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MLS reveals strategic plan to improve TV ratings in US

In an interview with Sports Business Daily last week, MLS executives revealed their plan to improve lagging TV ratings.

The plan includes:

1. Putting cameras in the locker rooms before the game,

2. Allowing access to team huddles,

3. Putting microphones on coaches during games, and

4. Increasing the number of media “car wash” tours.

While the changes are welcome, they will do nothing to improve MLS TV ratings. The reason why soccer fans are not watching MLS isn’t because of a lack of locker room access. Nor is it because the coaches aren’t mic’d. It’s because the league structure is fundamentally flawed. What’s the point of watching an 8-month regular season when 54% of the teams qualify for the playoffs? What’s the incentive for the viewer to watch these broadcasts? Plus why are the biggest games of the season scheduled at the same time as NFL games in the fall? These are just a couple of the issues that severely limit MLS TV ratings, but neither of them have been addressed in MLS’ new initiatives to improve their numbers.

The changes seem to be implemented only to placate the TV rights holders at ESPN, FOX and Univision. It’s a way for MLS to say “Look at us and all of the changes we’re making for you.” While the changes will keep the broadcasters happy for a short period, they will do nothing to resolve the issues why US soccer fans in their millions are choosing to watch other leagues instead.

According to the Sports Business Daily article, it took MLS stakeholders “more than 18 months” of research, meetings and discussions to come up with the plan. The fact that it took that long to make just four changes that won’t move the needle is a bad a look for Major League Soccer. Plus, the article mentions that the discussions started in the summer of 2015, which shows how the league is moving at a snail’s pace.

SEE MORE: Most-watched soccer games on US TV for April 25-30, 2017

Is it that MLS is working inside a bubble where they don’t know how to fix the MLS TV ratings problem? Or are they too stubborn to make any wholesale changes because they’re so focused on adding expansion teams and signing new sponsors? Or do they, like FOX, believe that the NFL is the “gold template” for TV coverage in the United States and they can’t understand why the MLS viewing numbers continue to be underwhelming?

The irony of the MLS TV ratings problem is that the actual coverage of the league by FOX, ESPN and Univision has been the best the league has ever seen. All three broadcasters are doing a stellar job at bringing the games into the homes across the United States. But viewers don’t have enough reasons why they should watch games on national television that don’t involve their local team.

TV isn’t the problem. The way MLS is structured is.

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57 Comments

57 Comments

  1. Oliver Tse

    May 22, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    In case you missed it over the weekend, another “small” club in Mexico, Lobos BUAP of Puebla, has won the Serie de Ascenso promotion series to earn an operating license to play in Liga MX starting this July.

    Whether Lobos BUAP will actually play in Liga MX is another matter.

    As some of you may recall, Lobos BUAP is actually the old Puebla, a club which was relegated from the first division in May 1999

    After the 1999 Clausura season, the old Puebla was relegated, and a small club in Leon, Union de Curtidores, won promotion.

    Guess what happened at the start of the 1999 Apertura? There was a club named Leon and a club named Puebla in the first division, but there was no Union de Curtidores. So what happened?

    1. The old Puebla rebranded into Lobos BUAP

    2. The old Leon was sold to the owners of the old Puebla and the club was moved to Puebla to become the new Puebla.

    3. The owners of Union de Curtidores cashed out by selling its 1st division operating license to a group of investors in Leon, which used the license to establish the new Leon.

    That was another case of “Congratuations, the club you supported just won promotion. The bad news for you: the club you supported no longer exists.”

    Bottom line: promotion-relegation won’t matter one iota to the success or failure of MLS. Not one iota. In a free market system, there are ways to get around promotion-relegation, as the Mexicans have shown time and time again.

  2. Mehdi Manseur

    May 18, 2017 at 2:37 pm

    1 thing MLS should do is stop using it media team members to like/dislike or attempt to sway online discussion. This league does more than any other sports league I’ve ever come across and it is near-sighted and self-harming. When MLS media stifles discussion, they only lose opportunities to receive important feedback, from fans who might actually watch one day, on what they want to see. Worse, this behavior create an atmosphere of delusion for MLS itself where they start to believe their own bullsh*t and become unable to perceive what needs to be done to make this league competitive enough for viewers to care about it in a massive global soccer marketplace.

    This kind of myopic behavior is what leads to these “plans to increase ratings” that are absurd and useless like the ones they have proposed here. How could they believe that anyone who already doesn’t even want to watch an actual game would want to watch them not playing in the locker room or would care what the coaches are saying.

    FIGURE OUT HOW TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF PLAY! Do that instead of hiring a bunch of people to “sell” the image that MLS is good.

    But of course, as the article notes, everyone on the planet knows this league will never be able to compete with the rest of the world.

