Another Reason Why MLS TV Viewership On ESPN Stinks

Following yesterday’s article about why it’s no wonder that ESPN’s TV viewership for MLS games has dropped 12% this year, I planned on writing an article today about how and where you’re planning on experiencing the 2010 MLS Cup Final. I headed to ESPN’s Soccernet website to double check the kick-off time but not only couldn’t I find the start time, but I was dumbfounded at how incredibly poor ESPN’s MLS coverage is online.

For example, take a look at the above screengrab from Soccernet which shows the remaining fixture for the 2010 MLS season. You’ll notice the amateurish mistake circled in red. Even though ESPN is televising the biggest MLS game of the year, they’ve listed the wrong venue for the final! It’s BMO Field in Toronto, Canada, not Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado.

Not only that, but take a look at ESPN’s U.S. Soccer homepage and try to find any mention of (1) the MLS Cup Final, (2) what time ESPN’s coverage begins and (3) the US men’s national team friendly against South Africa, which is also being shown on ESPN.

How does ESPN expect the TV ratings for Major League Soccer and this Sunday’s MLS Cup Final to be decent when your own website isn’t promoting the game itself.

I could go on and on about how poor ESPN Soccernet’s coverage of US soccer is, but let me return to my original quest which is to ask you, the reader, how you plan on watching the 2010 MLS Cup Final (Sunday, 8:30pm ET, ESPN – thanks for actually listing the time). Personally I’ll be watching the game at home with my wife and will be hoping it’ll end up being a highly entertaining match. How do you plan on spending Sunday evening watching the game? Share your plans in the comments section below.

26 thoughts on “Another Reason Why MLS TV Viewership On ESPN Stinks”

  1. Seems pretty clear to me – MLS needs to making sellouts their No. 1 priority, then ESPN needs to find the best time to showcase those games.

    Sorry, but more Seattle, Philly, Toronto, LA and the bare minimum of everything else until the place is packed.

    Want to get tv covereage? Have an atmosphere worth putting on tv!

    As for getting to those sell outs? No more local coverage of games not at least at 75 percent capacity, and SATURDAY SATURDAY SATURDAY SATURDAY!!!!! Everything else is shooting yourself in the foot.

    1. So, you are in favor of televising only a few select teams rather than enticing match-ups between rivals, or a game between two quality teams? Good luck winning over a national audience by showing Seattle and Toronto every week.

    2. “Seems pretty clear to me – MLS needs to making sellouts their No. 1 priority, then ESPN needs to find the best time to showcase those games.”

      no, mls needs to make quality and development their no.1 priority. if the quality can improve, people will start to fill the seats and turn on the tv. EPL has great quality thats why so many people watch it.

  2. Finding a story about MLS on ESPN’s Soccernet page is like finding a $20 bill in your jeans – it may happen once a year and you are both shocked and pleased to see it. But if you expect it all the time…..

  3. I’m pretty sure that the ESPN contracts someone in the UK to run soccernet and that includes the US/MLS section. It would be a good idea for ESPN to hire an editor and a few more writers/bloggers that can fact check some of the errors that come through and also write more US/MLS related content. There are a lot of very talented bloggers that follow the US Soccer scene as it would be great if ESPN gave a couple of them a chance. Maybe the next time you get a higher up from ESPN for an interview you can ask them about their MLS/USA coverage on soccernet.

    I’ve mentioned before that I’m also an MMA fan and there is a lot of comparisons that MMA has with soccer in terms of media coverage. Up until a few years ago it was rare you could find live MMA on TV and now we see fights on non ppv outlets practically every week. MMA fans for years had to use the internet if they wanted to stay up to date with what was going on because the traditional media had no interest in it. The same can be said for soccer as just in the past couple of years the sport has become more embraced by reporters in the traditional media. There are always going to be those in the traditional media that lean older in age that are going to snicker or make fun of soccer and MMA because they aren’t sports that they have been covering for years and they just don’t want to throw out an opinion because they know there are tons of fans more knowledgeable than they’re and will call them out for not being well informed. It’s going to change and get better as it we’ve seen steps forward in the past couple of years. Just a couple of days ago ESPN hired Josh Gross to be one of their lead MMA writers. Gross worked for the online MMA site that lead him to getting a job with SI from where he just left for the WWL. We will start seeing more moves like this in soccer media as more and more people get into the sport and people want daily news and opinons on the sport.

    I’ll probably watch the game in my buddies man cave up in Columbus where he lives while I am visiting him. He has 4 HDTV’s and I will get him to put the MLS Final at the same time we’re watching the NFL Sunday Night Game and probably playing video games on the other.

  4. Blacking out the regular season local market game is probably needed to beef up the in-stadium attendance a little.

    ESPN is all about the the major sports. The “E” is supposed to stand for “Every”, but they are showing that it is “Every-Major-Sport”.

    BTW, maybe they moved the MLS Cup overnight?

    1. I’m sorry, but there is no way you can black out MLS matches. The race to win fans for the league is a marathon, one that compared to the NFL in its very early stages. Blacking out games will only kill off casual interest and be a detriment to bringing in new fans.

    2. Yes, what a good thing to do during a recession. When a family of four needs to spend upwards of a hundred dollars to go to a professional sports game, and instead decides they will just watch from home on the expensive cable they paid for, let’s shut them out of the process. Good thinking.

    3. Um, the “E” stands for “Entertainment” not “Every”

      “E”ntertainment and

  5. Yes, the way MLS is presented on the ESPN website is completely analogous to the TV coverage.

    Since MLS is equal to or better than EPL averages on ESPN2, I assume I will see headlines about how the EPL ratings “stink.” Or will we see more sad excuses about timeslots and other minutiae designed to keep the party line of EPL Good, MLS Bad going on?

