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MLS Cup 2012 TV Ratings Worse Than One Year Ago: 3 Ways that MLS Can Reverse The Trend

mls cup 2012 MLS Cup 2012 TV Ratings Worse Than One Year Ago: 3 Ways that MLS Can Reverse The Trend

MLS Cup 2012 may have been a roaring success for David Beckham’s publicity team, but the TV ratings for the US league’s annual cup was worse than one year ago. Overnight ratings reveal that LA Galaxy versus Houston Dynamo got a 0.7 overnight rating, which was lower than the third round of golf’s World Challenge on NBC (1.0) and lower than MLS Cup 2011, which got a 0.8 rating featuring the same two teams.

While MLS is undoubtedly succeeding at the local level in cities where there are MLS clubs to watch games, MLS continues to fail miserably at convincing TV viewers to tune in to watch the league (or, in this case, the MLS Cup).

The quality of the TV coverage cannot be blamed. Both NBC Sports and ESPN have upped their game, so it’s nothing that the networks are doing that is limiting the amount of interest the games get.

Average attendances at MLS games continue to improve. More teams are joining the league. More soccer specific stadiums are being built. But the league continues to stumble in the TV ratings department.

The popularity of soccer is growing by leaps and bounds throughout the United States, but outside of the local areas where MLS has teams, the reason for soccer’s success has been a combination of the record-breaking Premier League TV ratings on US television, the mercurial success of the US women’s national team and the ever popular US men’s national team. Add to that the success of FIFA 13 in crystalizing the popularity of the sport among many of America’s youth.

MLS needs to decide whether it wants to improve its TV ratings or not. The majority of soccer (and sport fans) are not tuning in to watch MLS Cups because of three main reasons:

1. The league lacks credibility amongst most soccer fans. If you combined MLS’s East and West divisions into one end-of-the-season table, the two MLS Cup 2012 finalists finished the season in eighth and ninth positions. Why bother following a league throughout the entire season, only for the two eventual finalists to slip into the playoffs given a late run of form?

The first and most important reason why someone should watch the North American league is broken. Fix that by eliminating the playoffs (a system that is born from traditional American sports such as baseball and gridiron football) and MLS will automatically become more credible overnight.

2. MLS needs to seriously consider promotion-relegation. The age old debate of whether MLS should have promotion/relegation or not could go on for days without a consensus being reached. But the fact of the matter is that MLS needs to seriously consider the long-term implications of not having a promotion-relegation system in place, as well as what its future plans are for the expansion of the league.

MLS is on the precipice of having 20 teams in its league. But if/when the Queens-based New York team becomes team number 20, MLS needs to realize that there are giant regions across the United States where there is no local MLS team. FIFA will not look too kindly at professional leagues having more than 20 teams in a division, so MLS’s future plans should be to form a second division of quality teams. US Soccer and MLS should consider an acquisition or strategic partnership with NASL and USL to set up a quality second division where there are opportunities for teams to get promoted to the top division of MLS. And, vice-versa, there’s an opportunity for poorly performing teams in MLS to get relegated. This, I realize, would cause seismic shifts in how MLS operates as a league, but in order to grow MLS nationally as well as to begin growing its TV audience, MLS needs to make some serious changes to how the league operates. If the league continues the way it has been doing, it will never be recognized as a legitimate soccer league by hardcore soccer fans.

3. Improve the quality of soccer. The quality of MLS soccer will never be as good as the best leagues in the world. However, there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The quality of MLS games has improved over the previous few seasons, but by removing the ridiculousness of the MLS playoff system, this will force teams to play to the top of their game throughout the entire season thereby improving the quality of soccer on the field.

MLS is certainly winning hearts and minds at the local level by providing an entertaining, family friendly experience that is affordable and fun to watch. While this works on a local level, the league needs to try harder to establish itself as a more credible league that is worth watching on television. TV viewers can choose between any of the top leagues from around the world. MLS has the foundation, but serious changes are needed if it wants to succeed in the TV game.

This entry was posted in Leagues: Major League Soccer, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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175 Responses to MLS Cup 2012 TV Ratings Worse Than One Year Ago: 3 Ways that MLS Can Reverse The Trend

  1. wade says:

    No owner will vote for a relegation league since it could possibly cost him money. It just won’t happen in the U.S. Along the same lines, playoff games make money on TV. No chance of playoffs going away, either.

    • Roger4ProRel says:

      Marie Antoinette did not agree with the French Revolution either!

      If it was up to her, it provably had never happened.

    • Bob says:

      wade,

      it’s not up to MLS owners actually. USSF makes that call.

      • denz says:

        Actually it would need both US Soccer and the owner to approve such a thing, but where would you relegate to? There is no real 2nd or 3rd division in the US, hodge podge leagues of teams trying to position themselves to buy a MLS franchise.

        Relegation exists where there are enough team, and solid enough teams to make it happen, neither is the case in the US. It is also a concept that most sports fans in the US wouldn’t understand or appreciate.

        • Hal says:

          @denz

          you wouldn’t have pro/rel until D2 was built up.

          I would put an economic trigger in place. Pro/rel would trigger between MLS and NASL when NASL met the following economic benchmarks:

          - 18 teams in the league

          - 3/4 of clubs playing in SSS

          - avg attendance of league over 10k

          to get promoted a club must have the following:

          - SSS

          - youth academy

          as far as it being a concept that US soccer fans wouldn’t understand, where are you getting that from? Do you have data to back that up? NBC just paid a hefty sum for the EPL (a league that has pro/rel)

    • Lemmy says:

      Not sure if pro/rel is an automatic fix. But you have to have it before you eliminate play-offs. It would also help to slot the top 4 spots in the table for Champions League. Otherwise there would be no real reason to watch the majority of teams towards the last third of the regular season.

      Until then, playoffs add drama, keep more teams included in the mix, and keep fans interested.

  2. Brian says:

    Relegation? You have to be kidding me.

    Ignoring the fact this this wouldn’t fly for a multitude of reasons, why does MLS care what FIFA thinks about 20+ teams in a division? And how do you know FIFA will care?

    • The Gaffer says:

      “FIFA guidelines recommend that top-flight leagues limit their size to 20 teams to protect players from playing too many games”

      Source: http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2010/08/20100816/This-Weeks-News/MLS-Expansion-Plans-Extend-Beyond-Fifas-20-Team-Guideline.aspx

      Brian, one reason why MLS should care what FIFA thinks it that MLS having more than 20 teams in a league could hurt the US’s future chances of hosting a World Cup tournament if the USSF and MLS aren’t following FIFA’s guidelines.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Ed says:

        FIFA isn’t going to care about how many teams are in a top division if they aren’t doing a double-round robin schedule. 24 teams playing 34/38 matches has the same effect on players as 20 teams playing 34/38 matches.

        If anything, MLS

      • Charles says:

        The idea that FIFA will pass up on the most profitable and successful World, Cup in history because the US has 30 teams in first division, when the US has 4 times ( or more ) as many people in their country as any other you are comparing it to, is a joke.

      • islandofmind says:

        The US is too big for a 20 team league. When we reach 20 there will still be 8-10 markets worthy as prospects for future franchises. I really don’t think FIFA guidelines contemplate that.

        • Hal says:

          “franchises”

          this is one of the problems. Franchises lack authenticity.

          Burger King and McDonalds are franchises.

          sports teams are clubs

          • Charles says:

            How delightful and Hal is member of the club too.

            Give me a break

          • islandofmind says:

            Call them what you like, English football clubs developed from nothing over the last 150 years. You can stomp your feet till the cows come home but our league is never going to be like that. People have invested hundreds of millions in these “clubs” and they won’t consent to having that investment undercut because a handful of soccer nerds can’t learn to make the best of what we do have, which is a financially viable league that has rapidly advanced in all phases of the “business” of soccer in just under two decades.

            Many EPL clubs teeter on the very edge of solvency. I don’t want that for my league. Nor do I want a system where two thirds of teams never even aspire to reach the top four in the table. They claw their way to the middle and hope to god they can stay there. They are practically self-relegated and that is their greatest reasonable ambition. Who will win the Cup or the Supporters Shield next year? Nobody has any idea and I like that!

  3. Julien says:

    I think numbers 2 and 3 are directly related to one another. If a relegation system is in place than the quality of play will increase as well. If the safety net of staying in the league regardless of performance is taken away, then teams will be forced to focus on putting together a competitive team.