    Not unless it allows free investment into the sport like the rest of the world. And since MLS will not open the system to outside competition or pro/rel, it is doomed to remain a fledgling league on the periphery of the global game. MLS as is can only be a retirement location for better players and now only for those better players who don’t feel like retiring in China, where free investment into the game has seen it explode with Chinese teams getting in-their-prime superstars like Gervinho.

    Or they can try more “car washes.” Sure, that’ll make me watch an MLS game. What idiots!

  3. HotKarl

    May 16, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    There’s so much to fix about the on field product but if you want to fix the TV product then scheduling is first and foremost. Rule number one about sports on TV: own your time slot and do not share if possible.

    Here’s my idea ready to let you tear it to shreds, humbly submitted as a relatively new local MLS team fan that has tried way too hard to get into the league at-large but can’t. I admit I have not bothered to cross-check with the FIFA International windows but I want to see a first Saturday in January (was Jan 7 in 2017) -Labor Day schedule:
    -Ape college football’s Saturday TV windows (12:00 PM ET, 2:00 PM ET, 4:00 PM ET, 6:00 PM ET, 8:00 PM ET, 10:00 PM ET) and Monday Nights (8:00 PM ET & 10:00 PM ET or 7:00 & 9:00) once the College Football Playoff/MNF schedule has concluded (would have been Jan 16 in 2017). Layer in Sundays during the NFL playoffs (12:oo or 1:00 ET game on Conference Championship Sunday; full slate on Pro Bowl Sunday; three afternoon games Super Bowl Sunday) until NFL Playoffs wrap up and lean heavily on Saturday/Sunday windows that start just after EPL/La Liga games conclude.
    -After the Super Bowl you get five weekends of going against relatively low-rated NBA/NHL/college basketball regular season before two weekends of wall-to-wall March Madness. Casual fans/viewers pop up in May/June as NBA/NHL seasons close and have limited non-weekend inventory during playoffs.

    Focus on locally-focused scheduling that avoids head-to-heads with local MLB games (only major sport after NBA/NHL playoffs). It drives me insane how many times the local MLS team is playing at the same time as the local MLB team- most Sundays have local 1:00 PM starts for MLB, why would you not schedule the MLS team until 4:30 PM. It should also go without saying that MLS scheduling should also prioritize not having home games on the same day as local MLB home games.

    I know MLS & MLB are going after different demographics but where do they think the casual fans come from? Most MLB teams are the number one TV draw in their market during the season, the MLB viewers have the cable packages that you need to watch MLS games, and you’re just punching yourself in the dick by trying to compete with that.

  4. Steve

    May 15, 2017 at 4:48 pm

    How about they just air games on channels I actually get….

    • vsqz

      May 15, 2017 at 6:11 pm

      So you don’t get Univision, ESPN, ESPN or FS 1? Those are pretty common channels if you want them, where would you like them on OTA broadcast channels? Considering that infomercials have higher ratings than MLS the likely hood of MLS games being on those networks regularly is pretty much 0.

  5. Total Relegation

    May 15, 2017 at 3:32 pm

    I just want to be the first person on record to… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

  6. Anthony

    May 14, 2017 at 10:48 pm

    Here are a few issues:

    1) Games are not on at a consistent time. MLS is a spring, summer and fall sport, so they compete with a lot of different American sports as well as overlapping with other soccer leagues. They should get a network that will show games every week at a specific time (I would say Saturdays at 2 or 3 would be good) so people can know when to expect them.

    2) Existing MLS fans seem to show little interest in watching league gamesl. This is a growing issue with all sports, its a big deal with MLS. I attended an NYCFC game recently – great supporters groups, seemed to have a lot of hardcore and casual fans, well attended. I assume very few of them have any interest seeing Orlando play Minnesota or whatever. When the current fans that spend money on the league don’t show any interest in TV coverage, there’s not much you can do. Of the major sports, only NFL and NBA have fans that will watch any game

    3) Too much soccer on TV. I can watch Premier League, Liga MX, La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, hell even EFL Championship games pretty easily here in the US. For the few fans that do follow club soccer, there is too much to choose from

    4) The casual American fan still sees soccer as a “country” competition. US fans seem to eat up World Cup, Euro, Copa America, etc, even for non-US games. This is also helped by the fact these tournaments all happen in the summer where it faces little competition from American football. Unfortunately for MLS, the league isn’t well represented in these tournaments, so MLS can never really gain momentum

    5) Too many teams. Atlanta United is a great story, but it’s hard to get excited for a random league game when there is a new team every other year and the league is growing to 30-40 teams or whatever. MLS at currently constituted is really designed to maximize local supporters groups, not TV revenue. If MLS really wanted TV revenues, it would somehow limit the number of teams (i don’t think promotion/relegation matters), get rid of salary caps and let owners bid $50mn for whoever.

