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MLS needs to change regular season format to help TV ratings

MLS needs to change regular season format

Ahead of a new MLS TV deal, more eyeballs are focused on the league. This time, though, it’s the eyeballs of executives at many of the top media companies who are evaluating the strength of the league. After all, Major League Soccer is on the precipice of what it hopes will be a new, landmark media rights deal. Gone are the days of earning TV revenue of $60 million per year. For the new deal that begins in 2023, MLS has set its sights on hitting revenue of $300 million for its media rights.

As media companies consider the promises of the new TV deal, they’re also looking at the current strength of the league. The best measurement tool for this has always the viewership numbers measured by Nielsen.

Big hopes ahead of a big weekend for MLS

If MLS and media executives ever wanted an ideal weekend to see what the TV ratings are, this past weekend was it. Heading into the weekend, MLS played all of its cards. Want a MLS game in primetime on a Saturday night immediately after a US Women’s National Team game? You got it on FOX. How about a southern derby between Charlotte and Atlanta, live on ABC? No problem. Add to that games across ESPN, FS1 and Univision for what was a big weekend for MLS.

Yet, the impressive viewing numbers never materialized.

Even with all of the advantages MLS has such as broadcasting games in primetime, being featured on over-the-air television and cherrypicking the teams that will play in these games, Major League Soccer is still unable to crack the 500,000 viewership milestone for the vast majority of its regular season games on English-language television.

To grow, MLS needs to change its league format

Major League Soccer faces several issues that are holding back its growth. In our opinion, the league has focused too much attention on awarding local expansion teams. At the same time, it has taken its eye off the ball at a national level, which can be seen by the lackluster viewing numbers for nationally televised games.

In its 27th season, MLS has still failed to change its regular season format. Most soccer fans are savvy enough to realize that the vast majority of games in the regular season are mostly meaningless. As the season drifts toward the race to qualify for the playoffs, interest picks up. But for the most part, there’s little reason to watch the first few months of every new MLS season other than to see the new expansion teams and their stadiums.

For media companies interested in acquiring the rights to MLS, such as Apple TV+, a largely irrelevant regular season is certainly a warning sign.

MLS needs to look south for a solution

A solution is staring Major League Soccer in the face, and that’s the Liga MX format. The Mexican league breaks its season into two, so you have a championship race for the opening half of the season. And that’s followed by a championship race for the second half of the season. Just like MLS, you crown your champions. Plus you have a playoff race.

Two examples of how little interest there is in regular season MLS games can be seen from this past weekend when you look at the games that weren’t on over-the-air television. Inter Miami against New England Revolution on ESPN had fewer viewers (252,000) than a relegation match between Burnley and Norwich City (296,000). Meanwhile, Sunday’s primetime game on FS1 between Austin FC and Minnesota United averaged 106,000 viewers.

Unless you’re a fan of Miami, New England, Austin or Minnesota, there’s no reason to watch these games. Even when games are on over-the-air FOX and ABC, Major League Soccer is not moving the needle. Yes, Leagues Cup is a new shiny object but it’s not going to help the regular season viewership.

Major League Soccer has many good things going for it. The quality of the league has improved. But its reluctancy to adopt a different format for the regular season is holding it back. Not only that, but it’s doing so at a time when the league needs to show viewership growth to prospective, new rights holders.

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63 Comments

63 Comments

  1. rod

    August 4, 2022 at 4:52 pm

    Maybe, just finally, everyone is getting how tedious commie kickball really is. It isn’t just that the ratings are down and that the networks don’t know how to improve them, it is that nobody is interested no matter what packaging and miscellaneous hype can be added to watching paint try.

    • Roberto

      August 4, 2022 at 5:39 pm

      Go back to watching wrestling and corn hole!

  2. John

    April 16, 2022 at 10:16 am

    Friday night and Monday night games, please! The weekend is busy, so I would love to sit down to matches when it isn’t Saturday evening or Sunday noon. Too many matches go off simultaneously, making it difficult for me to watch my local team AND a different match.