  4. Tijuana Robert says:

    Why are MLS bots so worried about what the Owners think? If they don’t like Pro/Rel they can sell their assets to someone who does. Easy as that. Promotion Relegation is Coming

  5. Barroldinho says:

    Sorry Sir, but your three suggestions show an understanding of the game in the US and the sources of criticism.

    1) MLS doesn’t lack credibilty because of playoffs. Most Latin American Leagues use playoffs to decide their own champions. The reason MLS “lacks credibility” is because of poseurism among so-called soccer fans in the US who refuse to watch anything of lower quality than the top half-dozen teams in Europe.

    2) The thing everybody patently ignores when suggesting relegation in the US system is the set of circumstances that made it a necessity in European Leagues: there were literally hundreds of clubs in many given countries, many of a decent quality for the time, before the league was conceived. Not only could you populate multiple divisions, it soon became necessaru to have them to determine that the best teams were playing in the top flight. The US doesn’t have the number and standard of club, or the volume of players to make pro/rel useful. In fact, I’d say the status quo doesn’t even make it practical. It’s a solution to a problem we don’t have.

    3) MLS IS improving the quality of soccer. Compare today’s standard to 5, 10, 17 years ago and it’s huge. No other league has shown this rate of improvement and investigation continues into improving youth development. For it’s age and given the attitude to the sport in the US, the league should be praised for what it;s achieved.

    The truth is, MLS struggles on TV because it competes not only with more established sports, but because it competes with much older, much richer, much stronger soccer leagues. It’s not their fault and indeed, one could point at the US soccer fan who refuses to watch and ask him/her why they don’t support the development of the league in their own country. MLS does plenty right. Ratings could be higher, but as long as improvements continue and the league is getting by financially, I don’t think it’s a major concern at this point.

    • Tijuana Robert says:

      Same tired excuses of why ratings suck. Get some new material its 2012 and the league is 17 years old.

    • Roger4ProRel says:

      I couldn’t disagree with you more.

      Your #1 point, “the fans are the problem”, I pass on that one, keep living inside the bubble if it suits you.

      #2 is more of the manipulation we are submitted to when it comes to the p/r debate. At the beginning p/r was the only logical and functional solution to a fundamental problem that we have now, more potential teams than what a league can fit.( don’t we have that problem?) However, once the practice was implemented, its policy of open doors set the base for the further growth of the sport, to the huge number of clubs we see today.To say “they had many clubs, we don’t, so we don’t have the need they had..”, is just Bull’s &^%.

      #3) No, wrong again! The problem is not quality, which I think is decent, the problem is credibility, legitimacy. Openness defines our game, it’s in it’s DNA. The world Cup admits ALL of it’s member nations, ALL! Including the smaller and poorer nations on the planet, that is the true spirit of our game. Single entity is in TOTAL opposition to that spirit. MLS is a soul-less league, that is the problem, and no amount of marketing can fix that!

    • David Hatso says:

      Well Said Sir,100 percent correct

  6. Barroldinho says:

    ^^Oops! Should say “lack of understanding”. *facepalm*

  7. dan says:

    people who continue this discussion really think that the EPL, Seria A, la liga, etc., have the ratings they do because of promotion? get a clue…. it is all about the product on the field…. not relegation.

  8. JB says:

    Oy, the problems with this article, beyond the obvious “pandering to eurosnobs” solutions. The article is based off lower ratings for MLS Cup than last year, so the solution is…get rid of it!

    If you’d like to argue “these suggestions will help all tv ratings go up” the problem is that they already did this year. Drastically? No. But they’re going up. The main problem for the final is always scheduling. It’s either against big NFL or college games and they haven’t figured out a way to get away from it and get some casual eyeballs on the final.

    • Jim Barg says:

      I’m honestly at the point where low ratings are to be expected. Beau Dure mentions in his book that there’s just no good time in the American sporting calendar to hold a one-game final. I’m okay with having low ratings and fantastic atmosphere at the games for now. In a weird way, it can be the inverse to the NFL.

      We are, after all, talking about a league in its relative infancy here.

      • The Gaffer says:

        No good time to play a final in the American sporting calendar? Sorry, but that’s ridiculous.

        For example, any time in July or August would be ideal (if MLS changed its schedule). The seasons for NFL, college football and NBA wouldn’t have started yet. And the only obstacle would be baseball, but that sport wouldn’t negatively affect MLS TV ratings (unless it’s a World Series, which isn’t until the autumn).

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

        • TRAILINGBOBCAT says:

          so it would be less ridiculous to change the MLS schedule and have teams like the New England Revolution, Colorado Rapids, etc play in the heart of winter… really now?

          • Hal says:

            you would have to have a winter break.

          • The Gaffer says:

            Change the schedule, like everyone has been suggesting. http://www.awfulannouncing.com/2012-articles/january/as-international-soccer-rises-mls-hangs-in-limbo.html

            Cheers,

            The Gaffer

          • Earl Reed says:

            This is the age-old straw man of “Oh we can’t have Fall-to-Spring because of the weather.” Nobody says you have to play through mid-December through January. That’s just an argument that is intended to deflect the true issue – which is a December 1 Final is plumb in the middle of the two most popular sporting leagues in America – NFL and NCAAF.

            By the way, did you just watch the NY-DC Conference Final get postponed for WEATHER? The weather is already wreaking havoc – and that’s on a match that supposedly should be one of the most important matches of the season.

          • Charles says:

            No.

            It is guys that are going to games don’t want to sit in the cold, but prefer a nice summer day.

          • CTBlues says:

            Then go to games that are at the beginning and/or end of the season when the weather is warmer.

          • Charles says:

            Ummm, no I will go to all the games…because thank God MLS isn’t stupid enough to have a winter schedule. I wonder how many fewer fans Seattle alone would have ? A lot.

  9. Josh says:

    I think a better overall atmosphere in the stadiums could really help their ratings as well. The main reason I love watching Champions League and German football is their atmosphere. The fans don’t stop singing at all, and the choreography stunts are incredible. This is probably the main reason why I love watching any game in which Seattle or Portland is hosting. They provide a fresh European-based atmosphere for America. If other MLS fans were just as inspired as Portland, Seattle, and Kansas City fans, I know I’d watch other non-local games.

    Another thing MLS could probably do is to focus on Derbies. Their biggest match is clearly Portland-Seattle, a great, heated northwestern Derby. This is why it’d be exciting to have the Cosmos crossover. A New York Derby would be a very exciting match-up, and MLS should try to highlight these derbies in other areas, like Dallas-Houston.

  10. JC says:

    All your ideas to help the MLS ratings are stupids. I think deep down you want the league to fail. I think all you so called soccer fans that bash MLS are dumb. you want no league in America. do you like USA being trashed in the world cup every four years? keep doing what you are doing. you are sure helping.

  11. Kevin says:

    MLS is socialism for the rich. The single-entity is standing in the way of profit for clubs by creating a needless bureaucracy. The bureaucrats feed at the trough of power and money and status. And you people are protecting them! You deserve your minimum wage jobs.

  12. Dan says:

    MLS has low ratings for the same reason the NHL and MLB does. Great local fan base. No national interest. There are many factors that go into this for soccer. The main culprit being the media. Talk Radio, Newspapers, ESPN pretty much ignore the sport outside of the World Cup. The only way to improve the ratings is for the league to improve and for national media coverage to improve.

  13. Matt says:

    I agree that “Minor” League Soccer needs more credibility. But promotion and relegation will not happen any time soon. If you were an owner, would you risk investing in a team that has a chance of being relegated and losing TV revenue and stadium attendance with fickle fans?

    My solution for credibility

    1) SINGLE TABLE/ BALANCED SCHEDULE. This is how the MLS champion should be decided. For many soccer fans this is how it should be. What about playoffs?

    2) GET RID OF PLAYOFFS BUT PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON THE US OPEN CUP!!!!- There are always going to be fans in the US that insist on having playoffs or elimination game. The US Open Cup should be able to provide this. Have the MLS SEason and US Open scheduled to allow the top 8 teams qualify to the later rounds. Have elimination games for NASL and USL teams up to where there are two teams left and then substitute them in as “wild card” teams into what would basically be a “MLS Playoff” style competition.