    I think MLS has a solid in-person product that is pretty exciting, but I don’t know if it can really ever be a big ratings generator in a crowded soccer landscape with a shrinking TV audience generally

    • Alexakos

      May 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      1) Good points, but expansion actually is designed for TV ratings–MLS has been trying to get a presence in every geographic area in order to grow TV ratings by having teams in each area, especially the Southeast, which was barren prior to Atlanta. That’s why Nashville is a possibility. The more teams, the more fans watching games.

      2) MLS originally tried to appeal to the ‘casual sports fan,’ but by now we know that such fans, if they exist, just will not watch soccer. However, there are plenty of soccer fans who prefer non-MLS soccer, for whatever reason. I wonder if this site could combine all soccer ratings to get an aggregate of soccer viewers. Converting the ‘Euro-snob’ and Latino fans is a very difficult process, but I think it will be eased with successive generations

      3) The encouraging numbers concern demographics–MLS viewers (and ticket-buyers) are in the preferred age group and have a high amount of disposable income. Also, MLS viewers are younger compared to other sports. At the same time, there is a gradual migration to forms of advertising other than traditional TV commercial breaks. Baseball has an older demographic and is struggling with long game times.

      4) Outdated methods and measurements? There are many questions about traditional Nielsen ratings (who are these viewers?): there is a shifting to on-line and subscription viewing; a lot of DVR watching; a lot of bar and pub watching. You could argue MLS is well-positioned to embrace the shifting away from traditional TV viewing. Cable might be going away, and even ESPN is shifting to its own on-line subscription channel. MLSLive is a great app because I can watch all the games, on-demand, through 20-minute mini-games.

      5) Too much soccer indeed. When I was in my young teens–mid 80’s– there was an Italian league game on Sunday nights, and a Sunday afternoon Spanish language international match. There was Soccer America weekly newspaper with results from 1-2 weeks prior. That’s it. Early 90’s there were 1-hr English League highlights. So too much soccer seems weird, but a fact. I end up recording a lot and watching none; highlights it is. Because it seems like successful Live Sports have a recurring, certain time-slot, MLS has been trying to get its own for years: Friday night? Sunday afternoon? Saturday night? Monday night? I really think an attraction for EPL is that it is on early in the morning when there is no competition and cable channels have no other live sports to promote. I would say Sunday nights are the best bet.

  7. Joel

    May 13, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Is The F.A. Cup Final on Fox over the air channel this year? Thanks, Chris, for a great site.

  8. Chris

    May 13, 2017 at 4:19 pm

    YES!!! Finally! The main reason I haven’t been watching MLS has now suddenly been fixed! They must be some real smart cookies to realize that me and millions of other potential viewers have been holding out because of these 4 simple issues… now that I can hear the coaches and watch players mill around the locker room before game, I’m never missing a single MLS match again. And to only take 18 months to figure out! I’m impressed! Just you watch, this will be the fix MLS has been waiting for.

  9. Joe

    May 13, 2017 at 8:24 am

    If you need pro/rel or no playoffs to watch MLS you are just trying to not watch. If you are not watching because you are not entertained then that’s on the league and its teams to improve the quality to attract you as a fan. Just saying no one watches the playoffs is a joke because it’s the highest ratings of the season and is the most exciting. You’ll never get me to understand how a team wins the league with a few weeks left, while most teams so have nothing to play for, is exciting. Also stop acting like the EPL TV ratings are killing it. Compare to other American sports they are garbage, MLS is laughable and NASL isn’t even in the coversation. Liga MX is the king of soccer in the US and guess what…..THEY HAVE PlAYOFFS and an much differenr relegation system!

  10. Alexakos

    May 12, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    So what is the point of the EPL regular season when only one team wins the title, and only 3 more qualify for next year’s European playoffs? For example Arsenal is perfectly content to finish 4th. There is no drama.
    I think much of the ratings boost for the EPL in the US is the morning times.

    As someone who’s been watching soccer since the early 80’s, I prefer watching MLS because I am entertained. There are plenty of quality highlights as well. Yet i watched ManU-Arsenal last week and was bored and frustrated. Not entertained nor did I witness the highest quality.
    The quality argument is a pretentious fallacy because this is entertainment, not diamonds.
    Ironically, Relegation battles are NOT about quality. The play is poor and desperate although often dramatic.
    Playoffs are the most exciting part of every other sport in theUS so why should it be different for soccer?

    • Christopher Harris

      May 12, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      Alexakos, just as one example, out of the 10 Premier League games this weekend, nine of them still feature teams that have something to play for — and that’s for gameweek 37 of a 38 gameweek season.

      There’s so much drama every game, every week. In MLS, you can skip the March through June season, and then tune in for the July/August/September race for the playoffs.