    Accessibility–in MN, one only gets Loons’ matches if one pays for the Bally Sports package on cable. Friends of mine who are Loons season-ticket holders signed up for ESPN+ to watch the Loons opener this year, then were dismayed to learn that only NON-Minnesota ESPN+ subscribers could watch the Loons match.

    Agree on the split season–Watching a match in 30-degree temps in early March doesn’t make much sense when one thinks, “How will this affect Decision Day in EIGHT MONTHS?”! Looking at a few of the nearly-empty stadiums, one thinks, “Will this opponent even still EXIST in eight months?!”

    • Francisco

      April 18, 2022 at 4:05 pm

      Agree no reason for not have a game of the week 3 or 4 nights a week, impossible to watch 5 games on a saturday night at the same time.

  3. Donald Lee

    April 15, 2022 at 11:45 am

    I’ve followed this league closely for over 15 years. The whole “regular season doesn’t matter” meme is not true anymore at all.. If you write that, you just don’t follow the league for other reasons and your just repeating an old meme to write something.

    More games matter in MLS than in EPL where the vast majority of games are between mid level teams with no chance to finish top-4 or any threat of relegation. MLS teams can change their post-season prospects with one good result anytime of the year. Playoff success comes with home games and those have to be fought for with wins in the regular season.

    Changing to the apertura/clausura system would be a disaster, and just cheapens the championship.

    • Ned the red

      April 17, 2022 at 12:45 pm

      It not just the top 4, down to 7th qualify for Europa league and with 3 relegated most matches mean a lot to the fans. A team can go from fighting relegation to challenging for top 7 with just a few wins.

    • Edwin

      April 23, 2022 at 2:36 pm

      Agree spot on

  4. Dana F. Blankenhorn

    April 14, 2022 at 3:06 pm

    If you had @premierleague salaries you would have @premierleague ratings. But that also requires a commitment to capitalism, red in tooth and claw, and relegation of passenger teams

  5. Al

    April 14, 2022 at 8:45 am

    It’s not the format that has MLS behind in the ratings, it’s the quality of play on the field. I avidly watch serie a and Premier League every week and watching some MLS games just looks embarrassing at times.
    Tactics are poor, passing is poor I would place MLS on the equivalent of 2nd tier, maybe even 3rd tier in England.
    The form shows with the US men’s team too. That game against a stout opponent in Costa Rica just shows the lack of skill in the league. Any player that shows brilliance immediately leaves for Europe

    • Roberto

      April 14, 2022 at 9:46 am

      Al do not know which games you watch but last’s week Man. U. vs. Everton was a crap game. Sure when teams like Chelsea play with their $28,000,000 a week payroll you should get some good games.
      As far as Series A, again many good players but some of the teams that seem to enjoy 0-0 or 1-0 games make me wonder about their great tactics.
      The purpose of football for their fans is a game that is entertaining and competitive and most of the MLS games fulfill that expectation.

  6. Matthew

    April 13, 2022 at 9:16 pm

    I think another issue is that very few games are actually on Broadcast TV. If you are lucky a cable package will carry all the games. For instance I’m near Washington DC and hardly ever see DC United on over air TV. How do you build a fan base when you don’t air every game in the local market? To be honest I don’t even know how to watch DC United’s games without going in person. And I’m 1 mile from DC.

    Also, if I want to watch an out of market game, I have to subscribe to way too many services todo so. It would be great if MLS set up a service similar to NFL Game Pass to watch replays of games through one service.

    In short, one has to work hard to watch their team play.