    As for TV ratings

    I don’t understand how Mexican soccer has been available to the US audience for many years on free over-the-air Television on Spanish la gauge channels but MLS is struggling. For the time being, MLS needs to rely on local fans and local television networks. LA Galaxy has a deal with Time Warner Cable’s local network which shares it’s channel with the LA Lakers. As for nation wide audience, investing in them can be a waste of time and money. Expansion must be done carefully over time. You have to compare this challenge to Hockey which is a regional sport in the US. The sport expanded beyond places where it snowed only after having a base first. It was Wayne Gretzky who was NHL’s Beckham ambassador to LA where it doesn’t snow but only after the league was already big with it’s already developed fan bases.

  14. Roger4ProRel says:

    It was good blogging on this site! This is my last post.

    I got to the conclusion that blogging doesn’t solve anything on US soccer, since the status quo only needs the perception that we are divided when it comes to the pro/rel debate, in order to maintain it’s grip on our game. Like on a Cup game, they advance with a tie.

    To accomplish their goals, they just need a couple of things; a journalism that does not do their job and never asks the hard questions, an a few “self appointed guardians of the status quo” mining this blogs, repeating over and over the same empty arguments, that can not stand a serious debate, and maliciously manipulating every solid point that we, the ones that want US soccer to pursuit it’s true potential, make.

    I think that action is what’s needed, we are the majority and if we unite we can create the needed change. From now on, I will invest my energy on http://www.facebook.com/usprorel

    this is just the first step of our project

    Thanks majorleaguesoccertalk.com for the platform you provide for discussion. For me, it’s time to move on!

  15. Charles says:

    The article is a joke.

    MLS is doing very, very well inspite of Gaffer’s random articles trying to convice you otherwise. Do they wish they had a soccer base like Europe does, sure, but they don’t and thus they have less money, which in turn causes less quality which causes less interest.

    Not too complicated.

    To do what they have done, as not the top league in the world, in an emerging soccer country is nothing short of spectacular.

    Perfect job, no, but hindsight is 20/20…………throwing around insanely stupid ideas like relegating teams, throwing teams out of first division, so they can’t win in a parity league, is beyond dumb. Then your arguement for pro/rel is that includes the whole country ? No it doesn’t….it includes 20 teams, probably less than 20 cities. Having 40-50 teams (maybe more )in first division includes the whole country.

    It smacks of, “I have no idea what I am talking about, so I will throw out something I have seen before, even if it is comparing apples to crutons”

    Either that or you are trying to purposely destroying domestic soccer through a two bit soccer blog.

    ps. how long till someone says “rest of the world”….none of which has a parity league.

    • Bob says:

      Charles is the new Baghdad Bob of soccer.

      American soccer fans are not watching MLS Charles. How do you explain that?

      • Charles says:

        Umm…you are wrong, fans are watching MLS. A 0.8, isn’t the end game, but it is fine for soccer on cable. If the game had been on NBC, it would have been much larger as shown by the regular season games, which Gaffer didn’t write about (of course). Ratings so good that they added games that weren’t scheduled. How do you explain that ?

        Also I am not new to soccer, that would be you most likely, I was around in the mid 70s when everyone really didn’t watch soccer.

      • Tijuana Robert says:

        Charles, Check the ABC ratings. Or are you not going to read this either? http://www.socceramerica.com/article/49487/mls-cup-television-ratings-dip.html

        • Charles says:

          I will read it, but why would I care.

          MLS is booming, the TV ratings will follow.

          I actually do care that it is on scrolling bar ESPN and not on NBC, but that will change over time. Ratings will follow.

  16. Jkrdevil says:

    I don’t see how promotion/relegation (which is a terrible idea from a business perspective and no suitable second league from a sporting perspective)

    The answer to the ratings question for MLS Cup is that they need to stop scheduling the championship match from being up against the most popular NFL games of the week (Sunday Night Football), or as it was this year one of the biggest college football games of the year (SEC Championship game). Any casual sports fan that might otherwise tune it won’t against those.

    In this respect ESPN is intentionally burying the match. It needs to be played next week after College Football is over and before bowls and the NFL begins Saturday games.

  17. Bob says:

    great article.

    What this .7 rating tells us is that a large percentage of soccer fans in this country are boycotting MLS.

    I don’t watch MLS. I haven’t watched a game all year. I didn’t watch the MLS Cup. I’m boycotting the league. And i think there are a lot of soccer fans like me.

    What would get me to watch and support the league?

    This article pretty much sums it up. I think American soccer fans just want a real soccer league. A league without all these salary cap/allocation gimmicks. A league where two clubs you reach the final aren’t owned by the same people. We want a league that conforms with the rest of the world. A single table and a regular season title to be separated from the cup. And we want the league to develop promotion/relegation.

    The MLS snobs have had their say. It’s failed. American soccer fans are boycotting this nonsense. It’s so obvious.

    • Charles says:

      The crazy thing is, I think he really believes people are boycotting MLS because they don’t relagate teams away from first division. Seriously he does.

      • Tijuana Robert says:

        Charles, MLS has had a league final with two teams owned by the same GUY two years running! Wake up already.

        • Charles says:

          And that is why people didn’t watch ?

          Let me poll my office where there were a couple who did and 20 who didn’t watch. Nope that had no clue there was a game, much less who was playing and very much less who owned the franchises.

          Let me ask them if they know what Pro/Rel is. ;-)

          It is too easy to make fun of those that have this as their cause because they throw ALL logic out the door.

        • islandofmind says:

          Who owns the teams makes no difference. As it happens LA is nearly the highest paid team and Houston is nearly the lowest paid. Both teams have great coaches and players that have proven – on the field – that they are a worthy test for any team that wants to play for the Cup. To be the best you have to beat the best.

          AEG just signs the checks (Oh and they kept the league in business when it looked like it might go the way of NASL)

      • Hal says:

        it’s not really a participatory boycott. But soccer fans aren’t watching MLS. Only 0.7 rating for the MLS Cup final shows this.

        are you denying this?

        • Charles says:

          Yeah, I am denying this boycott.

          It is a very stupid idea invented by you. No one cares except for you and a small amount of MLS haters.

          People have not cared about soccer my whole life. Not something new created by MLS views on how to make money while running a successful league.

  18. Mike Winchell says:

    I don’t want a league exactly like Europe’s. I want an American soccer league, so the argument of “That’s how everyone else does it” doesn’t make a difference to me. The NFL is by far the most popular in the U.S. The NFL has salary caps. The NFL has shared revenue. If we get rid of all that, we’ll end up with a far less talented La Liga where the title switches between NY and LA every year. And that will for sure kill any interest America might already have. I personally don’t care about playoffs, and relegation would be fun but I don’t think most Americans are holding out for that. The league is growing, just give it time.

    • Charles says:

      Amen the league is growing, crazy fast too. That is what make articles like these soooo stupid.

      MLS is very profitable now, so much so they are thinking of raising the salary cap between player’s contracts.

      • Bob says:

        Charles,

        what fantasy world do you live in? MLS is not profitable. No one is watching these games on TV.

        • Charles says:

          The reality is it is very profitable, read a real blog for once, one where they talk soccer not fantasy pro/rel arguements.

          Guys like you and Gaffer need join the real world….MLS is not failing, it just keeps getting more profitable and more talented, repeat this over and over to yourself until you believe it.

          Don’t beat yourself up, you will catch up with reality.

    • Bob says:

      soccer is a global game. The NFL is not. The NFL is one league and has all the players. So it makes sense that the NFL would want to spread these players around.

      With MLS, even without a salary cap you wouldn’t see a version of La Liga. For one, there’s just not enough money in MLS for a club to stack its team with the best available players. But more importantly there aren’t enough great available players available to MLS that would cause the leagues parity to resemble La Liga.

      If anything the salary cap makes it harder for smaller clubs. The LA and NY’s still spend way more than the smaller clubs because of the DP rule. Well, it’s harder for a club like Real Salt Lake to go out and get a high profile DP. Who wants to live in Salt Lake City? The salary cap prevents them from spreading their wages throughout their squad and creating the best possible club. If i was a Real Salt Lake fan I wouldn’t want a salary cap. Let LA and NY overpay for over the hill Euros, while RSL can field a balanced club of good players.

      Also, I don’t hear anyone calling for MLS not to share revenue. TV contracts are and should be shared. Away teams should and do get some of the gate.

  19. KTAC says:

    One item that wasn’t mentioned in the article, which likely made a big impact on ratings is that this year’s cup was scheduled earlier in the day than last year.