      • Alexakos

        May 12, 2017 at 7:12 pm

        But what you just said applies to the END of the season in the EPL. So how does that translate to drama during the long season?

        When you say “something to play for” that’s presuming the “something” is of interest. “Qualifying” for Europe is like qualifying for the playoffs. (except it’s the same teams every year in England).
        Watching soccer is about a lot of things–only one of which is “quality” of the players.
        I agree there can be drama, but drama is drama–not quality. The two are separate. Drama is entertainment, yes. But lots of things create drama. Playoffs create drama. Fighting to get into the playoffs does too. Drama comes from the actual game and from the relative positions of the teams, regardless of the league, College football has lots of drama and is perhaps more popular than the NFL but is of obviously lower ‘quality’, but that doesn’t seem to diminish its popularity.

        The “quality” argument is an esoteric concern which has certain biases. If we’re honest, can everyone watching REALLY tell me that the “quality” is better. Obviously the ‘quality’ of the players is theoretically better but often that doesn’t translate to ‘better’ games, or more entertaining games. Watching a random EPL game doesn’t make me shout out loud about the quality. In fact usually the opposite. Of course watching the “high;ights” or match of the day gives an illusion of higher quality because they are highlights. We also know that EPL teams fare poorly in Europe and can’t compare with Real or Barca in starpower. So even the EPL quality isn’t the best.

        I usually watch the 20 minute mini-games on MLS live and there are plenty of “quality” goals, saves, and build-ups which, when combined with the fact that these are teams in my own country, that I can go watch, and which concern my actual hometown team, makes it preferable to EPL.

        You could say the same thing about the EPL that you said about MLS–just tune in at the end of the season and see who’s fighting to be not-last and not-first. At least in MLS the teams are fighting to be in the playoffs –which then gives them a chance to win it all. I think the English tradition of a class society lets them accept the mentality that there are elite teams and there are mid-table teams and there are the teams that always fight to stay up.

        And what exactly has a team really attained when it has successfully managed to “stave off relegation” and “stayed up?” The right to play next year in a league in which it wins maybe 20% of the time. last year Sunderland stayed up with 9 wins and 17 losses. Newcastle was relegated and this year won a lot of games. Which teams fans have had more fun this year? It’s a good question.

        In the US that is not acceptable and each team has to have a chance.
        If you are just considering whether there is “something to play for” then playoffs would satisfy that factor. Some seasons more than others, just like in the relegation battle.

        I used to travel to Greece (from the US) when I was little and buy Shoot! and Goal! magazines in the early 80’s and got hooked on English League. I was enamored with the tradition and the romance of it all. but it’s just not my league–I have my own.

  11. LIguy

    May 12, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Well this article generated a lot of clicks, Sports Business Daily writer doesn’t seem to care for it.

    • Christopher Harris

      May 12, 2017 at 5:13 pm

      He’s probably jealous that he didn’t understand what the real revelation was in the story he wrote and that this one got more publicity than his post.

  12. Fred

    May 12, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    Another problem with MLS is it acts like its fans are as isolated as NBA and NFL fans. If you like those sports, there isn’t much global competition. The top league for each by far is here. You get the odd American who watches some Euroleague basketball but most will watch NCAA and the NBA.

    Soccer fans however grow up and watch in the global culture with the global pro/rel system. MLS for some insane reason seems intent on reinventing the game and producing a system which is completely alien to the global culture. It will forever limit itself that way. Soccer fans with a global background, which us most of us, make little sense of the DP structure, single entity, closed system, drafts, allocations, player restriction rules, TAM, such a low and odd salary structure which inhibits quality of play, etc. It simply is not attractive to the global fan. So MLS markets itself to a much smaller % of fans that it could. And that’s because it’s run by NFL guys.

    In the end MLS competition appears fake and manufactured. Until there’s an open system, true free agency, solidarity payments, competition to buy and sell players within our landscape, all which produces true competition and accountability, it’s a fake competition. Teams can be bottom of the standings, horrible, thru July, sign one decent player, be good for a couple months and then go on to win the Cup.

  13. Oliver Tse

    May 12, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Those of you who continue to perpetuate the nonsense that promotion/relegation will cure all of MLS’ problems better be careful what you wish for.

    The Mexican Futbol Federation (FMF) has promotion/relegation for its two league structures: Liga MX (Division 1) and Ascenso MX (Divisions 2 and 3).

    In 2012, a small club from a small city, La Piedad (population just under 100,000), won the Ascenso MX promotion playoff series to earn an operating license in Liga MX.

    But before the citizens of La Piedad could wake up the next morning from their hangovers after celebrating all night, the owners of La Piedad had already decided to cash in by selling their newly-issued Liga MX operating license to investors in Veracruz, which wanted to resurrect Tiburones Rojos in Liga MX.

