I hate to be the pessimist in the party, but guess what? The hype surrounding tonight’s CONCACAF Champions League match is being overplayed. Don’t get me wrong, a Real Salt Lake win (or a tie conceding one goal or fewer) would be a great testament to the advances that the domestic league has made in our region.
The problem? As the sizing of the above image indicates, I believe it’s being vastly undersold by those who stand most to gain.
I’m not sure where the blame falls for this oversight. Perhaps it’s because an American team has failed to reach the finals in the CCL (or Champions Cup) since 2000. Another thought could be that American teams have not done well at the gate in the CCL matches in recent history. Or could it be that a replay of El Clásico would garner better ratings than an earlier CCL Final?
In any event, on a work night, East Coasters will have to stay up until 11:45 PM (or later, should the full time result be 2-2 at Rio Tinto) to see whether RSL can earn the trophy. In my opinion, the only people who will tune in at this time for this match are the most hardcore of fans. That’s not the broad appeal that the soccer establishment is seeking.
One argument would be, “Monday Night Football usually runs until midnight.” That would be a great argument, if soccer had half of the support in this country that the NFL enjoys. MNF showcases regular season games, and even if a game gets primarily participating team support, it’s still significant.
You could then make the argument, “Who do you think will be watching this? It’s the same, mostly RSL fans.” Then it should not be billed as a night comparable to the 1980 Olympic Semifinal match between the United States Hockey team and the USSR. It’s true that the hockey game was played at 5 PM on a Friday afternoon, but the Olympics are a well-established entity that draws because of its societal place. The other piece to this was that the match wasn’t even shown live in America, but rather on tape delay on ABC. But at least it was broadcast on a channel that almost everyone received.
The final argument could be, “There are other sports having playoff games that will outduel this match.” That’s very true, but there’s a Denver Nuggets NBA game starting at 9:30 PM on TNT. So the CCL match will have competition regardless.
I would love to have this game be covered in a way that behooves a great game. It should be considered a coming-out party for Major League Soccer, regardless of the outcome (although a victory would be icing on the cake). I just wish that the powers-that-be had seen the marketability of this match, and planned it to be a grand display. Instead it’s been pushed into a time slot that’s indicative of a meaningless local market one-off match-up. I’ll definitely be staying up to see if the Utahn’s can succeed, but I see a country of potential fans with no knowledge that this match is taking place. That’s a shame, and I still don’t know who is to blame.