    Naturally a game showing at prime time will get better ratings than one in the afternoon!

  20. Lee Allen says:

    maybe the ratings were lower because Alabama v Georgia was on….

    • Bob says:

      does the soccer fan demo really cross over into SEC college football?

      I know a lot of soccer fans. The ones i talked to did not watch the MLS Cup or college football. Like me, they have decided to boycott the league by just not watching.

      • TRAILINGBOBCAT says:

        by not watching ur boycotting the league? whoaaa we got a bad ass over here…

      • islandofmind says:

        So you really don’t care about having a strong domestic league. Understood.

        Got to wonder why you come to a supposed ‘MLS’ blog, but hey you can spend your time as you choose.

  21. Charles says:

    I am surprised that Gaffer didn’t mention the other factors like earlier game and the SEC championship being on.

  22. john marzan says:

    the MLS has low ratings because

    1)because america has no soccer culture… yet. soccer is unamerican.

    2)american fans think american soccer players are lacking. quality U.S. players think MLS is inferior. would you really watch soccer if you think american soccer teams can’t beat anybody oustide the U.S. in major international competitions?

  23. Alan says:

    What troll-bait. Seriously, lets take a look at this.

    1. How is eliminating the playoffs going to improve MLS Cup ratings? The MLS Cup final will be gone, and even the Eurosnobs that don’t watch won’t know when the MLS Cup final will be decided. Some random game will attract viewers more than a final? How do you explain ratings in Latin American countries if playoffs are so bad? How about World Cup finals or CL finals? I’m betting that I hear an excuse that “the regular season” is different.

    2. Pro/rel. NOBODY CARES. Look at the ratings for EPL relegation battles. Have you looked them up? They barely compete with MLS, because they are watching the top teams. The ratings for EPL hover around 40k. How about Bundesliga, Serie A, and La Liga when they are aired in America?

    3. Quality hasn’t improved? The fact that you actually said that shows why this article is laughable. What was the last game that you actually watched. Swansea? Haha! Maybe if they are playing a team that people want to watch.

    • Alan says:

      I think that I am done with this garbage. There is opinion, and then there is an MLS blog masquerading as one that actually cares about the league. It would be like me creating a blog for my favorite team running them down all of the time. Do you actually want MLS fans to read this garbage (stirring up age old debates), or are you trying to attract EPL fanboys? Good bye, and don’t even bother commenting. Off to a real MLS blog.

      • The Gaffer says:

        Alan, if you can’t take criticism, then so be it. There are many other blogs out there that are mouthpieces for MLS that are afraid to be objective and critical.

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

    • Hal says:

      how do you explain why NBC just paid 800% more for the EPL than they paid for MLS?

      you’re wrong about everything.

  24. john marzan says:

    it’s not about “relegation” or removing the playoffs system.

    MLS fate and popularity tied to USMNT success. That’s the truth. no amount of importing has-been former stars from europe will increase MLS popularity. the best american soccer players would rather play elsewhere than in MLS. donovan is so depressed he’d rather retire early than waste his time in MLS.

  25. Earl Reed says:

    The trouble is that MLS treats those who differ in viewpoint as detrimental to the sport in America – like if we have any kind of say in this matter, that MLS will end up going the way of the 1980′s NASL.

    What has really happened is that the growth of the EPL in America has spilled over onto MLS, and they’ve experienced some of the benefits of that popularity gain. And they’ve taken certain Euro ideals that suit the league – allowing for higher-priced DPs and building stadiums that simulate a European supporters’ community.

    I don’t think we’re quite ready for promotion and relegation, because we don’t have strong enough D2 and D3 leagues…yet. But there needs to be a step change. The Supporter’s Shield winner should be a recognized champion separate from any MLS Cup competition. It’s just a matter of how to rework it. The sad part is that the Supporter’s Shield winner gets very little pomp from the league, when I believe a majority of supporters would put their backing behind the regular season winner as a more legitimate “champion” than that of an MLS Cup run.

    • Hal says:

      yeah two things would get me to watch MLS.

      1) separate MLS Cup from regular season. Have one league table where the regular season winner gets the league title. Then to keep the playoff people happy you could have a post season MLS Cup. The winner of the cup is the MLS Cup winner. Not the league title winner.

      2) announce a pro/rel agreement with NASL once NASL meets certain economic benchmarks. Just making this announcement would be a huge boon to all of our lower divisions. It would create certainty and you would see more investment in our lower divisions. They could even set a pretty strict standard that will trigger pro/rel. For instance there will not be pro/rel between MLS and NASL until NASL has 18 clubs, 3/4 of which play in their own SSS, and 3/4 of which have youth academies. Also, for an NASL club to be promoted they must play in a SSS that holds at least 15k

      doing that i believe would get a lot of the “traditional” soccer fans in this country.

    • Charles says:

      Earl you are a fool if you think that the people in England want their league to look like it is. They have zero say in anything. Noone would want a league to be decided on Sunday whan it runs through next Spring.

  26. islandofmind says:

    I love the playoffs. It’s certainly not unusual in the world, maybe they don’t do it in England or other parts of Europe but those places are really nothing like the US.

    I think the first problem with the English language TV numbers is that MLS has a lot of fans who don’t watch it.

    What were the local numbers in MLS cities? If you count yourself a fan of the league, you should be watching. Even if you hate the playoffs it won’t advance the cause of building a great league if we don’t watch. That IS the responsibility of the fans in my opinion.

    • Charles says:

      They don’t do playoffs in Europe ?

      The population of Europe is 739 million, OF COURSE THEY DO PLAYOFFS, just like two nations of 350 million would and should do.

      OF COURSE Europe has more than 20 teams in first division too like the US and Canada will shortly.

      The great thing about this there is only one to go about this, the way MLS is doing it, the way MLS will continue to do it and it just so happens the way that I want it.

      Enjoy the offseason everyone. Root for the Sounders in CCL in a few months ( Robert, I will root for TJ next year )

    • Hal says:

      if we watch then we are giving approval to the league and how it does business. The only way to get changes is to boycott the league.

      MLS lacks credibility and authenticity with the soccer public in the US. The reasons for this i think all boils down to the Americanization of the global game. From the salary caps, to franchises, to MLS drafts, to insisting that pro/rel is not going to happen, to the whole DP, allocations, no free agency crap, the single entity structure. All of this turns off soccer fans who look around the world and don’t see any of this in the 100+ soccer leagues on the globe.

      • Charles says:

        Hal is boycotting the Euro championships and the Club World Cup starting today too.

        The boycott of one.

        you should set up a website….

  27. Johnny V says:

    I’m sick of these Euro snobs trying to turn the MLS into an exact replica of the EPL. Why have a league that only the four teams are always are on top year after year, that is boring!!!!, they don’t playoffs, I’m sorry but having a playoff system to end the season is more danm exciting than not having it. I believe the playoffs is the best part of the season hands down!. Furthermore, is not like only the MLS has a playoff system, a few Latin leagues including Mexico have playoffs, and I believe the A-league does also. We have opportunity to make a soccer league here that is better than the EPL, our attendance is higher than some of the top leagues in Europe, the MLS is growing each year I think Don Garber is doing a great job so far.

  28. soccerreform says:

    If you want US clubs that can go up against the the best of the world, there’s no choice but to go to a promotion and relegation system. If you want to flood lower divisions with new investment, there’s no quicker way than opening leagues. If you want to capture the imagination of American kids, you need unlimited clubs. If you want to develop US players, you have to capture the imagination of US kids.

    I suspect the jingoism that lays behind comments on “not copying Europe” is as hollow as it is sometimes disingenuous.

    If you want limited soccer outlets, you can certainly support MLS. But why are we wasting a soccer pyramid by topping it with a league of limited outlets? There has to be a way to satisfy those who want limited soccer outlets and those who want unlimited clubs – and I don’t think it’s good for the American game that the majority who want to see unlimited clubs have to look outside our borders.

    If there really is a core of people who want to stick steadfastly to a limited chain of soccer outlets, perhaps USSF can grant MLS a provisional or special exhibition sanction, while opening the pyramid for independent and autonomous clubs.

    The only issue I have with the comments on pro/rel is “MLS considering”. Of course no MLS owner is going to want to give up their special anti-competitive entitlements. Who would? That’s why it’s a job for an independent federation. Once we get one, they can decide what to sanction, not MLS for them.