    The result of La Piedad earning promotion to Liga MX in May 2012:

    1. Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz became the newest Liga MX club overnight.

    2. La Piedad would be without a futbol club until new investors formed Reboceros de La Piedad, which would have to start play in Division 3.

    If the U.S. Soccer Federation were to allow Mexican-style promotion/relegation with the ability for owners to trade (buy or sell) Division 1 operating licenses, I don’t think you will like that system very much.

  14. Mike

    May 12, 2017 at 11:26 am

    The problem is that MLS wants to have a production replication of the NFL, which in my opinion sucks. I think that FOX’s product sucks and ESPN’s is only slightly better. I don’t want animation, I don’t want a sideline reporter, I don’t want AUDI stats, I don’t want constant chatter by the announcers, I dont want a stupid, sideline pre game show. I really dont want mic’d up ANYONE. I signed up for MLSLIve and much to my surprise NYCFC was BLACKED OUT in my area which is BUFFALO, NY. I quickly cancelled. MLS IS NOT THE NFL! It is the most popular sport in the world – quit trying to reinvent and Americanize it.

  15. Paschal Nneji

    May 12, 2017 at 10:50 am

    A league has to have more than a useless cup at stake. There should be a relegation process to make this more exciting and watchable and an MLS second tier should be created. There is no need to copy the NFL process for everything.

  16. spursguy

    May 12, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Here’s my thoughts on why MLS ratings are struggling.

    1. There aren’t that many soccer fans watching regular club football in America. Top games get no more than 1.5 to 2 million viewers and that’s Real Madrid vs Barcelona which is basically the two best teams (club or international) teams in the world.

    2. MLS was on the verge of completely going out of business only about 15 years ago. To be where MLS is at now, in that context, makes the league growth kind of stunning. League ratings take time to grow. NBA finals were taped delayed in the early 1980’s. This fact seems shocking by the late 90s with Jordan being a global icon.

    3. There is a Dual issue of a portion of the 2-5 million people who will watch club soccer teams total only want to watch the “best” league. That’s often the EPL (which is comical since its not the best league but…marketing) or have long ties to Mexican clubs which they follow closely.

    4. While dissipating, there is still a pretty strong “MLS is worse than middle school kids playing soccer” attitude. This will always be hard to shake because MLS teams for the foreseeable future will never be as good as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, or Juventus. If you put Las Palamas and Ingolstadt jerseys on Toronto and Dallas players and called it a European match about 99% of american soccer fans wouldn’t be able to tell the difference and say how much better it is than a match between Toronto and Dallas would be.

    5. The league is coming into its own at the same time you have multiple issues cropping up with traditional TV Ratings.
    a. American sports fans increasingly watching/following their local teams and nobody else.
    b. People (largely the same demographic who follow MLS) are not willing to spend the money on television. TV ratings, outside of big events, are falling for everything. Any growth for regular season games should be looked at as pretty impressive. If you make 4% returns in the stock market during a deep recession that’s impressive. If you make 6% during a boom time, not so much.
    c. A portion of the same demographic who don’t pay for TV also see regular season increasingly like extended pre-seasons.

    (please for the love of god lets keep relegation/promotion and no playoffs as ideas…billionaire owners will never let it happen. You’re 10 times more likely to see a closed European league be created than a MLS owner allowing ATL having their matches, played in a 2 billion dollar stadium, in a minor league against the Beaumont Bees FC)

    How to fix this problem? To be honest, I don’t know, and I’m not sure anyone does. The whole industry is in a gigantic shift and its hard to see how it will work out. If I could have come up with Itunes or Spotify 20 years ago I wouldn’t be posting here 🙂

    Some things that would help me watch more games

    1. Consistent TV times

    2. There getting there but either produce or work with content providers to bring more review shows/analysis and make it easy to find. MLS produces their own weekly review show but sometimes its on Youtube, one week it was on watch ESPN app, and it doesn’t come out at the same time every week. Any friction to finding your content and you’ll lose people. I like the review show but I’m not going to look at week for it. Same with the actual games. Have a Wend night game double header. Every wend at 700 pm and 930 pm.

    3. Increase Salary Budget teams get to use.

    4. Forget about what markets to expand to and getting mexican fans. MLS should only award teams to owners/ownership groups who want to spend money and have stadium plans like Toronto, Atlanta, Seattle, etc. MLS does itself no favors being in DC or Philly or Boston and have these quasi jokes as franchises. I’ve had a few non-mls watchers ask me about Atlanta United, Seattle, Portland and NYCFC. Those same people have never heard of Philly Union or San Jose Earthquakes.

    • Paul

      May 12, 2017 at 1:50 pm

      While what you say is true there is still point 5, American owners of European clubs. Why would an American owner like a closed shop system in MLS but buy a club outside of a top tier European league? Those clubs still have debts that need to be serviced and stadiums that need to be updated.

