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MLS Cup 2013 Down 44% In Viewership; Sets Record As Least-Viewed MLS Cup Ever

don garber MLS Cup 2013 Down 44% In Viewership; Sets Record As Least Viewed MLS Cup Ever

Saturday’s live broadcast of the 2013 MLS Cup on ESPN had an average viewing audience of 505,000, which is the least-viewed MLS Cup ever on English-language television.

The previous record low was the 748,000 viewers who watched the 2010 MLS Cup between Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas. That game had a 0.44 TV rating, but the viewing audience was greater than the 2013 MLS Cup due to the 2010 game being shown at night instead of the 4pm ET broadcast between Sporting KC-Real Salt Lake.

The 2012 MLS Cup between between LA Galaxy and Houston Dynamo had a 0.7 TV rating and was viewed by an average of 797,000 people. The 2013 MLS Cup viewership was down 44% from 2012.

The disappointing 505,000 viewing audience figure for the Sporting Kansas City against Real Salt Lake game follows the 29% decline in regular season MLS TV ratings on ESPN compared to last year, as well as a 8% decline on NBCSN.

The 505,000 number is the same as the viewing audience for a repeat of Everybody Loves Raymond, which was shown on TBS at the same time as the second half of the 2013 MLS Cup. In contrast, 514,000 viewers watched MLS Cup 2013 on UniMas.

In comparison to Premier League matches, the 505,000 people who watched MLS Cup 2013 was fewer than the 507,000 who watched Chelsea-Southampton on Sunday, December 1 at 11am ET on NBCSN but slightly greater than the 499,000 viewers who watched Arsenal versus Everton (played on Sunday at 11am ET on NBCSN).

Read: Why Major League Soccer Has Bigger Issues Than Just Poor TV Ratings

TV ratings for MLS’s premier game, MLS Cup, from 1996 to 2013 are:

0.5 2013: *Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake (ESPN)
0.7 2012: Los Angeles-Houston (ESPN)
0.8 2011: Los Angeles-Houston (ESPN)
0.4 2010: Colorado-FC Dallas (ESPN)
0.8 2009: Real Salt Lake-Los Angeles (ESPN)
0.6 2008: Columbus-New York (ABC)
0.8 2007: Houston-New England (ABC)
0.8 2006: Houston-New England (ABC)
0.8 2005: Los Angeles-New England (ABC)
0.8 2004: D.C. United-Kansas City (ABC)
0.6 2003: San Jose-Chicago (ABC)
0.8 2002: Los Angeles-New England (ABC)
1.0 2001: San Jose-Los Angeles (ABC)
0.7 2000: Kansas City-Chicago (ABC)
0.7 1999: D.C. United-Los Angeles (ABC)
1.0 1998: Chicago-D.C. United (ABC)
1.4 1997: D.C. United-Colorado (ABC)
1.4 1996: D.C. United-Los Angeles (ABC)

*Overnight rating.

The last time a MLS Cup had a TV rating of 1.0 was in 2001.

This entry was posted in ESPN, Leagues: Major League Soccer, MLS Cup. 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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69 Responses to MLS Cup 2013 Down 44% In Viewership; Sets Record As Least-Viewed MLS Cup Ever

  1. Eddie says:

    Promotion/Relegation … blah, blah, blah.

    Am I doing it right?

  2. Evan says:

    The spacing between all of the play off games was a complete disaster. We had to wait 2 weeks for the final, without anything in between.

    Honestly I just lost interest in MLS. It was incredibly hard to even feel remotely excited for this year’s final.

    • Dave says:

      And you had to wait 2 weeks for last year’s Super Bowl and it drew more than 90 million viewers. Excuses, excuses..

      • Total Relegation says:

        Stop bringing up the NFL. This is soccer.

      • Evan says:

        I might be going out on limb here, but the Super Bowl is slightly different the the MLS Cup….

