For the 2016 regular season, Major League Soccer averaged 276,689 viewers per game based on ratings research gathered by Sports TV Ratings and World Soccer Talk.
In total, the viewing averages across FOX Sports, ESPN and Univision saw dramatic increases in viewing numbers during the 2016 regular season:
• ESPN’s viewing audience for MLS games increased 25% based on an average of 307,845 viewers per game (combining ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes) compared to 244,970 in 2015,
• FOX Sports’ average viewing audience for MLS grew by 37% to an average of 270,258 viewers per game (combining FOX, FOX Sports 1 and FOX Deportes) compared to 196,545 in 2015,
• Univision’s average viewing audience grew by 1.29% to an average of 247,148 in 2016 (combining Univision, Univision Deportes and UniMas) compared to 2015’s average of 244,000 viewers per game.
MLS definitely benefitted from ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision making a conscious effort to feature MLS games more prominently. FOX Sports aired MLS games on its FOX broadcast network for the first time ever this season. So did Univision. Plus, ESPN featured almost every single MLS game on its flagship network instead of ESPN2 where MLS games were prominently featured in previous years.
On top of that, ESPN scheduled five games for time slots adjacent to its mid-summer coverage of Euro 2016, which helped give MLS games a slight bump in viewing figures during June and early July. Plus, FOX Sports heavily promoted MLS during the Copa America Centenario coverage.
While the 276,689 average for MLS this season is an increase from last year, the league still has a long way to go. MLS is the third most-watched soccer league on TV in its own country. In comparison, the English Premier League averaged 514,000 on NBC Sports during the 2015/16 season.