    • Fred

      May 12, 2017 at 4:40 pm

      You make this all way too complicated. Stop over thinking with all the excuses. Want higher rating all you need is to follow these two steps.

      1) Shrink the 1st division and institute pro/rel. The complacency across numerous MLS markets is terrible for the league and the closed system affords the ability to not give an F***. Chicago, San Jose, NE, Columbus, DC, Philly and Colorado are all extremely complacent markets. In an open system they’d either get their acts together or be replaced by someone more ambitious.

      2) Allow the ambitious to spend more and institute a flat cap which allows balance/depth. TFC has a 22M payrolls. Majority comes out of the owners pocket. So have a flat 22M or 25M salary cap and allow teams to spend that however they like. You’d suddenly see teams stacked with 1M players across the squad, much like Liga MX. Quality of product would increase noticeably and we’d surpass Liga MX quickly.

      Everyone wants solutions which don’t require spending. Too bad. You get what you pay for.

  17. Wrong Said Fred

    May 12, 2017 at 12:46 am

    This is what you call re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!

    I do agree with Chris that the TV coverage has actually never been better, except for one sore point: the fact the actual kickoff times for national TV games are kept secret. SOMEHOW other sports leagues around the world are able to attract viewers to their pregame shows despite everyone knowing when the game will actually begin.

  18. Jeffrey Klunk

    May 12, 2017 at 12:37 am

    Relegation and thus promotion of usl teams would make mls soccer compelling. Nobody cares about the mls playoffs. No one. As a long time subscriber to mls live. I no longer care. Survival in the top flight…that is what makes European leagues so much more exciting to watch. Soccer is not football. It’s not baseball. It’s desperation. That is the reason to watch on tv. Until then? Just a 4th tier sport. Or novelty. Give me a reason to watch your sport….

    • Trip

      May 12, 2017 at 11:06 am

      The Promotion/Relegation will never work. Prime example, Robert Kraft isn’t going to see his Revs drop down to a lower division and make less money. These owners are too ingrained in their current cash flow, losing money isn’t something they want to do. This idea needs to be dropped, it’s exhausting people think it’ll eventually happen.

      • francis

        May 12, 2017 at 7:23 pm

        So true….Unlike Europe/Latin America where clubs are community institutions, most MLS teams are strictly commercial enterprises with few ties to the cities they play in. If they were relegated into a 2nd division with no TV contract and very few paying fans, the owner would likely cut his losses and fold the team.

  19. Paul

    May 11, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Franchise football, yes it’s football not soccer, just doesn’t work. Clubs all over the world are part of the community, for their supporters the club is in your soul. Through good times and bad, usually bad, it is still your club. Most clubs go back many generations and you just can ‘t create something like that with money and a business plan. The EFL have just stated that for 2016/17 total attendances across it’s 3 divisions are the highest since 1959. There are clubs at the bottom of EFL3 increasing their attendances.. When a club has something to fight for, whether it’s a title or promotion,even relegation, it brings in fans. Unfortunately the US is unable to grasp the concept of relegation, the sheer joy of that last day escape or winning promotion to a higher league. I know the EFL have play-offs but only for 4 teams in each of it’s leagues, it extends the season for many more teams and even if you’re not a fan of play-offs they are still exciting, and heartbreaking when you lose. Having play-offs that involve over 50% of the league is just nonsense but it keeps the sponsors happy.

    • I Love MLS

      May 11, 2017 at 11:41 pm

      We are not Europe guys. They ONLY have soccer/football whatever you wanna call it. It’s all they watch, it’s all that is on the Sports news. I lived there. This country cannot afford that yet! We need to build that fan base slowly, and this is the first time EVER that any football league has lasted in US this long. Why can’t you guys just support it the way it is. It’s a heck of a lot more than we ever had. MLS HAS to do it’s part and start spending more on players.

      • Paul

        May 12, 2017 at 9:46 am

        If you did some research you will find that in many European countries there are other sports played during the football season. There is Rugby Union, Rugby League, Basketball, even American Football and in some Eastern and Scandinavian countries there is Ice Hockey. Football is the number sport in many countries so gets more media attention but other sports also get a lot of coverage.

        The major sports organisations in the USA have huge interest in keeping football low on the viewers watch list, and NFL team owners have a lot of money and power to be able to ensure tv networks don’t give football too much air time at the expense of their own sport.

      • 813guy

        May 13, 2017 at 1:08 pm

        So we should just all watch crap soccer, pay money to go to games and stay quiet because that is all we have?

  20. Santos

    May 11, 2017 at 10:45 pm

    Let me ask this; is there a transparency to actually know how many people are actually subscribed to streaming and what they actually watch? I always saw the numbers for tv ratings on this subreddit, but never for streaming. Is that to say or theorize there are actually out of the 300 million Americans living in the US that at least around 10 – 20 million make up a number of people streaming a certain event or show? Generally curious.