    That being said – if this is all about money, I think MLS stands to profit from the transfer to open leagues and independe3nt clubs. How much are the Sounders, Timbers and Galaxy worth to the league? Could all profit from selling out of single-entity captivity?

    Regardless – MLS will be left with the same choices as any great league: Release clubs into the open market, or lose D1 sanction. It’s not that complex.

    At least we’ll get to end the sadistic exercise of sending unilaterally limited soccer outlets into wide open international play. We need our best clubs in the Champions league – not our most creative hamstrung teams.

    For me, the most compelling argument for pro/rel is the size of our market. Scotland may struggle to find enough potential D1 markets to field a vibrant league. We’ve got way too many for one league. This will make competition compelling in league play, while US Open Cup will be there for every pro-club, every year.

    It’s going to be a whole lot of fun if we do it right. If we MLS set policy, It’ll be no fun and wrong.

    Look, ratings for the 2012 MLS Cup were 73% lower than average ratings NASL got on ABC in 1979. This is an unprecedented figure in US pro team sports. Imagine if the 2012 Superbowl ratings were 73% lower than regular season broadcasts in 1979.

    There would be a lot of calls for reform….

  29. Hal says:

    well you hit the nail on the head. The only thing i wonder is how many American soccer fans feel this way. Has there been any polling data? In my circle of soccer friends we all want pro/rel but I’ve always wondered how the whole soccer public in America felt about it. It’s a polarizing issue on MLS forums. I don’t see how anyone can look at that 0.7 rating and come to any conclusion other than that America soccer fans are rejecting MLS.

    I suspect that the % of American soccer fans that want pro/rel and independent clubs is very large. However, I’ve gotten the impression that so many of them have just given up trying to change the system and just ignore MLS.

  30. Badman says:

    Nah. I find MLS as frustratingly hard to enjoy as anyone, but these aren’t the things it needs. If I had to list three they’d be Schedule, Scope and Organic… ness.

    An apertura/clasura system could skip both brutal northern winters and hellish southern summers. And hopefully avoid scheduling the final opposite one of the biggest NCAA football games of the year! Plus two champions would fit into my point #3 below.

    24 to 28 teams could play in a real divisional structure. Again, doubling the number of ‘champions’ for my next point. (Screw pro/rel, the owners will never go for something as eminently un-American as risk in an investment, but a viable 40-60 team academy/farm system playing in 2-5k seater soccer-specific stadiums could be built to spread the love around a bit.)

    And finally, make it feel less fake. Make it organic (in feel at least). 10 team playoff? Why!? For the sake of having a 10 team playoff apparently. Baseball doesn’t have wildcard games just to have wildcard games (well, until this season and that went over like a lead balloon), it has them because it has three divisions in each league instead of two. Hell, baseball didn’t even have playoffs for a century or so. Not until it grew to where it needed them.

    So let’s say 26 teams in two divisions. Play home and away every year in division, every other year out of division. Have an apertura champ and a clasura champ in each division. They play a home and away playoff to see who goes to the MLS Cup game. If you simply must have more, more, more then throw in the 2nd place team from each half of the season and play a 4-team round robin group stage to determine the divisional champ. And heck, why not a home and away championship?

    • Hal says:

      @Badman

      and nobody will watch. Just like nobody watches now. Soccer is not the NFL or the NBA. Soccer is a global game and will MLS you are not going to have the top talent. Having a 28 team top flight would be a disaster. The league would be so watered down with low quality that it would be unwatchable.

      If American soccer fans really liked the Americanization of soccer they’d be tuning in to MLS. They aren’t.

      You say that MLS owners will never go for pro/rel. Who made them Emperors of our sport? Who said they could hold soccer hostage in this country? The decision for pro/rel is up to USSF, not MLS.

      • Charles says:

        Yeah adding 8 teams to the tens of thousands of teams in the world is going to water down the quality.

        You just say whatever strikes your fancy minute to minute huh ?

        There is nothing stopping anyone from going pro-rel. Go for it. USL tried a free market league….you REALLY think the Sounders are going back to that like you said above ?

        Again, I think you just throw out whatever suits you that minute. The Sounders are leaving MLS…..geez.

  31. Ramon says:

    An additional 485,000 people watched the MLS cup on Telefutura which is a huge jump from last year. While ESPN rating is down, the Spanish channel rating is way up. Total viewership is about 1.3 million which is a solid number.

    Also, promotion/relegation would literally cause MLS to fold. There are many MLS teams that would not survive relegation and would just fold. The league would go bankrupt after a few years. Plus the owners would never allow it. They invested millions, and now they should risk losing it all? People who keep suggesting pro/rel have no idea how business works. This is something that only works when soccer is the #1 sport and you have hundreds of teams.

    • Hal says:

      @Ramon

      no one is saying that MLS should go pro/rel next year. Yeah i agree, if they did, the relegated clubs would fold.

      Here is a scenario for you though.

      If in 15 years NASL has 18 clubs, 3/4 that play in soccer specific stadiums with great fan support, supporters clubs, sell outs etc, then what is the argument against pro/rel?

      Soccer is not the #1 sport in Japan yet Japan has pro/rel.

      • Tijuana Robert says:

        If a club folds due to relegation don’t you think it shouldn’t of existed in the first place? Sounds to me it only survived through subsidizing its lack of fan support.

  32. Red says:

    Really promotion/relegation, how stupid do you have to be to bring that point up. That would kill the league within a year or two. Are you serious…this is my first and last time at this lame site.

    These 3 points suck. And regarding the 1 table thing…that would be idiotic.http://beautifulsoccer.webs.com/apps/blog/show/19718728-mls-playoff-format

    here is a real article…well though out.

  33. Paul says:

    I respectfully disagree with your assertion that the production quality is not to blame. I watched MLS cup. The broadcast was terrible. They need to take a page out of the NFL Films playbook and focus on the key story lines, do more of the slow motion replays with commentary, and get rid of Alexi lawless. HIs mustache isn’t the star of the show. The start of the show is Beckham’s last game in the MLS, the continued Donovan saga, or, how about Kandji, who broke his leg in this fixture scoring the winning goal a few weeks back.

  34. Heimdall says:

    Playoffs are not the problem. It is just that the league has a hard time getting the system and scheduling right due to self imposed contraints (trying [but failing] to reward regular season performance, giving each team a home game, can’t be too long or too short, etc.)and this season, the conference finals first legs had teams that had differing days of rest. I also wonder why both regular season champs got booted. It might be worth thinking to dump the 4/5 game and do the group stage thing to reward regular season performance.

    Promotion and relegation is not the panacea to the league either. Being in the second tier for a top 15 market will bring little interest and wildly varying interest from markets 16-35 but would mostly bring disinterest. For these cities, not being in d1 equates to minor leagues. The finance shocks between the two leagues would be burdensome due to the change. Also prepare to mostly self finance any new stadia when they show projected financials for being in MLS or MLS 2. If the USSF is smart, the second division will be be a closed but forever growing league with MLS B teams and smaller cities that are not major league (like Syracuse or Omaha) or tiny cities that really love the game and can support their team as well as the larger ones.

    Why should MLS accede to these traditionalists? Right now, avid soccer fans in the US number 30 million or 10%, according to Rich Luker. There are 7% avid MLS fans and 9.1% avid international soccer fans existing as two subsets within the 10% avid soccer fan set. USMNT or USWNT followers, other national teams, Mexican, South American, and Euro leagues avid fans that don’t follow MLS are all counted in the 9.1% International soccer subset. This would make the Eurosnob group whoever they may be even smaller.

    MLS would love to pull the Mexican leagues fans, general sports fans and the non avid soccer fans. All of whom are not holding their breath for the methods endorsed by traditionalists. The league already has 70% of avid soccer fans in the nation which is obviously lesser than international soccer’s 91%. But is it really worth it for the league to appeal to such a tiny group that is numerically irrelevant?

    The demographics are changing, but the appetite for soccer in the US is still small potatoes. Let’s say 99% of MLS games receive a rating of less than 1 and if only meetings between the five glamour clubs of the premiership meet exceed a 1 rating (which isn’t even guaranteed), then that still small potatoes. West Ham and Chelsea met last weekend and the ratings were .2 and I don’t think the EPL or NBC has anything to worry about.