    • Mercator

      April 13, 2022 at 9:22 pm

      Amen! Put it in one place, at consistent times, for a low fee. I’m not a baseball person but I watched the Apple TV Friday Night Baseball the other week and it was great. Good production, good graphics, easily accessible, all the games on one night in one place. MLS should try to do something like this, either with Apple, Amazon or ESPN. MLS could produce ALL the games themselves, present themselves in the best light and use the best local and national commentators available. Alexi wouldn’t get to rant for 15 minutes before every game, ESPN won’t miss the kickoff for women’s basketball, and MLS could do highlight shows, a goal zone type show when multiple games are on, there are many possibilities. Hundreds of domestic soccer games with no production effort would sell well, especially if all the games can be streamed. MLS would also be the first league (other than the NFL) to really make every game easily accessible – they should get out in front before the MLB or NHL get wise and offer the same thing.

    • Buckles

      April 14, 2022 at 8:34 am

      Agree. There is no uniform time for any game. And they always show the same teams on the national broadcasts.
      Looks like Apple TV is going to be involved in the new deal. But how many people have appletv and how many will be willing to pay $6 for MLS? Hopefully they will have a linear partner.

      • locofooty

        April 15, 2022 at 9:28 am

        There’s a reason for always showing the same teams on nat’l TV. The rest are crap unfortunately. The teams on nat’l TV are the ones that actually try to invest on the product, try to compete, have a good atmosphere at the stadiums.

        • Buckles

          April 20, 2022 at 7:00 pm

          NYCFC won the league and they have arguably the worst stadium situation in the league. Never on national tv. They want to show the teams that get large crowds even if they are bad teams. That is not good for the league.

  7. jstrummer

    April 13, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    MLS execs have been at this a long time and have continued to grow with their model. They’ve heard these opinions many times and they’re a no-go for all the reasons that have been posted earlier. Atmosphere at matches is on a parallel with many of the top leagues around the world. Sure they’d like to raise ratings but it’s not a game-changer as there’s a ceiling for a domestic soccer league and none of these suggestions would substantially raise them. I would be interested in an aperura/clausura but I would avoid American football at all cost as no sports in this country will ever compete with that sport.

    • Ned the red

      April 17, 2022 at 12:49 pm

      Grow , we were told by 2022 MLS would match the premier legaue. It looks like MLS clubs will get about 5m dollars. A top premier League team with champions League money gets 50 times that amount.

  8. George

    April 13, 2022 at 3:37 pm

    What if I could actually get all the MLS team games through one service?

    I try to watch ATL United every weekend and it’s infuriating how it bounces between ESPN+ to ABC to FS1 to wtv else. I’m a cord cutter like many people, and I just want to buy access to the league, not 30 other services and channels.

    I pay for ESPN+ because it’s where I know I will always get UFC. That’s the only reason. I’m glad some soccer games come through too, but I would happily pay for another service to exclusively buy this league and I bet others would too.

    • Willis E Miller

      April 14, 2022 at 6:07 am

      Yes yes yes

  9. Ra

    April 13, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    Problem is competition. They should play when there is less competition- they should do a Monday Night soccer and play during the summer and winter breaks.

  10. Yespage

    April 13, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    MLS is not going to a promotion – regulation model unless they own the whole model. Investors didn’t put hundreds of millions in to expansion franchises to have their team in the second tier. The MLS is doing about the best it can in a nation where soccer isn’t that popular for either fans or players.

  11. Seamus

    April 13, 2022 at 11:58 am

    I don’t know if changing the season around is going to make any difference.

    There are three main problems facing MLS: 1) that they don’t attract the world’s best talent ; 2) Consumers can easily and cheaply watch the world’s best leagues and talents on TV ; 3) most clubs are new-ish and don’t have a legacy of grassroots community involvement.

    In smaller European countries it is typical for people to pay more attention to the big leagues abroad and then kind of treat their local teams secondarily. In Ireland, for instance, everyone talks about and watches the Premiership. Many have a devotion to a specific team like Liverpool. They still pay attention to the League of Ireland premiership and go to games, but that is more because of the strong community connection to the club than for the football.

    MLS teams don’t have the connection and since they are owned by billionaires, it is hard to cultivate organic fan connection.