    • Christopher Harris

      May 12, 2017 at 6:56 am

      MLS and their broadcasters have not released streaming numbers, which indicate that they may be too small to mention at this time. Over time, I’m sure they’ll be more apt to releasing digital numbers.

  21. Michael

    May 11, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    I watched Columbus Crew on TV last week. It was like watching a high school match. Just doesn’t go over well on TV.

    • I Love MLS

      May 11, 2017 at 11:36 pm

      I love MLS, but I have to agree…watching Columbus play in front of 10,000 people is pretty sad. And the quality on the field HAS TO IMPROVE. Not mic’d up coached and microphones in the huddle. THis must be a joke. Is it April Fool’s Day?

  22. ROB

    May 11, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    Just look up what andrea pirlo and bastian schweinsteiger’s comments on the standard of the league and the players on their team. These are two world cup winners who have played with and against the best in the world. And they get upset win teammate can’t read the game like they are used to.

    • mlsfreaks

      May 13, 2017 at 1:25 pm

      Yes and have you seen the reaction when players like that make a comment? It’s outrage from the Jason Davis and Lalas of the world, these are world class world cup winners, who yes are old and not what they used to be anymore but they have been there done that and everyone gets offended. It’s just constructive too it’s not like they are insulting the league saying it’s a joke they are being honest. When world class coaches say they won’t call up a players in an inferior league it’s outrage and excuses of how the coach doesn’t know anybody and is ignorant. So lets get this straight, world cup winning players, world class managers make honest comments about the league and according to mls freaks they don’t know any better but yes lets believe Twellman and Bruce Arena who is predicting world cup wins and others WHO ARE BEING PAID due to their affiliation with the league.

  23. Vsqz

    May 11, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Okay Chris, love your honest journalism about the domestic league, that is rare here. But this can’t be real right? The league can’t be this pathetic, even die hard mls freaks can’t want these things right? The people making team songs to Outkast music can’t possibly want this? The NYCFC ultras and barra bravas can’t think this is what the league is missing?

    Also I noticed the MLS downvote bots have arrived.

  24. Fred

    May 11, 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Look at all the sensitive MLS fanbois who came in here to down vote everybody. LOL.

    • I Love MLS

      May 11, 2017 at 11:33 pm

      Listen, it’s not like we agree with everything MLS does. This is pretty dumb, I must agree, but some of you guys do nothing but bash it. We just want it to succeed and frankly, none of us, have what it takes to put a league together. They are doing at least something, definitely not perfect, but it’s more than any one else has ever done for soccer in this country. Not saying don’t criticize it, but to completely denigrate it, is dumb. That’s why some are getting down voted, and it makes me happy that at least there are those who are sensitive about it. It means we care and want it to succeed. What do you guys want. For it to collapse and go away so we all have to watch Barcelona and Real Madrid. F THEM! All I want is to someday MLS destroy those teams. GO MLS!!!

      • Fred

        May 12, 2017 at 4:31 pm

        No. Many are getting down voted simply for stating the obvious, that MLS’s ratings problems are due to its structure and quality of product. It’s that simple. MLS sells itself as parity but it’s really code for mediocrity. It doesn’t allow for good teams. The DP structure creates the choppiest quality of product one can find as you’ve got a high rated DP surrounded by 150K chumps.

        Let’s take TFC as an example. Roster is about 22M. Almost all of that goes to three players. The owner is already willing to spend 18M out of his own pocket to add to the roster. If allowed to spend that on 11 1-1.5M players, they might be the best team in CONCACAF. But MLS won’t allow it. It’s stupid. MLS kills its own product by forcing 95% of rosters to have players worth under 400K when some owners are gladly willing to shell out many millions more out of their own pockets.

  25. Adamthered

    May 11, 2017 at 9:03 pm

    This isn’t really a “tv ratings improvement plan” and It isn’t really being sold that way by the league or broadcast partners. I don’t get the need to repackage an SBJ article and give it an overblown title.

    • Real American Soccer Fan

      May 12, 2017 at 2:06 am

      Teach the American players and coaches how to yell in fake British accents when they’re mic’d up, hold those car-wash tours in UK-style double-decker buses were serving pints and relocate all MLS teams to small towns in England, and the Anglophile Europoser hipsters would have an instant hard-on for the league.

      • Trip

        May 12, 2017 at 11:01 am

        This is such a lazy and unimaginative response. Just because people prefer the EPL over MLS doesn’t mean they are “Anglophile Europoser hipsters” as you so elegantly call us. EPL is a better product and on tv at a consistent time. I watch, because it’s more entertaining and I know each Sat/Sun morning I can catch a game. It works for my schedule.