    The league has to do better than having the 2.8M cap and must expand to meet demand in more than 15 US markets, as 50% of those with any interest in soccer would like to know more about MLS, but playoffs aren’t the problem. Outside of the country, those who know anything about American sports know that Americans finish seasons with playoffs and only those with the most jingoistic views sees it as a negative when it occurs in the US. I’m glad that a MLS season hasn’t been decided with a month to go, especially since the schedules aren’t balanced or nearly balanced anymore. It LA wins again, it’ll be interesting if they reign the dp rule a bit, but for those who want expenditure to correlate with titles, there are ton of those leagues around.

  35. Eric in DC says:

    These 3 reasons are all old, unoriginal, and generally uninformed. People who don’t respect MLS aren’t going to change their minds by shifting the league to a single table. Promotion/relegation sounds like an awesome idea for the start of the 2033 season. Right now, the money isn’t there for it, and there isn’t a second division. Improving the quality sounds like a good idea. Good thing MLS has spent time and money on this for the past decade, and is slowly getting better at this.

    Please read something before wasting people’s times with rehashed BS.

  36. Bob Brown says:

    MLS has been consistenly on the rise, and the league has done a very good job of continuing this steady trend. One sub-par MLS Cup rating is not a reason to make drastic changes to the formula. The problem w/ this final was ESPN, who had a different priority w/ all internal eyes on a huge college football weekend. The good thing about this is the MLS has found the right partner in NBCSports Network. NBC is investing in the sport, and national ratings will continue to rise.

    That said, promotion/relegation is a great idea for the sport, and I hope we get there someday. But, it’s too soon. And because of that, a single table league won’t work either. The reason people love EPL at the end of the year is because every team still has something to play for. Promotion/relegation and a single table format go hand in hand, you can’t have one w/o the other. I believe soccer will get there one day in the MLS, but it is probably about 10 years off.

    • Tijuana Robert says:

      Try 10 years in a row of sub 1.0 rating. Nice try but you failed.

      • Charles says:

        Why do I see you in 50 years saying MLS ratings are subpar ?

        Why would I care ? It is on TV.

        ps. Bob Brown failed, how ?

    • Dude says:

      Promotion/relegation has nothing to do with continuous poor ratings. MLS is boring to watch. Change the style of play. There’s still too much hacking going on and very little skill.

  37. StellaWasAlwaysDown says:

    I agree with your 3 big reasons and hope they come to fruition, but this is the case of chicken or the egg coming first.

    If we put aside the playoffs for the moment (it’s an easy fix if they WANT to change it), then we have the next two issues.

    Relegation needs to happen but quality needs to improve first. Just think that if the MLS is marginal at best, then how would the quality be in a lower league(s)? I almost think that MLS grew too fast and wasn’t thought out enough. I saw Aston Villa in Chicago this past summer, and the atmosphere felt fake (especially the chanting). The merchandise was horribly over-priced, and the soccer boring. Now it was a friendly, but I would say these are arguably more important than regular MLS matches for the growth of the game. It seems owners saw a chance to get in on the ground floor of another major sport in the U.S. and thought they could run it like the NBA/NFL.

    MLS should stick to what it is right now and take the lead of the NHL. The NHL (labor dispute aside) has grown it slowly and catered to the fans almost more than any other league. They haven’t tried to price out fans and have included meaningful events like outside hockey.

    MLS owners need to realize that soccer won’t be an overnight success even with aging superstars like Beckham. They also need to realize that just because a city is willing to have a team, that it maybe shouldn’t have one. This again is the chicken/egg scenario. If they had a huge influx of teams, then they could create another tier and have relegation.

    No easy answers either way.

  38. Charles says:

    It is very funny that the people that “don’t watch MLS” because they are boycotting it or just don’t care…..

    1) are on the MLS talk website

    2) are obsessed with how many watch, beyond obsessed really, every arguement they bring up is no one will watch, no one does watch, we need to get people watching, they watch in Europe.

    Who cares ? No one does a lot of things that I do. I am quite a bit smarter than them. MLS put out a spectacular season. Many, many games on TV. I enjoyed the heck out of it.

    For those reading Gaffer’s annual ripping on the league and the trolls that it attracts, just realize they are the losers.

    The lost, MLS made it and they are bitter, but again who cares ?

    We have great soccer to watch, in a very good league and no one would have thought that in 1983, even in the mid 2000s it looked dicey.

    A winner watching soccer, Charles

  39. Charles says:

    Steve Goff making Gaffer look like an idiot again.

    The Telefutura broadcast was up 58%.

    Gaffer “forgot” to mention this.

    • The Gaffer says:

      The TeleFutura numbers weren’t available at the time when the article was written, but thanks for sharing the numbers. That’s great news.

      The fact is that MLS TV ratings stink on English-language television and are nowhere near where they should be.

      Cheers,

      The Gaffer

  40. Alex says:

    Finally finally finally! Someone writes with sense ! This is what i and many others been saying this whole time. Its not because Europe has it and we must copy them its because for this sport anyways this is the system that works. American sports operate the way they work because they don’t compete internationally they can do what they want but mls does compete internationally so long as there is a better product else where people won’t give mls the time of day. I won’t say more because the article summed it up well.

  41. Dude says:

    I didn’t watch the MLS final. I just didn’t care but I watched the Mexican final and so did many others.

    http://www.socceramerica.com/article/49496/mls-cup-viewers-jump-on-telefutura-xolos-tv-hit.html

    I don’t know what MLS needs to do to bring more viewers. Personally I still don’t get exited by anyone on MLS. It’s just a boring league.

  42. McGuire says:

    My gawd I cannot get over the sheer stoopidity of this article, a combination of Eurosnobbery at its worst & just plain delusion about the realities of MLS & the NA sports market

    Pro/Rel will not work for soccer in NA anytime soon, it’s not part of the sports culture here. If you relegate a team out of MLS you’re likely relegating it out of existence

    The single table doesn’t work here either given the vast geography that MLS operates within. It’s fine for Europe but wholly impracticaly for MLS

    And as for playoffs, you don’t like them, tough. Like it or not it’s how titles are decided here. Playoffs are important for luring in casual soccer fans who understand the signifigance of them in all other sports. Playoffs will always be a fact of life in MLS deal w/ it.

  43. Hue says:

    Lol, I think its funny all of these people screaming about promotion and relegation being eurosnobbery, where did that word come from anyway? I ONLY watch mls,( well not only, I watch concacaf champions league too) I think its funny that all of these people say promotion and relegation couldn’t work here because no one has ever tried it before. As for a single table not working here, last time I checked, there are only 19 teams. As for the playoffs, just deal with it is a pretty funny statement. Personally, I think San Jose is this years champions, and they surely deserved to be. And even though I’m no fan of the playoffs, I watched the final, even though I hate both teams, I’m a sounders fan, one of the only 3 teams in mls who have a rich and organic fan base, along with portscum, and the whitecaps. Anywho rant over.

  44. Soccer Junkie says:

    Nearly all the reasons trying to explain the .7 rating are wrong:

    1. Most sports ratings are falling … people have too many options and less people are watching tv, period.

    2. MLS Soccer is terrible

    There are MILLIONS of soccer fans in America; but MLS with it’s corporate ‘cautious’ approach to everything does nearly everything right except one GLARING aspect … it forgets the product on the pitch. THE GAMES ARE CRAP. The players can’t connect passes. Let alone build up a play and then get a great shot in. All goals are scored off set pieces.

    We are not ‘Euro Snobs’. We just prefer to watch the Lakers or Heat versus some random college basketball team. MLS is equivalent to some random D3 College Basketball team whereas La Liga is NBA.

    Get rid of salary caps. Throw out the ENTIRE MARKETING STAFF at MLS and SUM United. Stop marketing to HISPANICS with stupid PRIDE BS commercials. Stop getting players from CENTRAL AMERICA thinking you will pull in El Salvadoreans and Mexicans.

    SERIOUSLY, CUT ENTIRE STAFF. EVEN GARBER. GONE. CUT EVERYONE and hire just technical people (schedules, rules, etc.). And by God, LET THE CLUBS bring in the best players in the WORLD.

    Problem Fking solved! MLS for 17 years has tried to trick the true soccer fan. Then they ‘wonder’ why the ratings stink? AGAIN … CUT ALL MARKETING FOLKS. BRING IN THE BEST PLAYERS AHOLES!

    • Bobsted says:

      I read this entire thread and had plenty of thoughts.

      1. Boycotting the MLS I don’t think will lead to anything positive. Worst case MLS folds and we will probably never have anything above NASL/USL-Pro soccer again.