    • Jebby

      April 13, 2022 at 12:06 pm

      Very few people in Ireland go to Lrague of Ireland games.

      • Seamus

        April 13, 2022 at 12:11 pm

        Yes, I made it seem bigger than it is. I guess I meant people will at least follow their local team casually which isn’t so much the case here.

        I live in Chicago and even though I never watch gridiron or baseball I could tell you whether the Sox or Bears are having a good year, etc…. With the Fire, most people couldn’t even tell you where they play.

        In Ireland, folks in Sligo can tell you how the Rovers are doing even if they never attend a match. It is the same with the GAA. The clubs tend to have more of a community presence.

  12. jason

    April 13, 2022 at 11:04 am

    MLS1 and MLS2 divisions might work if 1) winner of MLS2 league still gets into playoffs 2) Big promotion relegation numbers. If its 15 teams in each level. You relegate/promote 4 teams (maybe even 5) from one season to the next. This way MLS2 is not pure full fledged 2nd tier.

    • Gus+Ortiz

      April 15, 2022 at 8:43 am

      Interesting idea..

  13. JP

    April 13, 2022 at 10:14 am

    I’ve posted this idea somewhere here before, but applies to this. MLS should split up into regions. Think college conferences in the 80’s to early 90’s before realignment made them geographically nonsensical.

    One region could encompass New England, NY, Pennsylvania, NJ, possibly DC. Another could be Virginia, Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida, etc.

    Within these regions existing MLS clubs along with USL or other lower divisions could have clubs fill in order to get 15-20 clubs per region.

    There would be pro/rel in each region, and top places would qualify for an in season champions league type tournament for the following season with the other regions. Just like Europe.

    This allows the introduction of pro/rel but the bigger (exising MLS clubs) know they have little risk of being relegated given their financial/market advantages.

    This allows for each region to tweak their own calendar slightly to make it most advantageous based on their climate. Could mirror the international calendar more closely, but colder climates could incorporate a longer winter break, etc.

    The in season champions league type tournament would still allow the bigger markets (assuming they qualify) around the entire country to play each other, which the television/streaming companies would want.

    The regional format could create more natural rivalries, and given that MLS is already mostly a regional sport in terms of interest, helps accentuate that aspect.

    Discuss!

  14. Ra

    April 13, 2022 at 7:08 am

    MLS actually hurts soccer in the US by providing a mediocre product. EPL is way more popular here. I don’t know another country where a foreign league surpasses the domestic in interest. Pro/rel offer not only excitement, but dynamism as well. Emerging markets can play in the big league, while established powers might find themselves fighting to make it to 1st division again. Both are exciting.
    This is not the format for other Am sports. But there is plenty to choose from if you prefer the standard format – go watch NFL, NBA. or MLB.
    MLS seems like a Ponzi scheme with the bills being paid by the new teams joining every year.

    • ATLScratch

      April 13, 2022 at 9:31 am

      MLS model is actually very coveted by several world leagues who are moving in the salary cap direction… No the Big 4 won’t change but don’t be shocked when other leagues realize that all the teams in the league having a reasonable chance at a title is appealing.

      As for the product… it literally gets better and better every season….try watching instead of Euro-Snobbing…

      As for normal international calendar it would be suicide financially.. MLS should be avoiding the NFL and College Football as much as humanly possible. It seems like you don’t really know the US Sports TV market very well.

      • Ra

        April 13, 2022 at 10:18 am

        They are moving towards financial fair play, which us very different from a salary cap. Can you name a league that is coveting the MLS model? I don’t know any.
        If your definition of MLS model is owners seeking monopoly, than yes, the defunct super league was a shameless attempt at that.

        • Chris

          April 13, 2022 at 4:47 pm

          The ESL or European super league idea is literally trying to follow the American sports setup.