        It’s a little brother complex you seem to have towards EPL or any European league. It’s not fault that MLS can’t compete with European leagues. Soccer isn’t the mainstream sport in the US. Top kid athletes are going to migrate to NFL, bball and baseball, plus, at the end of the day, that is where the money is.

      • Joe

        May 13, 2017 at 8:12 am

        So true. The minute you mention England “authentic football fans” get boners and think it’s the end all be all with no thought. However this tv strategy is laughable it’s also laughable that England posers would rather watch the championship just because of the accents and hearing the fans all sing the same songs.

        • mlsfreaks

          May 13, 2017 at 1:16 pm

          I got a boner just reading your post Joe……….fine I’ll start watching MLS, do you have any Lalas and Twellman posters you can send me? Please let me know.

  26. lou

    May 11, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    Agree with your last sentence. I, for one, can never get behind MLS because of what I consider an absurd playoff system. My choice would be a straight table, but a playoff between the winners of the divisions would suffice. Anything else just excludes me.

  27. Harry

    May 11, 2017 at 8:30 pm

    Every MLS solution to its problems is NEVER related to their crap product. They intentionally force teams to be mediocre, then don’t understand why so few watch. Most MLS diehards don’t even watch other MLS teams.

    Crazy how clueless leadership in this league is. They act like watching BVB this weekend or an MLS car wash is somehow a tough decision. LOL.

    • mlsfreaks

      May 13, 2017 at 1:19 pm

      YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES finally! Everyone skirts around the major issue, on twitter I was reading someone write that it’s a scheduling problem and each game should mean more, that is true but if the leagues still crap then nobody will care no matter what you do with the schedule, the calendar, the field condition, people creating rap songs for teams etc. Nobody seems to admit that for some reason. Improve the product to be as good as Liga MX, start there forget best league in the world, Europe, the premier league, La Liga, wining the world cup in 2030 etc. Just get on par with Liga MX and when you play them have a competitive match, start there and then proceed.

  28. ribman

    May 11, 2017 at 8:20 pm

    Is this a parody article? Do they really think that’s what American soccer fans want?

    Have I just been punked?

    • ribman

      May 11, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      I’m a season ticket holder for Sporting KC -I am a believer in MLS as a league but I think those who govern MLS are pretty clueless and unimaginative as it gets. These faux changes for TV actually will make the league LESS AUTHENTIC players -coaches will alter their reality when cameras are present, it will be as real as reality tv -this is not why people don’t watch, the league is finally understanding bring in younger emerging players not old finished players, but the real problem with league is quality of games.
      1. The schedule
      2. Playoff system
      3. Too many games where MLS’s best players don’t suit up for the game
      4. Overexpansion and too quick, MLS has more good players but expansion has diluted the overall field too many Lawrence Ollums are starting, which leads to negative style of play,
      5. Insane TV plan, games are on a lot of networks at various times -sometimes is it FS1, ESPN Telemundo- Fridaynight, Sunday afternoons….

      down vote me all you want but I put my $ where my mouth is , not an MLS hater but yes the league has some dumb ideas like these.

      • I Love MLS

        May 11, 2017 at 11:27 pm

        I am totally with you on this one. I love MLS and I want it to succeed like crazy, but this is absolutely the dumbest thing MLS has done so far. I would LOVE to be proven wrong, but I really, really doubt this is going to make any difference, and it’s possible it will make the league even lose some of it’s few followers. Man, what ta heck?

      • Alex

        May 15, 2017 at 12:39 pm

        All good points. I would also add that MLS needs to put more effort into the quality of the officiating. Far too many low quality officials and little to no consistency. But for god sake stop throwing more teams into the system and stop giving half the teams a playoff spot.

  29. Oliver Tse

    May 11, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    One thing the original NASL got right: it stayed out of the way of the NFL. During the ABC years in the late 1970s, Soccer Bowl was played on Labor Day Monday, with no other TV competition other than baseball.

    MLS Cup should be played in August, or no later than Labor Day weekend in September, if MLS were actually a priority for the owner/operators.

    Right now, the MLS owner/operators treat MLS as a second thought in their own buildings, as they are more interested in making money from the summer friendlies involving big European clubs (both standalone friendlies and those branded under the “International Champions Cup” label) and from summer tournaments such as the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the wildly successful Copa Centenario last year.

  30. Frank

    May 11, 2017 at 8:11 pm

    MLS always distracts from their structure and quality of play. Those are the two reasons few watch it.

    It’s incredibly simple. They just refuse to admit they limit themselves.

    Their entire structure is meant to subdue the quality of its product and actively prevent anyone from creating a legit quality team. Actively suppressing your quality of product when much higher quality of product is flowing into every living room in America is a flat out stupid blueprint.

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