      2. To compare ratings of the EPL to MLS is a little unfair. It is like comparing SEC football rating to Sun Belt Conference football ratings. MLS quality of teams is closer to Championship.

      3. As for the Japan comment. The J-league evolved from amateur soccer. There were a lot of amateur teams all on the same level. From this they drew a top level league and had promotion and relegation from the beginning. Here we created a league from nothing. Probably the only way we will ever have pro/rel is if another league pays a huge franchise fee to become mls2.

  45. Soccer Junkie says:

    MLS needs to get off their STUPID HIGH HORSE. NO ONE WANTS TO WATCH your crap on a national level. YES – me a DC United fan will watch our team play against Barcelona or MAYAGUEZ of the 7th Division in Nicaragua. WE are fans we don’t care. We cheer.

    But nationally? Please.

    The level of play is atrocious. And two channels away there is something ten times better. You want a fat chick or the hot blonde standing 3 feet away at the bar? MLS wake up morons.

    Thus – FIRE EVERYONE – that works in marketing an hire much better players OR understand that you have a ton of GREAT LOCAL EVENTS … with LOCAL TELEVISION .. but nationally you are dog crap.

  46. Dan says:

    Yes, the ratings were bad; but the ratings on the spanish channel that televised the final was about double that if I remember correctly. I live in L.A. which is obviously a huge latino population. Unfortunately, a great number of fans don’t watch MLS despite those good ratings for the final on Galavision or was it Telefutura. Marketing needs to have a bigger target audience. How you do that, I’m not sure. But big name players that the fans can identify with will help. Not all MLS cities have long relationships with their teams, like Seattle, Portland or the Whitecaps. So again having players that the fans can identify with helps; not necessary but helps. Chivas USA drops the ball, because they alienate other latins and Mexican soccer fans who hate Chivas Guadalajara. Overall we continue to compete with the NFL, move the final to the Friday night after Thanksgiving (very few sporting events on tv). I would hope XMAS shopping on Friday night would not trump a soccer final in any league.

    • DandyFMBombay says:

      Wanker, Gaffer, or whatever you call yourself.This is the USA, and in this country there will never be relegation. Stop wasting bits with this non-sense. There’s nothing wrong with playoffs as long as those games are worth watching. In MLS there’s little individual skill. It’s a boring league, which means that I would rather watch euro soccer in the morning and Mexican in the Evening.

  47. Soccer Junkie says:

    Its not the marketing … soccer fans don’t need to be marketed to. We used to huddle up at bars paying $15 each to watch World Cup qualifiers. What we need is quality. You can market a comedian in a billion ways … but he isn’t funny he won’t last.

    MLS will remain a jerk-off league instead of the real fking thing with their cheap ass conservative slow growth mentality waiting for an American star to save them.

    Good luck GARBER!

  48. Douglas Hines says:

    This person clearly has no connection to American culture. I think this is indicated by the constant reference to America as “North America”, but whatever.

    I also thought it was interesting that the writer missed what I think to be the biggest problem with the MLS . . . the poor quality in reffing. No matter how great the talent on the field, if you have refs that constantly blow calls, the product comes out bad.

    Additionally, though the MLS has made great strides in removing the American football lines, they still have several stadiums on artificial turf. For American football this is fine, but for soccer it just doesn’t work.

    Lastly, until the MLS takes the training wheels off and makes the cap more business friendly . . . we will never grow. The cap should operate with a minimum floor for spending and a max that is dictated by revenue less expenses. Say, any club can not exceed a 25% loss against Revenues, etc.

    Make those changes and the league would do much better. I fail to see how eliminating playoffs and implementing relegation would do anything other than hurt investment in the game. Who is going to build a stadium where they have no idea for long term tv revenue streams?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Douglas, it’s “North America” because there are Canadian teams in the league.

      I agree about the poor reffing. But MLS, to be fair, have made changes to improve it.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Charles says:

      You say that MLS will never grow.

      So you mean that it will stop growing ? When ? Right now as you type the words.

      The TV contract was the biggest ever, the number of teams was the highest after adding 7 teams recently, quality of the league the best ever, the average attendance was the highest ever, the lowest end of attendance was the highest ever also, investment in the league…..

      ….well I could go on and on, but why? It just ended.

      • Douglas Hines says:

        Fair enough, should have qualified my statement to say “will never grow to its true potential”. I think you are mischaracterizing me, as I am a 8 year season ticket holder for the Galaxy and a fan since 96. It is just frustrating to see the constant references to NASL as to why the MLS needs tight controls.

        Keep in mind the only reason the MLS established an ESPN contract and the great deal they have with NBC is because they opened the purse strings. You have to spend money to make money.

        • Charles says:

          I am not mischaracterizing anyone just going on words….we all have our opinions and I don’t take you as one of the closed mind trolls that try to put others down…..that is cool you have been there since the start….I have been around US soccer since the mid 70s and I am too old to have a league fold again, it ripped my heart out in 1983, so I tend to be on the safe side. I thought they should have raised the salary cap more when they bargained and would rather see 20 teams spending $5 million than 15 spending $3 and 5 spending $55, but everyone is entitled to their opinion and if MLS teams start recooping lost money they surely will be smart enough to spend to get. There is already huge rumors that they are going to allow more money for US superstars..which is very smart in my opinion.

  49. DCUDiplomat96 says:

    the reason the MLS regular season and the Championship game(MLS Cup) ratings are so low, is not because of Relegation?! LOL no. Its because they one scheduled the MLS Cup at the same time as the SEC Championship game(TV Ratings suicide), They lack marketing to a mass audience(TV commercials, endorsing the top players etc.) MLS isnt trying to be a American Based Sports league, but more wanting to be a european based on.

  50. NC says:

    I know I’m late to the party here. I’ll preface my comment by saying in the world of sports I truly care about soccer (domestic and foreign leagues) Major League Baseball, and College Football. That is it. No NFL for me. No NBA. No NHL. I didn’t watch the LA/Houston game because of the SEC Championship game. It is that simple. When you schedule your title game against one of the best brands in tackle football you are not going to do well in ratings.

    • Charles says:

      We should have everyone preface their comments.

      Gaffer : I want the league to fold, so these are cherry picked stats to make you think you are an idiot for watching MLS.

      Trolls : I don’t watch MLS, but you should want to attend games in January.

      • Nc says:

        I have no problem with the Mel’s schedule. They just chose the absolute worst time slot that weekend to play their game. Any time Sunday, Saturday noon or Saturday night would have been better than going against bama uga

  51. Charles says:

    Gaffer:

    What was the rating for the Championship of the EPL on Sunday ?

    It looks like it was lower than a 0.3 ( where Nielsen cuts off ) ?

    Wow, you sure about this single table, no playoff stuff ?

    If I am right that looks like an absolute fiasco.

    • Charles says:

      Come one Gaffer, it is a rainy Dec in Seattle, not even crickets will hide the silence. ;-)

    • The Gaffer says:

      What’s your source for the lower than 0.3 rating? As far as I know, FOX Soccer hasn’t revealed the numbers.

      BTW, it’s not a “Championship.” It’s a league game.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Charles says:

        THAT is exactly correct.

        They are all league games. Very boring, but in a two team league which it is now, they play a home and away and it will decide it. I think it already has been decided, maybe you think Man City has a shot still.

        Either way it is a travesty for getting people to care/watch. Some idiot will now post that they still have a lot of people watching, like they never realized there could be/should be more. I wonder if they really don’t realize ?

        • The Gaffer says:

          You didn’t answer my question regarding the source for you claiming that the Manchester derby had less than a 0.3 rating on TV. Where are the facts?

          I don’t believe United will win the title. Both teams have 12 games remaining where every game and every point matters.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Charles says:

            I looked on Nielsen and it went down to 0.3 for the day, it wasn’t listed.

            Every game matters is the biggest joke in soccer. It is down to 2 teams and the playoff spots still open to a handful.

          • The Gaffer says:

            Try telling that to the millions of Americans who were hooked watching the final day of last season’s Premier League gameweek 38 where it went down to the final few seconds.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

          • Charles says:

            It was down to two teams then too, no ? Are you trying to prove my point ?

            History repeats, big surprise the same two teams and none of the other games matter, outside of a handle of teams hoping for a Euro playoff spot.