  15. Mercator

    April 13, 2022 at 12:15 am

    Just split the league into MLS 1 and MLS 2 – 15 teams each. Have a real US Open Cup – 100ish teams MLS 1, MLS 2, USL etc. Get MLS and Liga MX teams into Copa instead of this CONCACAF nonsense. That would be plenty of meaningful games. Move to a normal calendar, its suicide having playoffs during the business end of the NFL and CFB seasons. MLS 1 should have 7DPs and double the salary cap, let some of these clubs go wild and compete.

    I’m yelling into the wind but MLS has a number of good clubs with great stadiums in large wealthy cities, it’s a shame they struggle to get people to care when there are 30 teams, there is a trophy for topping the table (despite the teams not all playing each other), playoffs during football season (which 50% of teams make anyway) and an absolute joke of a continental competition (which MLS can’t win anyway because of cheap salary restrictions). No one wants to watch that. Move to the normal international calendar, get the MLS clubs into Copa, cut the bottom half out of the top league, and let the Galaxy go full Galactico.

  16. Michael

    April 12, 2022 at 11:57 pm

    I love all the different ideas (Let’s hope that the MLS board reads this website :-)…but top level US Sports League will never do Pro/Rel. You are wasting brain power thinking about it. I can see the USL doing it, but those are the minor leagues. There is not a single owner in this country that would spend $350 million on a team, and vote to have anything remotely close to playing in a lower division and risk loosing millions of dollars. MLB and NHL have farm teams below them: Class AAA, Class AA, Class A, Independent league, etc that are are professional and popular in smaller American towns outside the Major cities that have the Big Leagues teams…but they will never rise any higher than that. Mainstream America has a completely different culture than the rest of the world. El Clasico drew 150 millions viewers world wide last month (40 million more than the Super Bowl) but mainstream American didn’t care. They do it (Pro/Rel) in Mexico and Canada because despite having their independence, they are still European centric cultural people. The culture is totally different. They both use the metric system 🙂 American has 3 centuries of purposely pulling away from European culture and ideas. American didn’t want Rugby so they developed Football. They didn’t want Cricket, they developed Baseball. Soccer has been in the US for over 100 years, an one of the biggest reason it hasn’t because big here is because it is associated with being a European Sport. We are a niche sport in the United States and that is perfectly ok. Now there is one huge exception of the American doesn’t like European Sports culture…Golf. Golf is very European…but it is an individual sport that appeals to American independence. You can regularly get 10 or 11 million people to watch the finals of one of their tournaments. Even more when Tiger and Phil were in their prime. Ironically the PGA tour DOES have Pro/Rel. People go back forth between the PGA Tour and the other Tour (I can’t think of the name now since the sponsor changes so much) every year. MLS is a local production. There were 40,000 people in Bank of American stadium last weekend and it was amazing. Not one person in that stadium gave a damn about how many people watched it on TV. I am interested to see what the National package will get, but the most important deals will be with the local TV deals. That is where they are going to grow the game…not broadcasting it to Mainstream American that doesn’t care at all. In the cities where the team play, there is a ton of room for growth. In the big cities everyone’s kid from 4 -20 plays soccer. MLS’s best bet to to tap into those millions of kids young and get them to be life long fans.

    • Mercator

      April 13, 2022 at 12:34 am

      The MLS plays to the lowest common denominator and that hurts the overall appeal and revenue of the league. If most broadcast and similar revenues are shared, I would think the cheap teams could still make money by dropping to MLS 2 and letting the MLS 1 clubs go wild and attract attention and revenue, which is then split with them through the league. A rising tide lifts all boats and the cheap MLS owners should realize that if they get out of the way there are plenty of deep pockets happy to spend money taking their clubs and the league to the next level. Franchise values would be fine, every team still has a cut of the league revenue and can easily/quickly spend its way into the top tier – plus the league could easily expand from 30 to 40 teams without any issue. If you aren’t losing a significant portion of broadcast revenues then relegation isn’t the financial calamity it is for EPL teams. If anything, the lower salary caps in MLS 2 would be a perfect excuse for a cheap owner to shed salary (while still collecting their cut of broadcast revenues).