        • Dave says:

          It doesn’t matter what the spacing is between playoff games or when the game is shown or what competition it is going up against. You either draw viewers or you don’t. MLS just doesn’t and it is time to stop with the lame excuses.

          • Total Relegation says:

            I’m a soccer fan and not a football fan. We need to stop assuming all sports fans are under the same umbrella. MLS needs to focus on getting soccer fans to watch the league and not sports fans flipping between SEC and other sports leagues.

          • CTBlues says:

            I’m a soccer fan and a football fan and I would rather watch “armature” football over “professional” American soccer. The only way MLS will get the viewers thus TV money is if it has thee players and to get thee players it needs to open up the checkbook.

          • Mark Williamson says:

            Dave, it is really not that simple. The NFL is established as a sport, the MLS is still trying to grow. With the right leadership it will continue to do so. With the status quo the MLS will continue to be just a regional sport.

      • rik says:

        It’s not simply the two weeks between the conference finals and the cup – that’s to be expected. It was the ridiculous playoff schedule to accommodate the national team call-ups. Between the first match of the playooffs, and the final whistle of the cup, 38 days had passed! If you’ve got no dog in the hunt, that’s enough to make you lose interest.

      • Mark Williamson says:

        Dave, American Football is not the one trying to grow viewership here. It has been around for a long time. Football, “soccer,” is a fledgling sport in this country, so you can’t compare the two. By the way, the fact that ESPN had a record viewing for the draw this past weekend tells me it is on its way to growing in the U.S.

    • PhillySpur says:

      I completely forgot about the match. The scheduling for the playoffs was ridiculous. The TV schedule for the regular season is also a mess. You never know when the games are going to be on. They need some consistency.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      Yes, you are absolutely right. The MLS should not think that the time duration of two weeks is going to help build excitement for this “Grand Gala Event”.

      I am not sure who is running the show for television exposure, but they need to be sacked. I, as a man off the street, could do a better job at selling this sport.

  3. Total Relegation says:

    It is time for Garber to go.

  4. Taylor says:

    Not a smart idea putting the game against the SEC Championship

  5. AdamEdg says:

    The league needs to fix the post season schedule. It really seemed to drag on this year and that long gap between games did not help at all. Going to an NFL-style one game for each round would be the easiest solution. The higher seed hosts and the winner advances. Simple. Clean. Easy.
    Also, the game has to be on a different day. Putting against the various NCAA football conference championships (especially the SEC and B1G) is not much better than putting it against the NCAA Championship or SuperBowl. The league needs to find a date that is not already crammed with “event” games and claim it. Why not the Saturday or Sunday after Thanksgiving? The NCAA plays its key games on Black Friday and the NFL has the holiday itself as marquee dates, why not try the long weekend? The weekend before Thanksgiving could be even better, depending on the international calendar.
    Let’s not even talk about the potential for shitty weather (like this year) in most markets by having the game in December…
    The real shame is that this was one of the best MLS Cups games in recent memory.

    • Total Relegation says:

      The game also has to be on a different day of Everybody Loves Raymond re-runs.

    • Dave says:

      Well this year’s MLS Cup was a one-off game hosted by the higher-seeded team. Simple. Clean. Easy. And it drew 505k viewers. Another lame excuse.

      Also, MLS fans need to stop whining about their games going up against other major sports on TV. Game 4 of this year’s World Series drew 16 million viewers competing directly against Sunday Night Football. You either draw viewers or you don’t. MLS simply doesn’t.

      • AdamEdg says:

        I was talking about the entire playoff system. Instead of dragging everything out with home-home series, just move to one and done.
        Going up against a single Sunday Night Football game is nothing compared to every single NCAA conference championship game.
        I watched the damn game and I’m not making excuses. I’m pointing out the league’s stupidity in scheduling against so many big football games.
        Of course I watched the game on DVR because it was on a Saturday afternoon in December and I had a toddler to take to Santa. Prime time on a Sunday? Yeah, probably would’ve caught it live.

