnect still exists between fans of international football and US club soccer. The National Team can be the bridge between these groups of fans and the engine for positive growth nationally. Perhaps South Florida provides a perfect test case.