  17. Buster

    April 12, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    I think a split season could be a good way to test the waters of promotion/relegation. The first half of the season could be playing for spots for the second half where there’s two leagues. A “premiere” league and the regular league, each playing for their own championship cups.

    Playoffs at the second half of the season could result in top finishers of a bracket style playoff (1st, 2nd, 3rd place) landing premiere league spots for the second half of next years season. The winners of the lower tier championship could also be awarded a spot in the following seasons premier league. It would be based off a two conference first half and a two league second half season. It would allow for both American style playoffs and European style promotion/relegation, as well as adding a new championship cup that teams can tout about. I guess the only problem would be scheduling because I’m imagining a second half where the two leagues play separately, or for the most part; but they would half a month break for the leagues cup to set up a second half schedule. ..? Lol idk I’m a little stoned

    • Turfit

      April 13, 2022 at 9:30 am

      I think Scotland has a similar style season but with Pro-rel also. I think a setup similar would be a very good format.

  18. EL Jefe

    April 12, 2022 at 8:43 pm

    If I remember right those first few MLS seasons (1996 and 97) had red hot TV ratings. The league was reaching eyeballs all across the Country and in areas far removed from having local teams. Unfortunately, the league has failed to retain those fans something most other sports leagues in America dont have to worry about. MLS seems perfectly content appealing to only their very small fanbase in urban areas and soccer families in the attached suburbs and thats it. If you go 75 miles out of a city with an MLS team most people don’t even now what MLS is.

    • Yespage

      April 13, 2022 at 12:02 pm

      The big difference is Fox Sports World is starting to become a thing, and access to European Football is slowly increasing. By the time MLS is on its feet, so to speak, access to European Football is better. The MLS might have made it if they started 5 or 10 years earlier.

    • Ernie

      April 13, 2022 at 12:06 pm

      I don’t know what the ratings were back then, but during the 90s other football leagues were hard to find on TV. I agree that the focus of MLS has been off, but with access to all the best European and South American leagues it makes it hard for them to compete.

      Also with more Yanks abroad it gives US fans more incentives to watch the European leagues. My main interest is USMNT so I prioritize watching matches involving Dortumnd, Chelsea, Barca, Valencia, etc… If I am choosing between, say, some random MLS matchup and a Heracles match with Luca de la Torre or Fulham playing some random Championship side I choose the Euopean match 90% of the time.

  19. Buckles

    April 12, 2022 at 8:06 pm

    Have to change to the international calendar. And having a fall season and a spring season like Liga MX is not a bad idea. You can go August- December and then February to May and then an extra week for the spring champion to play the fall champion. Maybe even a mini tournament in June with Liga MX.
    Would keep the regular season more interesting. It will improve tv ratings a bit no doubt. The calendar right now makes no sense. And they miss a golden opportunity to be featured on Memorial Day weekend for a championship game. There’s a lot of things you can do but promotion relegation isn’t one of them.
    One idea that goes with the split seasons is maybe in the fall teams only play in their own conference. And then in the spring season they play inter conference games. Many ideas. I’m sure people on here have some great ideas as well. MLS needs to listen.

    • B

      April 12, 2022 at 10:26 pm

      Promotion/relegation would raise the level over time and make the league instantly more attractive for many.

      • Footballer

        April 13, 2022 at 1:47 am

        😂🤣😂🤣

      • Buckles

        April 13, 2022 at 5:39 am

        Some teams are struggling now and you think that a team in the US will get fans to go to the games if they are out of it by week 5 bc they don’t spend money. And then they get relegated? Do you think anyone will go watch dynamo game if they are in the second tier? This isn’t England.
        I would like pro/rel also, but I don’t think it can work in the US. There aren’t enough hardcore fans for that to work.

        • Turfit

          April 13, 2022 at 9:35 am

          dynamo will have to change how they do business or San Antonio will take their place. The problem with Pro/Rel in the US is that all teams are owned by rich people and not by the soccer fans.