      • Mark Williamson says:

        Dave have read your replys and think that you are not playing devil’s advocate, you are just not a fan of the sport..period.

    • paul says:

      Alzo having mls cup on 2 diferent Network doesn’t help espn for total viewarship, it should be only 1 network espn or nice period.

    • CTBlues says:

      The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving are when most of the big rivalry games in college football happen.

  6. Ivan says:

    Product on the field is mediocre at best. Bringing new “franchises” into the league, with all the fanfare surrounding those announcements isn’t going to help the overall quality of play.

    Also, scheduling the MLS Cup final on the day of all conference college football finals is beyond shortsighted. Is Garber that stupid?

    And, yes, promotion/relegation bla-h bla-h, but how do you convince someone from a town without an MLS team to ever follow a subpar league with no chance of his hometown ever getting into the league?

    No disrespect for Garber, I know he gets a fat paycheck and noone would willingly run away from money, but if I am running a league with lower TV ratings than the WNBA, I would call it a day.

    Why don’t they allow a true football person run the league going forward for a change?

    • Andy says:

      until they implement promotion/relegation or at least announce a date (its coming in 2018 for instance) most soccer fans in this country will ignore the league.

      Like you said, its impossible to get someone living outside of an MLS city to care about MLS.

    • Kevin Villegas says:

      Don Garber is the NFL’s hand-picked choice.

  7. goatslookshifty says:

    MLS will ever be a huge TV market in the world. Hate to bring up a “blah blah blah” moment but there is so many better options to watch football on the TV nowadays. I imagine very few NFL fans watch the Canadian Football League and NBA fans watch the WNBA (is that still around?)
    MLS might be enjoyable to watch live in the venues but most footy supporters just weren’t going to bother watching a MLS match after seven EPL games that day.

    • Andy says:

      WNBA is still around and it gets better TV ratings than MLS. lol

    • David says:

      Actually, in Canada, the CFL gets massive TV ratings. On par with that of the NHL and legitimately far more than the NFL. The MLS in Canada is a footnote. Nobody pays attention to the TFC and the CFL’s Argonauts will soon be moving into BMO field and completely rebuilding it to support the larger Argos. In the US on MSNBC Sports, the CFL gets better TV ratings than MLS.

  8. Pakapala says:

    You would think MLS and ESPN would get the hint that the game should be on ABC, to draw some semblance of ratings.

    • Dave says:

      It doesn’t matter whether MLS Cup is shown on network television or not. The ratings would be abysmal regardless.

      • Pakapala says:

        If it was shown on ABC the ratings would have been better. It’s been proven in the past and certainly wouldn’t be different this time around. I am not saying MLS would break records but just stating a fact.

  9. nickp91 says:

    combining the ESPN and UniMas numbers for a total of over 1 million viewers

    • Dave says:

      Doesn’t change the fact that English-speaking Americans couldn’t care less about this year’s MLS Cup.

      • Josh says:

        Dave I take it you’ve really *nothing* else to do with your evening than troll people who like soccer in the US?

      • joe says:

        Exactly they are too busy speaking in fake british accents to their friends in the “pub” about “proper” “football”. Every country has a few hipsters and the US has a lot(see this website). I guess most people forget that soccer in this country is still considered a joke to many people weather it EPL or MLS. Regardless, the game will never go anywhere in this country with the snobbery that exists.

        • Mark Williamson says:

          Give me the names of the people that took that poll for you, Joe.

          • Joe says:

            You really need a poll for that? Hell almost every person that i come across and I explan to them that I am a soccer fan laughes at me. Soccer fans live in a bubble and regardless what you think the sport of soccer weather it be EPL, La liga or anything is not even a factor in the sports landscape here period! So yes MLS has a long way to go but so does the sport in general.

  10. John says:

    I wanted to watch. Forgot about it. I have seen or tried to watch a couple MLS games and.. its just really hard for me to watch. I still am willing to give it a chance if I could just find a game when its on and being shown.

  11. paul says:

    I’ll say again nuts crazy just one network period.for MLS cup.

  12. Flyvanescence says:

    Translation: no one cares about Mediocre League Soccer.

  13. rory says:

    Those number make for tough reading. I’d like the league to succeed. The teams are well supported bar Chivas, but they lack the national appeal that the pro&college gridiron teams have – The NFL can trot out Tampa Bay vs Buffalo on national TV and still score a big number, but MLS was pretty much doomed ratings-wise when it landed KC/Utah for it’s big game

  14. Chris Martin says:

    Be interesting to see the stats for the Kansas City viewing area. The game ended up going up against the Missouri vs Auburn game. So quite a few people in the area who could have watched it where watching the football game. In some homes it would be as bad as putting it up against the SuperBowl. So your prime view area had a bigger game on TV at the same time. I was flipping between games.

    • Dave says:

      Locally, MLS Cup got outdrawn by both the SEC Championship game AND Kansas basketball on ESPN2.

      • Chris Martin says:

        I am not sure you could have picked a worse day to have the game. Other than the Super Bowl, Kansas basketball and the SEC Championship with Missouri in it. They lost most of their local audience right there.

  15. Joe says:

    The headline is incorrect, unless you’re a racist.

  16. Dean Stell says:

    The league will be fine someday. They just aren’t a national TV product yet…..and they may never be. Most of the soccer in the world probably isn’t interesting to anyone outside of the towns where the clubs actually play.

    MLS just needs to focus on building these teams at the local level and I think they’re doing a FINE job of that. Where MLS screws up is when they try to put their games on TV right next to EPL/La Liga/etc. because anyone with eyeballs can see that the quality is not there. Just focus on the LIVE experience. LIVE soccer is awesome.

    I’m not sure if MLS can ever jump to the quality of the big European leagues, but that’s fine. Why do we care? We can always watch those great leagues on TV. We can always go to our local games. MLS teams would almost never play European teams anyway, so who really cares if the LA Galaxy is worse than Sunderland? Just enjoy your local team, buy season tickets, listen to them on the radio, take a friend to the game, encourage your local paper to cover the games more……

    Just stop pretending the MLS is a relevant TV property because it isn’t.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      Dean, somewhat agree with what you are saying. However I have noticed an improvement in the quality of the game just over the last 5 years. But you still have to promote the game properly and in my eyes the MLS is doing an absolute lousy job.

  17. Smokey Bacon says:

    Garber’s strategy seems to be adding teams until it’s impossible to ignore MLS. The problems have been well documented on here but Garber’s is not listening. Instead he seems to be ok with scheduling the final against college football in November. NBC seems to have lost interest. They barely mentioned the final over the weekend. Give it to Fox. MLS would be a perfect fit for their style of coverage.

  18. Ron Blevins says:

    I didn’t even know that the MLS Cup was on, even though any team that gets to a championship deserves it, no one outside KC/Salt Lake cared, the SEC championship was on, and so was the Big 10, Pac 12, the bars didn’t have the Cup game on and/or didn’t want to put it on.

  19. Andy says:

    no on wants to watch parity league soccer.

  20. Andy says:

    isn’t it obvious that traditional soccer fans are ignoring MLS because they don’t want to support a league that thinks it should copy the NFL’s structure?

    there’s a boycott going on. It may not be organized. Instead its just, “meh…MLS? Do they still have multiple divisions, playoffs? wildcards,no free agency and drafts?” No thanks then.

    • Clampdown says:

      Andy, I’m glad you know who the “traditional soccer fans” are. I’m in my mid-40s and have been watching the sport since I was a kid. I watch leagues all over the world including MLS. So, while there may be some of you who can’t get beyond a single issue you have with the league, I’m content to support what we’ve got.

  21. joe says: blah blah blah??? Sounds fitting

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