  52. The original Tom says:

    Charles, you call it the Championship (I’m guessing you got that from network promos, I’m guessing they said that), but we all know it really isn’t. If City had won, they would have been tied on points. Of course, Man U won and now have a 6 point lead, which is not insurmountable. Plus, as you’ve said before, the Champions’ League is the european play-offs, and two of spots are still up for grabs amoung several teams. I don’t think you get anywhere bashing other soccer leagues in the world- and I say that as someone who agrees with you that MLS should have play-offs.

    • The original Tom says:

      Not to mention it was a good game.

    • Charles says:

      Ok, 1/2 of the championship, which became the championship.

      Not bashing other soccer leagues. I actually watched. Just saying that running a league where the championship is decided between two teams in Dec when the league runs to June might be a little stupid financially. Might, lol, might.

      I feel like Lucy pulling the ball from Charlie, maybe Linus promising the Great Pumpkin.

      • The original Tom says:

        Charles, it wasn’t even a half championship. And regarding your other comment the last week of the season, every league comes down to two teams at some point, even the MLS, I don’t get your point. I like the MLS, but the final weekend of last season did not have any meaningful games- all playoff spots had been determined, and the Supporters Shield had as well.

        • Charles says:

          You can’t compare MLS’s every game matters compared to the English league. That is insane.

          Sorry that last game was lacking.

          Third place in the EPL is 10 points back.

          It IS 1/2 of the championship, we will just have to disagree. Or we could put a billion dollars on it. I will take the two Man U teams, you take all 15,000 other teams.

          To your comment below about the Club World Cup and people not caring. Was there any doubt that those two teams would be standing ? No. That has to play with peoples interest. Are people going to watch a game where a team has a 1 in 100 chance of winning ? Not unless they care a ton about that team.

          Same thing with the EPL, that league could be crushing ($$$$) if it were a real league rather than an already known outcome.

  53. The original Tom says:

    I’m interested to know if many of you are aware that the World Club Cup is going on this week. I’ve not taken the chance to watch any of it, but I am looking forward to tonight’s (tomorrow morning’s) semi-final (recording it) between Chelsea and Monterrey. Who do you root for? Is there such a thing as CONCACAF solidarity? As for me, I hate Chelsea and don’t like Rafa, and I like tend to like Mexican clubs, so, go Monterrey!

    By the way, it is on FOX Soccer.

    • Charles says:

      Unfortunately it is on Fox Soccer.

      I am hoping they replay it on Root later in the day. I couldn’t care less one way or the other about Chelsea. For their salary range, they look abissmal.

      Definitely rooting for Monterrey, under dogs, seen them play the Sounders twice ( in real games, seen Chelsea too, but exhibition ) great, great games…plus Sounders beat them in Mexico last CCL.

      Monterrey lost Souza however so it is not looking good.

  54. Charles says:

    The OT,

    Buddle to the Rapids, while Casey goes to the Union.

  55. Soccer Junkie says:

    MLS is like watching white people dance … they have all the right clothes, smile, but look stupid …

  56. Tim says:

    I think all you pro/rel and single table bots need to get a clue. Outside of the top teams in the EPL what is a fan going to root for in the last few months of the seasonw hen they know their team has not shot of winning? MLS and soccer fans in general in this country will not show up to games in August whith nothing to play for. PLayoffs are exciting and it gives temas fans hope. Antother item is that people dont watch EPL because it has pro/rel they do that because the quailty is better. If you dont like the way its done here move out of your paretns basement and to Europe where its “proper”!

  57. Tim says:

    Seriously the fact you people really believe that people dont watch MLS because of pro/rel and playoffs is a joke and almost absurd. I guess most of you will not get watching MLS for a while because pro/rel is not happening anytime soon.

    • Charles says:

      “Is there a path for MLS to move out of single entity”

      Roth ( owner of the Sounders): “No chance”.

      >>Pro/rel is NEVER going to happen, anyone that thinks differently is just not that smart.

  58. Ed says:

    As much as I want MLS to succeed, I think we’re forgetting one thing here. Leagues exist not only for our entertainment but also to develop players through the ranks for the future to play in the national teams. Having more teams in the US in different levels would broaden the game’s reach in this country and allow for more creation of youth teams for player development. This is why our national team is behind! I do agree that we are not close to promotion/relegation but we should not be close minded toward the idea for the sake of youth development throughout the country. That being said, player development is a concern of the English FA right now. As we all know the EPL is the biggest league in the world but EPL’s biggest teams are loaded with foreign players and two or maybe three english players. Young English players don’t have the same chance they had before because foreigners from Brazil or Spain would be bought for big bucks and just fill the roster which MLS should stay away from. But the FA relies heavily on their four tier leagues for player development and it’s worked out okay for them since England is still ranked in top 10 in FIFA’s World Ranking and they are still pushing some young stars out there. US Soccer should learn from this! Look how hot Mexico is right now and they have different tiers full with pro teams with youth teams. As far as profitability, what’s more profitable for teams than to develop their own players and potentially sell them for big bucks down the road. Teams in Europe would pay $35 million a transfer fee for one unproven player from Brazil these days! Money like that would come back to teams, for teams to hire better coaches, upgrade facilities and develop more players. I think MLS ratings would also go up if the national team performs better. Let’s think about the main goal here gents, this country is too big for us not to produce more quality players!!!

    • Charles says:

      Dude you just used FIFA rankings to support your arguement ? Come on.

      I hear what you are saying, but really it boils down to money. It is always about the money. If fans and money continue to come to MLS then more quality will follow, if not, we might wallow.

      Pro/rel takes away from money in a HUGE way.

      Which makes more money, 40 teams in first division or 20 teams in the majors with 20 in the minors ?

      NO question. ZERO question. Look at Newcastle attendance when they moved down to the minor league.

      Euro league have to have Pro/Rel their bottom teams stink compare to the top teams. Not so here. We are golden.

  59. raible says:

    In order to get around FIFA, build the game in the states, add more teams and improve rivalries and intensities, I think it wise that MLS look at having a true East and West league set up similar to that of baseball’s “leagues” before inter-league play. That would cut down costs on travel, boost interest in rivalries and more importantly allow the “League” to grow to 40 teams. Then you can have a meaningful “Super Bowl” like cup final of the champions of the regular season in each league. It’s a little strange at first, but you would get more opposing fans traveling and I think really create something unique, interesting and competitive. The elimination of 5 hour flights certainly would not get vetoed by the players. And to watch teams from other the other league, you would have to watch on TV.

    • The original Tom says:

      Shame if you live in the middle, and you never play one of your nearest neighbors (Colorado – KC), or your a season ticket holder and never get to see a star player (Donovan in the east, Henry in the west). I assume these are amoung the reasons they ended it in baseball too.

  60. CoconutMonkey says:

    Promotion and Relegation? Seriously?

    I’d put more stock in the fact that it was a 4:30 kick-off on a Saturday.

    Unless your club is in it, a casual soccer/MLS fan isn’t about to give up their Saturday afternoon just to watch the final.

    • The original Tom says:

      Perhaps, but one advantage to an afternoon final is the weather is better. Remember, nobody knew the final would be in LA.

  61. Jeremy says:

    Its interesting that viewership for MLS games spikes in the middle of the season and is low at the beginning and the end of the season. In other pro sports, opening day is pretty huge, as are the playoffs. I show this in a graph:

    http://thesoccerist.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-breakdown-of-tv-viewership-worse-than.html

  62. john says:

    MLS will never break TV ratings till USMNT have world class star players.

    MLS needs to develop better players, and need to work alongside and help improve school and college systems.

    MLS season and Cup should climax in July, when no other major sports apart from baseball are on. In WC years have cup 2 weeks before WC starts. Season would take 1 month break in summer and 2month winter break.

    With the inclusion of more warm weather southern and western teams plus indoor stads in montreal/toronto winter weather scheduling wouldn’t be a problem.

    I think MLS should expand to 30 or more teams, and have 4 or 5 team mini divisions like NFL, therefore building better rivalries. Plus finishing bottom of 4 doesn’t feel as bad as bottom of 10.

    30 or more teams would mean at least an increase in potential TV viewers and make playoffs more relevant.

  63. Chris S says:

    Pretty simple. Who cares about Utah vs. Kansas City? Only the few thousands that live there. It’s like getting a Spokane vs. Newark final. Snore.

    LA – NY, Seattle – Chicago, Portland making it for the first time. National interest is only piqued by teams that the nation cares about. Sorry, no one cares if KC or RLS win the Cup.

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