The 2017 MLS Cup final between Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders averaged 1.1 million viewers across ESPN, UniMas and Univision Deportes combined, which is a 43% drop compared to last year’s final.
On the English-language ESPN broadcast, the match averaged 803,000 viewers. Meanwhile, the game averaged 304,000 viewers on UniMas and Univision Deportes.
In isolation, the 1,143,000 viewing number is understandable given the competition for eyeballs as many sports fans were watching a college football game instead. Plus this year’s final was not on network television like it was last year when the game was on the FOX over-the-air network.
However in comparison to last year’s MLS Cup final, the numbers were disappointing. The 2016 MLS Cup final on the FOX network was watched by 1.4 million viewers, while the Spanish-language broadcasts on Univision averaged 601,000 viewers for a combined total of 2,012,000 viewers.
The 2017 MLS Cup final ended a very difficult year for Major League Soccer. In addition to the Columbus Crew controversy that continues to drag on, MLS has also been impacted by the US Men’s National Team crashing out of World Cup qualifying with a coach and team littered with MLS professionals. At the same time, MLS has also been involved in a messy legal dispute after the NASL filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation. Last but not least, MLS executives must be concerned about who will become the next president of the US Soccer Federation and whether they’ll lose control with a new leader who may want to disassemble the USSF-MLS-SUM business relationship.