    1. The TV ratings for MLS are not equal or better than EPL averages on ESPN2. If you believe that to be true, show me the facts.

      The Gaffer

  6. A great example of how bad ESPN’s coverage of MSL is would be their forums. They still don’t have a forum for Seattle. The team has been in the league two years and no forum – it’s stunning. No Philly forum either. I would bet folding money when the season starts net year there will be no Portland (sucks) and Whitecaps (also sucks) forums.

  7. MLS needs to learn how to work. Having games scattered on national coverage doesn’t help the cause. There have been several times where i get a few slices of pizza a tall can of beer sit down on thursday night and can’t find a freaking game! The games jump around from thurs,friday and sunday. All MLS games need to be played on one day and the marquee match that night or the day after.

  8. Soccernet is virtually worthless if you’re looking for MLS information. Not only is the main page all EPL/Europe, but even the supposed “US Soccer” section gives primacy to the above. It’s ridiculous.

  9. I’ve sent complaining emails to ESPN about their US Soccer page, but havent heard anything. I dont know why they even bother to have a US Soccer homepage. They also cover no college soccer which is really bad since every year MLS gets a few really good players out of college soccer and the final tournament is just as if not more exiting than the MLS playoffs. Sports Illustrated is much better for US soccer coverage, as is Fox. I’ll be watching the game at home with my family.

  10. ESPN is worthless for soccer that I care about.

    MY guess is some Euridiot is running it.

    ESPN: We need to have a soccer presence, who knows what a corner kicks is ?
    Ian wears a Red English soccer shirt on casual Friday.
    ESPN: Ian, you are in charge, create/run Soccernet.

    1. i dont think “Euroidiots” run ESPN magazine and yet you cant find soccer their at all. i dont think “Euroidiots” are in charge of shows like Jim Rome is Burning or Pardon the Interuption where they constantly bash soccer and MLS. i think the network just has a negative approach on the sport because of special interest from the NFL, NBA and MLB. think about it, a NFL exec runs our league, majority of investor/operators of mls clubs are NFL owners as well, there has to be some sort of special interest in there.

      and stop blaiming everything on Euros. they gave us the sport, they perfected it we should be grateful for it. people like you who are anti-everything are just as bad as “Euroidiots” and people who bash soccer like Jim Rome. welcome to their ranks.

      1. Well the rest of the soccernet is actually pretty good, no ? I go there for rest of the world soccer news, scores etc.

        Europe gave us the sport, an American wearing a ManU jersey in Detroit did not. Don’t try to join my distaste for the latter to the former.

    2. ESPN cares about ratings and advertising dollars. If you want ESPN to care about MLS, then MLS fans should religiously watch all of the games. It’s really not that hard to find when the games are one since pretty much every cable and satellite TV box has a “search” function. Fact is, there aren’t enough true, die hard MLS fans out there to make it worth ESPN’s effort to do more promotion or marketing. Why promote something no one is going to watch?

      It has nothing to do with Europe, is has to do will dollars, cash…it’s a business, not an American soccer development charity.

    1. Do you think getting over to Versus is worth taking less money ?
      Might be right, increased viewership = more money for the future.

      Probably isn’t much in it now anyway.

  11. Email John Skipper and Jed Drake and let them know how you feel about Soccernet’s coverage of MLS and the US Team. John’s email is and Jed’s email is Just about everyone that works at ESPN has a email address where it’s their name with a period between the first name and last name John has been nice enough in the past to answer emails including one on Christmas Day that I sent a few days before the holiday last year. Maybe they don’t know how much the MLS section needs to be beefed up on soccernet and there will be more commitment towards it next season since this season is all but lost. ESPN has come a long way in the last 5 or so years in terms of their coverage of soccer. While we will never get the blanket coverage like we get for NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, NCAA Football/Basketball and just a couple of steps below NHL coverage there is continued room for improvement. The future of soccer here in the States is ESPN 3 as they add more soccer inventory, more companies pick it up, and people realize how easy it is to hook your laptop up to your new fangled TV to watch the games from your laptop to your TV.

  12. I agree that showing a full stadium does make the product look more professional on TV. Yet until Toronto FC can field a team that deserves to be showcased on ESPN – please keep the cameras away.

    The quality of soccer at BMO has been brutal over the years. TFC has a way of making even good teams look brutal. I’ve enjoyed MLS since its inception and attended every game at BMO thus far. I’ve watched the good and bad MLS has had to offer since 1996. Much of what TFC has shown on the field has been bad to brutal!

  13. At home with family and friends. My son wants to watch it with me, and it is a little late to take him to a soccer friendly Denver bar.

  14. covers soccer a lot better than ESPN. You have Steve Davis and Grant Wahl covering MLS. Who the hell goes to ESPN soccernet for coverage of anything in the football world? ESPN only was on soccer’s nuts cause of the WC which they shoved down our throats. After that was over, it’s like soccer was dead to them. It’s not like they promote their EPL matches or care about them. So quality has nothing to do with anything. With all the U.S. sports back, they don’t care.


  15. What ESPN hasn’t yet realized is that their viewership would vastly increase if they treated soccer even half-way seriously — the only think we watch on ESPN is soccer and I KNOW there are more people interested in soccer than fly fishing. Of course, talking about amateurish presentation — the regular MLS games we [try to] watch on DirectTV (I don’t know who actually puts them on) are like a high school project as well — 12 years in and they still don’t seem to know when their mikes are on!!! They all need to watch Premier League football to see how it should be done — they know how to present.

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