          • Buckles

            April 13, 2022 at 11:20 am

            While I think everyone here would like to see pro/rel in MLS, it’s just not going to work. Never going to happen in MLS.
            As someone else pointed out, owners are not going to pay upwards of half a billion dollars to be relegated. Never going to happen.

            • Turfit

              April 13, 2022 at 1:12 pm

              RSL paid $7.5 million in expansion fees, Miami paid $25 million, Portland paid $33 million.

              • Buckles

                April 13, 2022 at 7:01 pm

                Yes, but that value increases over time. RSL, Miami and Portland are worth a lot more today.
                If you were an owner, do you want to pay millions to be possibly relegated where literally nobody will watch your game? Not to mention the tv contracts that would be in disarray if teams could get relegated.
                Pro/rel is not a non-starter. Not even worth having that argument.

        • Mercator

          April 13, 2022 at 3:41 pm

          Dynamo have been a second tier team for a while. The MLS has 30 clubs, it’s already the size of two leagues! Why bother going to see the Dynamo to fight it out for one of the bottom 8 places in the league? At least if they were fighting to stay in the league it would give the games some meaning!

          Even if the MLS 2 clubs are worse, cutting out the bottom half of the league will let the top 15 MLS 1 teams be much more ambitious, with higher salary caps and more DP slots. Even if MLS 2 sucks, MLS 1 would be much better and would drive TV ratings. Even MLS 2 would probably be better attended, the 16th best team in the MLS would go from forgotten to the MLS 2 champion. People don’t seem to realize that generally a relegated club does quite well in the league below, they win many more games than they won in the top league.

          Splitting into two leagues with pro/rel shouldn’t lose anyone any money. The large part of revenues are still pooled among all the clubs. They can easily expand to 40 teams (10+ expansion fees paid to the League) if they split into two (or 45-60 teams if they split into 3). You don’t have to be a business guru to realize that monopolizing a full football pyramid is better business than monopolizing a single league which struggles for attention.

          • Buckles

            April 14, 2022 at 8:43 am

            I like your ideas but you are looking at it from a fans perspective. I don’t think the owners would go for it. Too much risk of losing money and that is all they care about. A team like the dynamo would probably go under in the pro/rel model.

  20. dave

    April 12, 2022 at 4:08 pm

    I want to build on your comment “Major League Soccer has many good things going for it. The quality of the league has improved”.
    .
    I skipped Liverpool-City and Miami-NE but otherwise watched the second half of the games in your tweet. The Charlotte and LA games were attractive – good production, passionate fans, fine play and officiating, etc. I randomly landed on MLS while flipping channels. In contrast, I made time for the EPL relegation battle, USWNT, and a few Liga MX games.
    .
    I know it is popular to bash MLS, but I think the product is near parity with Liga MX. Your comment “many good things” resonates. I hope MLS figure out the format, marketing, consistency of broadcasters and times, etc. I am more optimistic about expanded Leagues Cup, but I am a sucker for tournaments like that.

  21. Fechin

    April 12, 2022 at 3:40 pm

    Here’s how I would do to change the format with the link below I came up with. Merge the MLS, Canadian league, Liga MX. Create a full season format between the 3 leagues but they will play in their domestic league. What do you guys think?

  22. PeteCA

    April 12, 2022 at 3:08 pm

    The 2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup had 103 teams in it. Call it 100.
    5 leagues of 20 teams. Div 1 – Div 5.
    Pro/rel. Bottom 4 down. Top 4 up.
    Instantly you get lots more important games at all levels of the sport.
    If you must have a playoff for the champs of Div 1 then top 4 only. Not ‘half the league’.

    Failing that. Ditch the salary cap. Let (for example) some bored Silicon Valley billionaires have fun with San Jose. Proper fun. Every player has a price. Double their salary and the top players in the world would soon be posing with their hand on their Earthquakes badge, claiming that it had always been a dream to play in the MLS. Get some proper, current world superstars in the league and the ratings would increase 10 fold. The world over.

    • John D.

      April 12, 2022 at 4:14 pm

      I love Pete’s suggestion of promotion/relegation!! It is simply un-American to not give smaller cities the chance to have a team in MLS. One of the many reasons the EPL is so popular is promotion/relaxation.

    • Turfit

      April 13, 2022 at 9:38 am

      Agree!!!

  23. Roberto

    April 12, 2022 at 2:03 pm

    Or the over payment for La Liga that probably viewed by about 100,000 to 150,000+ people.

    Chris is correct about the need for a new format. A couple months ago when the podcast all stars
    talked about the league’s cup next year, I suggested they wrap the season around this mid-season break. Like Chris said before the cup there can be a 1st half winner and then afterwards there is a second half winner who then play a final for the MLS cup.
    I am not a fan of the league cup idea, so that period will be a good time for a vacation.

    • Kei

      April 12, 2022 at 6:10 pm

      How do you square breaking the MLS season into two parts, a la Liga MX, with such a massive bloat of franchises? Because right now, the ways in which it can be set up right now come with some obvious holes:

      1) A conference only slate: good luck getting the owners to reduce inventory (ie the number of games)
      2) An all-conference slate with select OOC matchups: good luck preventing certain teams getting way more favorable match-ups than the others
      3) Same number of games each half with an even higher number of teams: good luck trying to get the level to play/talent to catch up in time for the media deal after the next one

      To be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure what could be done to make the MLS regular season more compelling. (Well, aside from the obvious.)

    • Footballer

      April 13, 2022 at 1:51 am

      “Leagues Cup” is simply MLS playing gimmicky with LigaMX to attract the Mexican or Mexican descendent fans who happens to be the majority in the U.S. However, outside of them, I do not think anyone else from another Latin American country is excited about it. I know I am not.

      • Ra

        April 13, 2022 at 7:11 am

        Agreed. The only people interested on having combined concacaf-conmebol tournaments are from concafaf. Concacaf should develop its own product and not try to hijack others. They should go do their homework to make the product exciting.

  24. Anthony

    April 12, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    I would ask a different question – do these numbers (peaking at just over 1 million viewers for the most watch games) justify the price NBC is paying for Premier League? It seems like that has been the max viewership for several years. Shouldn’t premier league be getting to 1.25, 1.5, 2 million viewers for its top matchups?

    • Collin Whitehead

      April 12, 2022 at 2:26 pm

      City vs Spurs hit 1.25 million a month or two back. There’s been PL games that have gotten close to 1.5 million, and a year or two ago the final day of the season hit 2 million viewers at its peak. Sunday’s game would’ve gotten more had it been on NBC and not on USA which is cable.

      • Robert

        April 12, 2022 at 11:42 pm

        Expand to 36-40 teams. 2 divisions, either geographical or arbitrary like Baseball’s American-National. Top 3 from each playoff for Championship. Add total points for 5 years. Top 18-20 is A next group is B. Top USL is C. Eventually base it on yearly record/points.

      • Edwin

        April 23, 2022 at 3:02 pm

        Thats combined viewership EPL gets those numbers off two different channels simulcasting the games. What Anthony said is true and Kartik to his credit has spot lighted that issue the past few years. EPL ratings have stagnated. Like Anthony alluded to if the numbers were growing so rapidly and its widely popular shouldn’those numbers be hitting 1.25, 1.5m 2m regularly.

        There are only 5-7 games a yr that hit the 1m mark on NBC proper and thats basically where EPL has been stuck at since it went to NBC.

        A interesting dichotomy is how soccer is perceived EPL as a hot growing popular property(truth is its growth has long since stagnated and the highest rated season was 514k almost 6 yrs ago to the day when Leicester won the league.
        Meanwhile MLS is viewed as a league in decline when in reality its growth has been smalee but measured. