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MLS’ TV Problem: Discussing Possible Solutions

1103397 ESPN 300x199 MLS TV Problem: Discussing Possible Solutions

With news of the remarkable TV ratings the English Premier League has achieved on ESPN2 this past Saturday morning and Monday afternoon, comes the question again about MLS’ TV strategy and viability. Both games which were timed oddly for the US TV audience outdrew every MLS primetime telecast this season on ESPN2 that has not included the expansion Seattle Sounders.  This has also come without much advertising: I spoke to a prominent football watcher on Tuesday, who had missed Monday’s game because he thought it was on Setanta and he doesn’t subscribe to Setanta any longer.

The Monday match between Liverpool and Aston Villa was the most watched EPL match ever on US television. At the same time, MLS is averaging fewer viewers on TV than it did ten years ago.  I risk sounding like a broken record in this regard, but the problem is so serious, and something that many fans of MLS (and complicit press that covers MLS) doesn’t want to discuss, so it must be once again talked about here. But this time, we seek solutions rather than to just point out the obvious.

First, let’s outline the problem:

MLS TV ratings on ESPN 2 are about as bad as a primetime sporting event can possibly be on a mainstream channel. ESPN 2 in fact, has achieved higher average ratings in prime time for such sports as Poker and Bowling in the last year. However, those sports have limited upside potential when compared with Football.

That was the rationale for ESPN paying a rights fee for MLS in 2006 and continuing to place it in prime time on weeknights or Saturdays. However, now with the acquisition of certain EPL and La Liga matches, the Disney networks can promote the sport outside of international windows and tournaments without MLS.

Per a well placed industry source, MLS TV contracts are up for review every two years. After the first review of the eight year, multi million dollar contract between ESPN and MLS, games were dumped from the lucrative Thursday Night time slot, to different nights on the calendar.

MLS’ TV ratings continue to struggle despite being in several lucrative television markets. On Fox Soccer Channel, Premier League games averaged three times as many viewers last season as MLS matches even though the MLS games are in primetime and the EPL matches in less than ideal time slots. This year, ESPN is learning early on, what FSC found out last season about the TV ratings of MLS vs the EPL, despite the obvious and natural advantages MLS enjoys.

MLS should have higher TV ratings than the EPL or La Liga. Only the Mexican League should have more viewers on US TV. But despite being a domestic league, which you can actually watch in person as compared to matches taking place a continent away, MLS struggles to hold the attention of fans in markets with team in the league, not to mention the large markets without teams.

The Potential Outcome without Action

MLS is largely enabled by groups of fans that are uncritical when it comes to evaluating the league’s progress. Also, many media members feel they cannot criticize MLS for risk of the league suffering or disappearing. For example, last year MLS’ TV ratings were terrible, and those who bothered to look knew how badly the league was faring on ESPN2. But unlike other American sports writers, who routinely track Nielson ratings, many US soccer writers ignored the bad news.

In fact, in 2008 when I had editorialized about MLS’ poor TV ratings, I was told by multiple fans that my facts were wrong because none of the credible writers had written what I had. Those who wrote me insisted that the TV ratings were much higher, than I claimed. One email even said MLS averaged in excess of 500,000 viewers a night on ESPN2. This person must have lifted the viewership from ESPN’s package in the 1999 season.

It was then met with some shock in these same circles when ESPN pulled the plug on Thursday Night MLS. At that point, some mainstream reporters began investigating and writing about MLS’ TV ratings.

So, if no action is taken nor if MLS fans and supporting press do not acknowledge the continued failure of the league to garner even semi respectable TV ratings, the league will go the way of several domestic leagues in Asia and Latin America, where there is always a committed core of fans, but the majority of the football loving public breathes, lives and talks foreign club football.

We do not want that to happen here in America.

The Possible Solution

MLS has gotten off course. For every positive, including numerous soccer specific stadiums and expansion into good second tier markets, failures are apparent including media coverage in the top markets, and the inability to keep top American players. At the same time, MLS has dabbled with being a “big league,” by exporting high priced, and overage foreign stars.

MLS has to make a decision. Try and be a good American league, keeping the core of the national team player pool at home or be a global player by releasing the purse strings on clubs budgets and spending and allowing individual clubs to promote themselves outside their “assigned” market. (ie. Allow DC United to advertise on billboards in Dallas about Jamie Moreno, or even in South America, for example)

Right now, MLS is neither a good American league as the vast majority of US MNT pool players ply their trade abroad, nor a global player that has allowed clubs to build its own brand. MLS is a tweener league for lack of a better term. It is neither a league committed to developing nor promoting the American player, which would lead to one set of fans embracing it and promoting it, nor a bona-fide big league which would bring in even more fans.

As the interest in football has grown in the United States by leaps and bounds over the past ten years, MLS’ overall TV audience has actually shrunk. (Although attendance is way up over 10 years ago) Yet, many around the league and the game in general seem to be in denial about the reality regarding MLS and TV.

MLS officials and supportive fans need to concede that the ratings are nowhere near where they should be at this point in time and work to alleviate the situation. This will require structural changes to MLS as well as potential expansion into more TV friendly markets, as well as an honest effort to make the local team in the New York market as successful as possible.

I’m anxious to hear the ideas of our readers on this very important and under discussed issue.

About Kartik Krishnaiyer

A lifelong lover of soccer, the beautiful game, he served from January 2010 until May 2013 as the Director of Communications and Public Relations for the North American Soccer League (NASL). Raised on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL, Krishnaiyer previously hosted the American Soccer Show on the Champions Soccer Radio Network, the Major League Soccer Talk podcast and the EPL Talk Podcast. His soccer writing has been featured by several media outlets including The Guardian and The Telegraph. He is the author of the book Blue With Envy about Manchester City FC. View all posts by Kartik Krishnaiyer →
This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, TV Ratings. Bookmark the permalink.

92 Responses to MLS’ TV Problem: Discussing Possible Solutions

  1. Michael says:

    I’d say the reasoning for all of this simple:

    The EPL is a much better product than MLS. The talent on display, the passion from fans, and the tradition of the teams involved outweighs anything MLS can put together at this point. Despite MLS being the American domestic league, I have a feeling that the majority of soccer fans outside of MLS markets care more about the EPL, where can they see the game at its highest level. Hardcore MLS fans will support their teams, but they’re in the minority.

    I don’t particularly see this as a problem, though. Everyone knows that MLS is not a top-tier league and is going to have an extremely tough time breaking through the glass ceiling and into the group of top domestic leagues in the world. With most of the best Americans going overseas to play, MLS just doesn’t the draw the eye of the casual viewer. If Jozy Altidore continues to play well in the EPL, expect the ratings of the EPL on ESPN to improve.

    • Lowell says:

      Until the MLS teams field competitive squads and actually win regional tournaments on a routine basis, it will remain irrelevant to soccer fans outside of the team’s local market.

      Beat Toluca and have DC United make the headlines in Mexico. I’ll take negative press over no press at all.

      The Nationals suck and there was no NFL on last night… where in the hell are all the soccer supporters in the DC area? No one attends these games?!

  2. The Gaffer says:

    Personally I feel that MLS has to admit to itself that it’s losing the TV war in terms of soccer ratings. And it has no way of winning it either. The league would be better served if it continued to focus on marketing the teams in the local markets.

    The nearest MLS team to my house is exactly 1,000 miles away (DC United). Because there’s no local MLS team, I’m forced into choosing between watching MLS on TV or the EPL (as well as other leagues) — or both. Because I have no connection with DC United or a MLS team, I end up watching the EPL more because the quality is better (and watch MLS occasionally when I have time).

    Cheers,
    The Gaffer

  3. Thomas says:

    I think appearance is very much underestimated… casual sports fans will watch soccer even if they don’t know much about the circumstances surrounding a match, if it is played on green, clean fields, with a good crowd, and a good environment. If MLS matches were presented the same way as EPL matches, with the atmosphere, quality of stadium, and sense of legitimacy, many more fans would watch,even if the quality of play remains the same. Soccer-specific stadiums are a step in the right direction in this regard. ESPN should concentrate on showing matches played in SSS.

  4. Bonji says:

    1) Improve quality of players and play on the field.
    2) Improve quality of referees so they don’t decide games as often.
    3) Improve quality of television broadcasters.

    • Kevin says:

      The referees being the key point. I watched an MLS game earlier this year between Chicago and Chivas and afterwards decided I would simply watch the Mexican League in primetime instead after a day of European soccer. Call me a eurosnob or whatever, but I gave MLS a chance every season and eventually tune out, every season.

  5. Jay says:

    Put USL on ESPN2, maybe the negativity will stop!

    • Kevin says:

      I’d go for that. The style of USL though the players are inferior to MLS resemble what I like from England more than the slow build up latinized style of MLS. Basically if you like Serie A, MLS is fine but if you like the EPL, USL is better to watch. It’s a matter of style.

  6. MHS says:

    Nothing but negative crap from this site.

    For a 14 year old league MLS attendance as you have even conceded Kartik is higher than Spain or Italy.

    The league right now has to be classified as one of the top 2 or 3 development leagues in the world. The success of Americans like Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Charlie Davies, Tim Howard and Jonathan Spector among many others in Europe backs this point up.

    American eurosnobs keep bashing MLS, but when Euro clubs want top players for their squads, they keep coming to MLS and buying American. Americans then tune in to the EPL to watch American players developed in MLS.

    Get it?

  7. Dave says:

    I find it EXTREMELY hard to believe that a) TV viewership of MLS was higher in 1999 than now, and b) that ANY program on ESPN2 primetime had trouble averaging 500,000 viewers.

    You can’t walk into a bar, gym, or many restaurants without seeing ESPN2. 500,000 viewers is only 10,000 per US state. ANYTHING can draw that on ESPN or ESPN2 at 8:00pm. Therefore, either your numbers are wrong or ESPN is manipulating them to serve its own needs (i.e. as an excuse to replace MLS because the ratings are lower than expected).

    And if viewship was higher in 1999, then the obvious explanation would be that there wasn’t nearly as much EPL/FMF/European soccer available to the US soccer fan. But in 2009, there’s more TV competition, so it would logically follow that MLS viewship would be harder to grow.

    Either way, those figures seem clearly wrong to me. Patently misleading. Maybe they’re from Nielson, but I still believe they’re flat out wrong.

    • Public viewings in bars, restaurants, etc. are not taken into account with television ratings. Because of the way they are tabulated (via set meters hooked up to selectively picked televisions in households), you can’t count viewers in such situations. You have the issue of people changing their viewing habits if they know these habits are being monitored. Basic problems with statistics. That’s not to say these are made-up numbers, they are just susceptible to problems.

      Beyond more soccer on television, you have more television in general. More sports in general, more channels in general, watching things on the Internet, etc.

    • Harry says:

      I have seen Kartik’s ad naseum pieces and was one of those who accused him of lying about the 1999 vs 2008 numbers. Having been proven wrong by the “data”, once I looked it up, I now believe ESPN exaggerated the numbers in 1999 to force MLS to pay more for the time on air, and then now low ball it, so they don’t have to pay a rights fee again. So Kartik isn’t lying- he’s being truthful with the published numbers but are the published numbers accurate? That is another matter and I answer a big no to that.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Harry, they ARE from Nielsen.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Glyn James Davies says:

      Well put, MLS has a bright future, I do not buy the low ratings. i know a lot of people DO watch MLS primetime on ESPN. These new SSS do attract more viewers. Don Garber is doing a fantastic job as MLS commisioner.

      Go N.Y. Redbull arena 2010 and Philly Unions new stadium……..

  8. Jammer says:

    Expansion.

    A lot of the sporting press is national. If more markets have teams, there will be more interest, and more reason for ESPN and other news outlets to at least cover MLS news. News generates interest, generates viewers. Seattle fandom has generated some national coverage. More cities for Beckham to visit, and more semi-local rivalries, means more local news too. News is the free marketing sports benefit from. And see the Gaffer’s comment above about his nearest team being 1000 miles away.

    The big 4 sports have about 30 teams. It seems to be the critical mass without over-extending. The expansion can be fueled by attendance for now and tv viewers will come with market penetration and time.

  9. Phillip says:

    As I told you on Twitter, Kartik, I’ve seen more commercials advertising the EPL and La Liga on ESPN2 than I’ve ever seen MLS commercials.

  10. Brian says:

    @MHS European teams don’t keep coming to MLS to fill their squads. There are less than <20 Americans with starting jobs in top European leagues. Charlie Davies and Spector didnt play in MLS. They knew it was better for their careers to make the jump across the pond. You see many many more Americans in Europe who have made the jump straight to the SuperLigaen in Denmark and leagues of that ilk than playing in MLS.

    Also, what league with TV rating aspirations wants to be a top "development" league? If you want to talk top development leagues in reality look to Brazil, Holland, and France.

  11. Robert says:

    Very interesting and insightful piece of writing. I’m personally a soccer junkie, be it MLS, EPL, FMF, La Liga, Champions League, Concachampions, Libertadores. It doesn’t matter. You show it and I watch it. I love MLS. Always did. Even when people hated it I saw it for what if could become. I agree that prime time games that are nationally televised should be at Seattle, Toronto, DC, or Chivas-LA. Something lively. It works for Monday Night Football. It should be a game worthy of a wide audience. What we are seeing are just growing pains. The Pacific northwest will open up a Pandora’s box of fans and attention that wasn’t there before.
    A key point is also the development of players. Yes, the best ones should go abroad but that doesn’t mean we can’t get back the Donovans or (maybe) Beasleys as we have done. Better development of younger players and media attention such as that provided by the initial Adu fever is what the league needs. Better attention to newcomers, to rookies, to important trades. That’s what makes a good league. That’s what makes us look forward to the next season.
    For now I think matches on prime time should be at sold-out venues. Period. I think everyone can agree.

  12. john says:

    This is not an easy problem. We Americans have this psychology of exceptionalism – that we only try to indulge in the best. Our relationship with the sport is currently based not on emotions of loyalty and identification but on discovering the essential beauty of the game. Most of us have just recently found the game and falling in love with it. As such we will go for the best (like dating the best girl or guy) but in time we will learn the notion of commitment and caring. We will long for a local team that we will want to call our own. It is a natural evolution.
    What do we do in the meantime? We are developing good players here in the MLS Jozy, Dempsey, Donovan and MLS needs to profit from them. Bring some aging stars to create a buzz but develop that local feeling of the clubs like Seattle and DC United. Stop being a corporatized Red Bull.
    Give a livable salary to your young stars and keep them at least for a couple of years. Accept that you will be a feeder league.
    The growing popularity of soccer is only good for all in America. In the mean time depend on the good will of FSC and ESPN.

  13. Eric says:

    It is the poor quality of the TV broadcast. As a huge fan of MLS, the depression of seeing a Dallas, the old KC, or NYC playing on football lines in front of 4k has me turn it off.

    A larger issue, of course, is it is “minor league” in salary and players.

    It can’t compete with the EPL of Fox or ESPN.

  14. BFT says:

    Stop acting like no one realizes this is problem. People are certainly aware, and it’s one of the more frustrating things fans of the league are forced to confront. As long as MLS maintains a tightly controlled business model that stresses fiscal responsibility over “splashing the cash” on marketing, TV ratings will continue to suffer.

    Comparing MLS ratings to EPL ratings is not only pointless, it’s detrimental to fairly accessing a fourteen year old product. My guess is that a world class NBA basketball game would/does draw better ratings in say, Spain, than their domestic league does. Does that mean that the Spanish basketball fans should fret over those ratings, working themselves into a lather that their own league’s viewership pales in comparison to that of a massive foreign league?

    MLS faces an uphill battle on many fronts, and TV is just one of them. For the time being, it’s more important that the league stay on national television no matter than ratings than for the powers that be to worry over the actual ratings. No one said that significant attention would be garnered overnight (and in the modern sporting world, without real tradition or a lifespan that bridges generational gaps, fourteen years is just a blip in time); if that means selling their product cheaply to ESPN, Versus, Fox, or whoever, than so be it.

    It will take more than acknowledging the issue (which most do, despite your ridiculous protestations that you’re the only one doing so) to affect change. Loosening the purse string is a fine idea if you’re absolutely positive that the league is able to do so (which I’m not); I, for one, will take a stable American soccer league with a bright future over TV ratings any day.

  15. CFTV says:

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is for MLS as they are growing but it is a much slower burn than what is needed for the league to grow in our country. I think with the addition to the Premiership and La Liga to ESPN 2′s coverage will help grow the MLS as I think the more people that watch futbol and become addicted to it will look for the MLS game on ESPN 2 over time.

    The problem is that we as American sports fans only so much time in our lives with work, family, and other teams/sports we follow that people just aren’t going to jump head first behind a league that is inferior to leagues that are just as accessible through TV like we have today where pretty much every big club game from Europe is broadcast in the States. Besides the difference on the playing field I think the atmosphere that we see on Saturday and Sunday Mornings from England just translates better on the TV than what I get off an MLS telecast. Watching top flight games from Europe you feel the sense of urgency on every attack by the home team or when they are defending in close games and it just translates better onto the TV than MLS does because the leagues from Europe have the sense of the best Reality TV Show in the world with characters like the teams chairmen, gaffer, technical director, players, refs, commentators, and fanbases where at the end of the season 3 teams go home and other teams leave with Cups, Prize Money, and Berths into the biggest club tournaments in the world. We are becoming a TV watching sports society more and more as the price of tickets along with all the auxiliary costs that goes into going to games have skyrocketed.

    Maybe I would feel different if I ever lived in a market that had an MLS team as I grew up in Detroit and moved to Tampa in Spring of 2003 after the Mutiny was folded. I have found the MLS has become a lot better as I think the class of player has gotten better but I don’t ever feel that its going to truly break out and become a World Class league because the infrastructure just isn’t here to pillage the top clubs of the world to bring the best players here because a MLS Supporter Shield or MLS Cup is just not held in high regarded by anyone outside of the players, the staff, and the fans of the league which there just aren’t a ton of as anything more than a backwater futbol boobie prize.

    And honestly where did the, “We do not want that to happen here in America” line come from? Maybe you don’t want more people caring about foreign leagues than our own but it sounds like you are lumping all of your readers of this article with your opinion. Honestly, I want the MLS to thrive and grow but at the same time if it does disappear while it would suck to lose an outlet to grow the game fans of the sport will still get their fix through their televisions and other sources as our world has gotten a lot smaller as information moves faster than ever.

  16. Kevin says:

    You guys are in denial.

    Kartik writes alot of crap about England and European football, but he’s spot on here. It is a provable fact that MLS had more TV viewers in 1999 than it does today. True, much of it is due to the amount of European football available on TV, and also the FMF is more popular among english language fans than ever before.

    It is also a fact and K has never published this despite everyone protestations that he just trashes MLS that the NASL had more national viewers in 1980 than MLS does today. That is also a fact, provable by the data.

    MLS is a league that doesn’t appeal to true soccer fans because of the hokey rules such as the discovery player and allocations and no longer has anything close to resembling the top american talent.

    How many guys have gone from college or the PDL right to Europe? More than you can count on all your fingers and toes.

  17. Matthew N says:

    I’ll say something no one has said: If I could watch every one of my team’s games in HD with quality production, I would watch every single game. Unfortunately, I currently get 0 Columbus games in HD. ESPN always shows the big market teams (just like they do in baseball– Seattle, DC, LA, etc.). FSC doesn’t offer HD (and their broadcast is very low quality in my opinion), and our local channel that carries home Crew games doesn’t have HD and has an even worse production. If we had an ESPN style telecast for every game in HD, I would even go as far as buying the MLS Direct Kick or whatever it is. Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I’ll watch the other teams in the league if it is on, but I would go out of my way to watch every one of my team’s matches.

  18. Kartik says:

    btw, did anyone catch the amazingly under reported news that FSC was going HD in January as announced on Triple F?

    • Lowell says:

      NEVER HEARD THIS AT ALL! Why do I have to wait until January? How much more is this going to cost me? I already dont subscribe to Setanta becasuse $15 for one channel that doesnt show porn is a rip-off.

  19. MLS gets a bad rap says:

    I think MLS is a better league for developing talent than the EPL, La Liga or Serie A. Our national team is now among the elite on the planet and every single player has played in MLS at one time. In addition and more importantly, these numbers are probably inaccurate.

    The MLS numbers Krishnaiyer cites are somewhat accurate but misleading. In 1999, most of the games were on ESPN proper while most are on ESPN2 now. ESPN 2 is in less than half the homes of ESPN, so basically the numbers are even.

    MLS was under rated in 1999 and is even more under rated in 2009. It’s a more competitive league than the EPL. You can easily “pick the score” of any EPL game. It’s 4 great teams and 16 bad ones. Why this appeals to anyone I will never explain. Maybe these people should move to Europe if they love it so much.

    Truthfully, most MLS teams would be somewhere between the 7th and 11th best team in the EPL. Teams like Hull and Burnley would get pounded in MLS the way the Red Bulls do now because the league has no other bottom feeders.

    • Matt says:

      Most MLS teams would struggle to avoid relegation in the Coca-Cola Championship and would probably fit it with CC League One. MLS teams have zero depth, something that would kill them in England (or any other top European league). There isn’t an MLS team alive that could survive in the EPL.

    • ESPN 2 is 90% of the homes ESPN is in nationally, and in 97% of the homes ESPN was in during the late 1990s.

  20. Kartik says:

    “I think MLS is a better league for developing talent than the EPL, La Liga or Serie A”

    Um hell no.

    “It’s 4 great teams and 16 bad ones” Um no

    “Teams like Hull and Burnley would get pounded in MLS” No no no

    mls snobs are just as ignorant/stupid as eurosnobs

  21. CFTV says:

    I forget the guys name but the guy from FSC who did the rounds when it was announced they got the Champions League said they hoped to roll out FSC in HD in January.

    My question is with the roll out, how fast will it take before the channel is distributed in HD to all of the different cable outlets? I would think Direct TV would offer it right away as they do the best job of providing all of the channels that are in HD to their customers unlike other cable companies that are slowly rolling out more and more channels. I don’t have an HDTV (I am keeping my eyes on buying one and will as an impulse buy at some point) but looking at my Brighthouse Cable guide we have 74 HD channels available which includes multiple PBS channels, Community Service Channels, Hispanic Channels, as well as the over the air Networks along with the sports networks like ESPN’s, ESPN 2′s, FSFL, Sunshine, and Versus. One thing hopefully in FSC’s corner is that since they are owned by Fox and quite a few of Fox’s channels are offered in HD by my cable provider that they will be able to get it as an add on to give it more clearances of the network.

  22. Brad says:

    No superstars/household names to promote.

    • Matthew N says:

      I’d say that is a definite falsehood. Every team has a player for someone’s national team and an overall outstanding player. Just looking at my personal favorite team, the Crew, you can market Robbie Rogers and Chad Marshall because they are up and coming USMNT players, Schelotto as last season’s leading scorer, and Alejandro Moreno the to Hispanic community. Sure, we don’t have names on the world stage, but if marketed properly, most people would be amazed at the talent the MLS has.

  23. W A says:

    I call bullshit on these numbers. Kartik will do anything to rip MLS. Exaggerate EPL viewership and underplay MLS numbers.

    I can guarantee you any sporting event in primetime beats any event at 9 am. It is a simple concept really. But when you have some so invested in tearing down the league and destroying the good work of so many in this country, he’ll lie through his teeth to achieve his goals.

    A reason exists the press is so “complicit” as you put it with MLS. We’re all in this together man. Either you are for soccer in this country or you aren’t. We know we don’t have the most popular or the best league, but it is our league. Besides, 14 of the 15 MLS teams would avoid relegation in any “big” euro league where the bottom teams are so poor they cannot even hope to compete.

    The structure of MLS prevents the development of the super clubs that have killed european soccer.

    Mexico, Argentina and Brazil are now envious of us as we have built a better league in a quarter of the time. Our national team is almost as good as Brazil now and Mexico is a joke. Argentina? We’d crush them right now.

    Kartik feels he has to rip this product down. Not long ago, he was touting MLS, USL and the USMNT for their success. Now he makes asinine statements like he made the other day on it’s called football where he basically said USL was made up of leftovers and was a waste of time.

    Good riddance. This piece should be evidence as to how some people will manipulate facts to get their way.

    • The Gaffer says:

      WA, you’re obviously in denial. The numbers are real. The EPL numbers are not exaggerations. I’ve been reporting them all week on http://epltalk.com

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Fan says:

        While the numbers are real, Kartik does conveniently ignore Deportes numbers, which is where MLS broadcasts are growing.

    • I never said USL was a waste of time. Don’t misquote me. I said USL-1 was a made up of left overs but that PDL and Super Y were essential products in the US Soccer structure.

      You make a point I am thrilled to hear when you admit the complicity and lack of criticism of MLS or USL or the USMNT has to do at some subconscious level with the desire to make sure the game always looks good because we are fighting against the tide. That mentality which was true seven to ten years ago, when I used to spout off that MLS was a top 10 worldwide league (yes, I used to say that, especially right after WC 2002 and was dead wrong) should be dumped if we want to really prove we get football, once and for all.

    • Matt says:

      It’s one thing to want to support MLS and see it thrive. It’s another to be ignorant.

      14 or 15 teams would avoid relegation? Wow, that’s absurd. You lose any and all credibility with that statement.

      It will be impossible to grow MLS if people can’t look at the league in a realistic light. You have to understand what you are before you can decide what you want to become.

  24. Kartik says:

    wa…wow If anyone actually feels like responding to the garbage you just threw out there, you’ll fell like you were castrated. We have a better league than Brazil? Piss off till you get a brain

  25. Timmy says:

    This stuff is laughable. Kartik is making up the numbers?

    Please…………..he’s being measured in the article, asking for people to stop the denial, and for suggestions.

    Here is mine: MLS refocuses on American players- bring home Dempsey, Howard and Altidore with big money and promote the hell out of them. Sign one or two big Mexican players and also promote the hell out of it.

  26. YAR H says:

    Good piece. The solution though if simple would have been implemented already. No easy answers my friends. None. MLS is under performing.

  27. Kartik says:

    3 words that will change M LS for better or worse: COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT.

  28. LD says:

    Good piece K.

    I think the solution has to be getting rid of the dump rules. Draft, Allocations, Discovery Players.

    No one outside cities with teams have a vested interest in the league. Even within the cities in the league, the season is long and drawn out and a lot of fans lose interest.

    The TV ratings do not lie. 0.2 is about as bad as it gets.

  29. Berlin says:

    Fact of the matter is, a website called MLSTalk has 30+ comments on an article about whether or not fans pay attention to soccer. Those are real numbers. You may think them high or low, but I would be very surprised if they were like that ten years ago. Oh, and Corey Ashe just got a red card against Arabe Unido. Ten minutes after the fact. F’ing awful.

  30. eplnfl says:

    A good discussion of the tv audience issue Kartik.

    It is no surprise that the EPL has obtained the early numbers they show so far on ESPN. Most of us here have predicted it. Why those numbers can not translate to a MLS broadcast is the issue before us. A few of my thoughts.

    1.100% on target that MLS must keep it’s American talent home. ESPN and FSC have built up interest in the USMNT and this last summer has seen a boom in interest. American’s now want to follow their national team players but have to follow foreign leagues to do this.

    2. At least a handful of major stars have to play in the MLS. Certain soccer stars now have the attention of the American sporting public. The large Latin population knows international soccer stars as well as any MLB player. A Christian Renaldo or Wayne Rooney is well known to the American public. Put them on a game of the week and your numbers will sky rocket.

    3. Expansion! Yes, I know the down side but we have how many TV markets covered by MLS. That is how the NFL made it’s name. Bring in as` many big TV markets as possible. Such towns like St. Louis, Miami, and Atlanta must have a reason to watch MLS .

    4. Schedule! Going up against a USMNT game day at all is insane. I’m not just talking about the exact time but the entire day.

    5. Create a competition that will stimulate interest in the MLS. A few ideas that I will be told can never work, but think of the TV $$$$$$$, EPL v. MLS challenge -like the ACC-Big 10 challenge in NCAA BB or a North American Cup competition between Mexican, American, and Canadian teams. Think of the built in audience for these events.

    6. Promote local radio/tv talk shows. Some towns have local soccer call in or fan shows. Chicago for one has none. Buy radio or TV time if necessary but give the loyal fan an outlet in each town to talk MLS or any other soccer.

    I’m sure there are many more relevant ideas but the critical item is timing. MLS must act boldly in this off season to increase it’s profile!

    • Good stuff, Lou! Exactly the type of suggestions I am looking for.

    • Matthew N says:

      “Create a competition that will stimulate interest in the MLS. A few ideas that I will be told can never work, but think of the TV $$$$$$$, EPL v. MLS challenge -like the ACC-Big 10 challenge in NCAA BB or a North American Cup competition between Mexican, American, and Canadian teams. Think of the built in audience for these events.”

      You mean like the Gold Cup, the CONCACAF Champions League, The Club World Cup, etc….

    • Tim says:

      Your first point would hurt our national team as the players wouldn’t develop as well in MLS rather than getting playing time in europe.

      All i have to say about your 2nd point is NASL.

      No offense but your worst point is your fifth because this has been tried and failed. Superliga’s attendences and overall hype in the US is nonexistent. And most foreign sides have realized that there is more money playing each other, and even when they play the MLS side, people are there and are totally centered towards the foreign side. MLS sides aren’t good enough to make a good impression consistently against world class sides.

    • Kautzie says:

      Who’s this Christian Renaldo?

  31. man99utd says:

    At the risk of being branded a “eurosnob”, the MLS must change drastically. I love football in many different countries, although I love EPL first. But America must understand that football is a world sport, not an American sport. It cannot be structured that way. The reason other leagues play more “urgently” is because there is no playoff. Every result matters because every point matters as relegation is a fact of life. If a MLS team finishes bottom table what difference does it make? The salary cap must go, younger players must be allowed to play for pay, 15-18 years old. I want the best league in the world, I don’t care where the players come from. You become a better footballer by playing with the best in the world, not just the best in your home country. I want the MLS to prosper, but they must look beyond their borders to do so.

    • Ford Prefect says:

      Couldn’t agree more on the screwed up American structuring of MLS–Half of the fun of Euro Football is the relegation scrap–Watching to see which of the sides has the heart to stay up–Relegation has produced some great football in the past as teams are fighting to stay up–Wonder why they couldn’t work out some sort of relegation-promotion agreement with the USL?

      • Pat says:

        I think this is super-overrated. While pro/rel leads to more competitive games, because the regular season is more important, I still don’t think it leads to people watching more games. Honestly, until you get to the end of the season, are you going to tune into the bottom feeders all season long to see if they can stay up? It’s really not important until the season is winding down. Plus, even in the EPL, you still have 10 teams that you know have no chance of winning the league, and virtually no chance of being relegated. There are plenty of meaningless games in the pro/rel leagues as well.

  32. Juan José says:

    I think the basic problem MLS has is that it wants to be an end in and of itself, and that’s just not possible in soccer, no matter where you are. You play to win the title…and then what? What is the point of the league?

    In South America, you play to win the league. And the larger prize is to take part of the Libertadores Cup. Yes, you want to be there for the glory, for the chance to play in the historic stadiums of the continent against the famous shirts, but financially, it makes huge sense to set up your domestic campaign towards being one of the teams that gets to play the Libertadores (even the Brazilians, who for some time shunned the Cup, have noticed), since the latest Libertadores overhaul awards significant cash starting in the group stages.

    Wouldn’t it be cool to see the Chicago Fire travel all the way to Buenos Aires and face River Plate at the Monumental? Watch the Galaxy visit the Morumbi and play Sao Paulo? The Sounders flying into the altitude in Quito to face LDU at the Casa Blanca? (OK, that last one isn’t as historic, but that’s my club, and we did win the Libertadores a year ago)

    The Mexicans already joined, and they even provided another historic venue in the Azteca. Made a couple of finals, even.

    Then again, this is US Soccer, the same people who shunned playing the Copa América. Nevermind.

  33. BC says:

    As an MLS fan it is nice to see some constructive discussion on the league’s poor TV numbers, thanks Kartik. The biggest key is the CBA. The league has to be much much much better structured to maintain some sort of development and ability to get better players.

    That is the key. Why are we watching the EPL and La Liga and international games more than MLS? Because they’re better leagues, it’s better quality. It’s simple, bring the best players to MLS and people will watch. Well, maybe it’s not simple, but that’s the key. But it starts with keeping the best Americans at home, and giving them good competition and better pay to keep them here.

    Secondly, the league has to be promoted much better. Here in Columbus, about the only exposure there is are brief articles in the Columbus Dispatch. MLS games are broadcasted on radio, but that’s about it. There were only about 5k at the first CCL game last week because there was 0 promotion around town. I don’t really see the effort on behalf of the league to get new fans.

    ESPN is partly at fault though. How do they expect people to care about or watch MLS when there are no advertisements, no SportsCenter highlights, etc? Usually the ESPN self-promotion machine is always in 6th gear (EPL, hello!), but why not for MLS?

    Bottom line… fix the CBA, get better players, get better promotion. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I have a bad feeling that progress is going to have to be made in the next 2-3 years or the league might be in trouble for the long haul.

    Bring the people in to watch and give them a reason to stay.

    • Fan says:

      I see MLS ads. I see them during SportsCenter, during EPL matches. I saw one during the Little League World Series over the weekend.

  34. vic says:

    Great article. You said MLS games were pretty bad except Seattle. I wouldnt necessarily chaulk that up to regional excitement. I think nationwide, there’s a buzz about Seattle (Freddy L helps too). My solution: schedule Seattle the most (more then Beckham’s LA). There’s no doubt that Seattle is going to access their market and the CBA and decide whats it gonna take “to keep the excitement”. Whatever they deduce they need, they will have.
    Trust me, if they want to spend much more MLS will make it happen due to the profits. Some teams may follow, some will rebel. Those teams that try to follow Seattle’s model should gain privilege in TV scheduling. How about dumping some MLS games in favor of CCL games, as well as making sure ESPN gets all the international friendlies MLS plays? You might get good ratings when it involves Mexican or European teams. Perhaps start bringing a full-squad S. American heavyweights (River P, Sao Paolo, Boca). I know River P played TFC, but RP brought the reserve team so it was a joke.

  35. vic says:

    I meant “assess” instead of access in 4th line

  36. DA in LA says:

    I stopped watching MLS because the refs are so bad. Game after game decided by horrible decisions.

  37. Bolacuadrada says:

    Here it is from a Latin American point of view. Take the ESPN Deportes Radio out of the MLS contract. These guys spend all day talking Mexican Football and destroying the MLS. They are a bunch of fanatics full of negativity and they believe that the the rivalry should move to the soccer leagues. I know they reach a vast number (probably millions) of Spanish Speaking fans in America. Believe me, those guys are in the business of destroying the League. They do play by play and they keep thrashing the league all game long. It is really disgusting. They are turning hundreds of thousands fans away. The only reason I listen to them is because of my commute. Once I am home I turn off the radio. My second point is that the MLs shoud bring more brand name players to the league. I know money is an issue buy make deals with sponsors. Imagine 6 magnets like Beckham in the league. I know a lot of soccer fans will go for that. Finally, the EPL gets high numbers because most soccer nations feel represented with their best players. They want to see what their superstars will do in the big leagues. Just like the US fans follow Altidore, Beasley, Bradley and other players in Europe. The MLS needs to think and work on this, even at a different level.

  38. Joe in Indianapolis says:

    I have heard the call for expansion echo on this thread, which made me wonder about something. MLS has set a goal of 20 teams by 2012 or something like that. What happens then? Presumably, there will still be USL markets eager to get an MLS franchise. Would MLS then go above 20 teams?

    Also, a scheduling question. Kartik, do you think MLS will continue to have each team have several additional games (playing for a 3rd time during regular season) once they add a few more expansions. This has always annoyed me about MLS, because the schedule becomes imbalanced, and fans have to wonder about strength of schedule when considering who the best team is. One of the features of football that attracted me in the beginning was the full round robin – everyone played everyone home and away. No wondering who the best was. The points don’t lie.

  39. Lowell says:

    It would be a boost to soccer and FSC if they went High-Definition. Surely it would make viewing of these games in empty stadiums a bit more appealing.

  40. bayou says:

    The problem with this discussion is that so many Americans can’t separate their sports from their politics. Saying that the MLS isn’t as good as other leagues isn’t anti-American, it’s the truth.

    Bring in the USL the way that other leagues do and start relegating and promoting. Stop expanding and fold in what already exists. Just because our other sports don’t do relegation (wouldn’t the NFL rock if the Raiders were relegated and USC promoted just as a way out there idea?) doesn’t mean soccer mustn’t do it, either.

    Have ESPN2 talk more about the CONCACAF Champions League and show more of the international aspects of the MLS. Right now the coverage is too narrow and makes the MLS seem isolated.

  41. Ric says:

    “I risk sounding like a broken record in this regard”

    truest words on this page.

  42. John says:

    I generally agree with the comments presented thus far. In most other leagues you have promotion/relegation. Money is on the line since the relegated team gets a significant financial haircut, and teams that are in the next-lower tier who win move in and reap the financial benefit. MLS and USL Division 1 should–at a minimum–have that in play. Top two from D1 move up, bottom 2 from MLS move down. The relegation six-pointers in the EPL late in the season are often more exciting to watch than a ManU side that has already wrapped up the title.

  43. John says:

    Add to that the need for FSC to work it so they can do an EPL match in the morning (after the ESPN2 match) and segue it into an afternoon/evening of MLS. Improve the commentator/analyst talent and add hi-def. Take the “Super Sunday +” and move it to Saturday before, during and after matches. The CBC basically takes this approach with hockey during the NHL season where they can do three games from time zone to time zone.

  44. Pat says:

    I also agree with the sentiment that HD is huge. I really enjoy MLS, but I live in Minnesota so I don’t exactly have a team, per se. I like a lot of the teams. I’ve had the Direct Kick package the last three years, but I find myself making sure I watch the ESPN game because it’s in HD, and skipping a lot of the direct kick/FSC games, regardless of the matchups. The games look so much better in HD. I hope it becomes a league priority in the future.

  45. Lowell says:

    It is impossible to compare international leagues becuase (outside the US and Canada) there are no sporting alternatives. The UK has rugby and cricket and the only times they make routine television viewing are during tournaments (RWC, Ashes, etc.)

    The current competition in the US (MLB, NFL, NCAA) leaves no room for half-assing fringe programming. Dont get me wrong, I am not bashing soccer or the MLS, but saying you got to bring it or dont even bother showing up.

    What, let alone how did the WPS do this year as far as television numbers? I saw bits and pieces of matches (even watched the ill-timed broadcast of the final) and there was zero attendance. I am talking attendance numbers like the Florida Marlins in August… even with $4.00 tickets.

    Is it fair to say the WPS is the female world equivalent of the EPL when it comes to having the best players playing the best sport? Its got the who’s who of female soccer players and yet… no one cares, watches, or could even name 2 teams.

    I thought Title 9 only applied to the NCAA.

    • WPS averaged the same number of viewers on FSC that MLS has thus far this season according to the Sports Business Journal. But a key difference: WPS PAYS FSC for air time, while FSC PAY MLS to air the games. Yet they have the same number of viewers. Hmmmm……

  46. smokedgouda says:

    I disagree with your sentiment that MLS has to be one of two things; 1) a top domestic league or 2) a development league for the American players.

    MLS as a hybrid between those two is the way to go in my opinion. I think that by lowering the penalty for the DP’s to clubs’ salary cap will encourage bigger names. People want to see stars in their prime.

  47. Ford Prefect says:

    Lowell said “It is impossible to compare international leagues becuase (outside the US and Canada) there are no sporting alternatives.”

    Thats not exactly correct–Europe has a vibrant professional basketball scene. and strong Golf circuit–F1 Racing is huge there as well–Cricket is not just in England, it’s huge throughout Asia/Australia, as well as the Caribbean–There are alternatives world wide, but Football remains the World’s Game

    • Lowell says:

      I’ll clarify… slightly… there are no televised sporting alternatives that get the media’s attention like MLB, NFL, and the NCAA (football/basketball.)

      There are very few kids in Europe that grow up playing, practicing, and aspiring to be American football players, baseball players, or (contrary to your stance) basketball players. Therefore if England (for example) started a professional American football league… it would be just as fringe there as soccer is fringe here. Likewise, if the Dutch decided… lets play baseball, it would get little if any attention in Holland becuase it would be an inferior product to MLB. On top of that… why would anyone watch it when they could watch the world’s best players in MLB.

      Does Japan’s baseball league compare to the US’s? HELL NO. Our washed-up players go play there like there superstars come play here. Look around the MLS… Freddie L. cant compete in Europe so low and behold he’s here in Seattle. Sorry, I couldnt be bothered to look up how to spell his name.

      • Ford Prefect says:

        I’ll clarify…Yes they do–Apparently you missed the massive worldwide coverage that the Ashes Test got this summer–Or that Cricket gets on a regular basis around the world–Also as to young European’s wanting to play football only, apparently you’ve missed the growing influx of Euro players into the NBA–Yes, Football is the big brother to the others, but there are other sports that compete w/ it for the Euro fans just like there’s competition for fans here btw NFL/NBA/MLB/et al

  48. vic says:

    people keep asking for ” bigger names” in MLS. The problem is that its pretty much accepted in Europe that if you wanna be called up by your national team, you do not want to be in MLS. On the other hand, I do believe MLS HQ will give a green light for higher payroll and having 2 DPs per team. The transfer period of next July after World Cup will be instrumental for MLS- it will set the tone….whether MLS will make an play on the international-brand-status market or stay mediocre. I think MLS should even have a committee together for how to aggressively play that transfer period. If they are timid, it will affect them for a long time.

  49. Fan says:

    Wow, the most popular league in the world gets more viewers on TV than MLS? That’s just shocking.

    I also love how Kartik continually trumpets that the EPL “outdrew every MLS primetime telecast this season on ESPN2 that has not included the expansion Seattle Sounders” while ignoring that the All-Star Game did better than any of the EPL matches. But that would actually make him analyze something instead of just bashing MLS.

    • And that MLS All Star Game had whom in it? Oh yea that’s right…A PREMIER LEAGUE TEAM! Or are you just that ignorant to remember who was the opposition?

      Besides, if you have to sink to that low a low in pulling out an all-star game to save your argument, it’s not a solid one to begin with.

  50. From Sports Media Watch RE: the All Star game which as Johnathan Starling indicates included a Premier League Team:

    “The 2009 MLS All-Star Game drew a 0.3 U.S. rating and 484,000 viewers on ESPN2 Wednesday night. The game was down 28% in households (324,000 in ’09 versus 453,000 in ’08), compared to last year’s game. “

    Additionally:


    “The MLS All-Star Game finished behind the WNBA All-Star Game earlier in the week (0.4 rating, 519,000 viewers). Keep in mind the WNBA game had the advantage of airing on broadcast.

    The less than spectacular numbers for the MLS All-Star Game come in a week when soccer continues to draw strong audiences. Two Gold Cup telecasts on Univision (Costa Rica/Mexico and USA/Mexico) ranked 2nd and 3rd among the top 5 sports programs of the week. The USA/Mexico match drew 5.4 million viewers, while Costa Rica/Mexico drew 5.3 million.”

  51. Frank says:

    Gaffer, how can DC be the closest team? Where the hell do you live, Miami?

    If you think quality is the problem then consider that each team is allowed to have one player that makes more than 18% of the entire salary budget. Basically you end up with one or two good players, a few decent players and the rest that’s barely good enough to play (off the bench) in the lower professional leagues in Europe (such as 3. Liga or Regionalliga in Germany). To make this more interesting, MLS does not care about official international tournaments (Gold Cup, Confed Cup, World Cup, etc.) or other FIFA game days. The best players are missing a chunck of the MLS season due to international call-ups further diluting the already weak product. (I’m still a season ticket holder.)

    Anyway, I enjoy following my team (Columbus Crew) and I’ll try and watch as many games as possible. The problem is that very few are on national television and the local broadcast (ONN) is not available on Directv. I also try and watch other MLS games but having a family prevents you from spending the entire weekend in front of the TV. I watch Bundesliga matches as well and assuming there are no Champions League games (UEFA or CONCACAF), Europa League, national team matches or other events, I already spend 360 minutes plus halftimes etc. watching soccer. In other words, I enjoy spending time with my wife and children and thus have to cut back on weekend games–especially if there other sports (college football anyone?) on TV. Mid-week games can be challenging too. I can’t stay up for a 10pm kick-off. Again, with two young children I try and get sleep whenever possible. I’d love to watch Chivas or Seattle play against Chicago or whoever, but I just can’t stay up. It would be nice to have a highlight show so I can actually see all the MLS action of the week summarized in a one hour show.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Frank, yep, I live near Miami so DC is my “local” MLS team.

      One thousand miles from my house to DC United’s stadium is the same distance from London, England to Naples, Italy — and you can just imagine how many professional teams can be found within that trek.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  52. Frank says:

    Gaffer, the Crew and Houston are almost as close as DC United.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Miami to Washington DC: 1,050 miles
      Miami to Columbus: 1,155 miles
      Miami to Houston: 1,186 miles

      Atlante plays in the Mexican league and is closer to me than DC United…

      Miami to Cancun: 527 miles (as the crow flies).

      Viva Mexico!

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Atlante is also the continental champions, keep in mind and would probably win MLS. So it is higher quality football, closer to us geographically and cheaper to fly to. (JetBlue and Spirit can get south Floridians or TB Area fans to Cancun and back for under $400 if you book at the right time). That having been said, all American soccer fans should be invested in MLS, but it is very easy for someone from Florida to say, the EPL is on TV constantly and the FMF is better and closer, we lost MLS through no fault of our own (especially in Tampa), so forget MLS.

        I personally watch MLS and the FMF, and support MLS sides even when they are being humiliated by FMF teams in CONCACAF, but understand why others have “checked out” on MLS down here. In fact, it’s easier and cheaper to fly to London from Miami than to some MLS cities.

        With NuRock buying USL, the foothold for the minor league as Garber calls it is now stronger than ever in the South, meaning it maybe longer before we get a proper first division team in the SE.

        Then again, who knows?

  53. skip says:

    MLS should let its stars play in the foreign leagues through the 2010 World Cup. Once they get good exposure and some name recognition, bring them back home to MLS.

  54. Soccer Guru says:

    It is truly amazing that when Kartik confront some of you with stone cold facts, you say he’s making it up or he’s taking manipulated numbers.

    Let’s set the record straight:

    MLS with three fewer markets had twice as many viewers in 1999
    MLS had 15 games on ABC in 1999 that averaged close to a 1,000,000 viewers per telecast. ABC is showing zero games this year.
    The 2008 MLS Cup had the fewest viewers in MLS Cup history, even though it was the first MLS Cup that featured the team from the nation’s largest TV market.
    NASL on ABC had 10 times as many viewers in 1980 as MLS on ESPN2 did in 2008. That is a fact.
    ESPN2 is in as many homes as ESPN was in 1999 and the 1999 numbers is a combined ESPN/ESPN 2 number

    If anything, I’d criticize Kartik for being incomplete in this article, not pointing out what I did above probably because he’s so stung everytime he posts anything that is true about MLS, it’s like an organized legion of apologists come out to attack him. I’d also criticize him for constantly groveling to you guys. He makes points and then backs off in the comments
    and writes stupid things like ESPN needs to promote MLS more in EPL telecasts. Guess what? MLS has been oversold by ESPN for years. Now that they have La Liga and EPL they will build their brand around those respectable products, not around something that has constantly failed for years. MLS promised ESPN’s John Skipper a 1,000,000 viewers a game by 2010 when they got ESPN to pay a rights fee. Does anyone think that is still realistic? MLS has a problem. They constantly over value their players, over sell their product and over promise what they can deliver. Garber may be a good spin-meister, but eventually someone has to say the emperor has no clothes.

  55. JOHAS says:

    Does TV really matter in the larger scheme of things?

    Honestly, the NASL got 10 X the viewers and a lot more ink in the papers. But where is the NASL today? Arena Football got decent TV ratings and we used to see the threads on big soccer “AFL beats MLS again in ratings.” But where is Arena Football today?

    The vast majority of American fans don’t care about the Premiership. Their is far more casual interest in MLS than in the EPL and La Liga combined. Because ESPN has not been committed to advertising the games properly, or building the brand, and insist on putting down the product and shifting when the games are on, the ratings have dropped. But right now, MLS is more successful at the gate than all but a handful of worldwide leagues and can be fairly described as the top developmental league in the world.

    Few, if any other leagues have developed as many players who have spread out across Europe and had as much success as MLS. When you add in the number of world superstars we’ve brought in. Beckham, Blanco, Angel, Ljunberg, even Gallardo, we’ve had when you include Donovan 5-6 of the top 50 players in the world play in MLS over the last couple years. Only England, Spain and maybe Italy can match that number.

    Alot of American soccer fans are self hating. They feel they need to put down MLS or US Soccer to sound legit. They also feel they have to apologize for liking the game. They want to seem sophisticated by saying they support some Euro team. The truth is MLS is better than the majority of Euro leagues ans the TV numbers don’t matter one iota. The NASL and Arena Football back up that point.

  56. Darren says:

    Well said JOHAS, but the truth is that these numbers aren’t legit. ESPN releases what they want to release because Nielson’s ratings are not public.

    They want the EPL ratings high so FSC cannot afford to renew and they swoop in and get it.
    They want the MLS ratings low so they don’t have to pay a rights fee next time
    They had the numbers high when MLS used to pay them so they could demand more money .

    It’s really pretty simply. K’s problem is that he believes everything he reads. If these numbers were legit, I too would be worried about MLS, but trust me that are not.

  57. Steven langlands says:

    For the all star game in Houston 2010, how about playing against Liverpool, manchester United or Arsenal. This would be terrific.

  58. adam says:

    Here’s a tip: when you write articles for a site called MLS Talk call the game soccer not football.

  59. robert says:

    “Beckham, Blanco, Angel, Ljunberg, even Gallardo, we’ve had when you include Donovan 5-6 of the top 50 players in the world play in MLS over the last couple years.”

    you forgot to put that extra zero after 50…

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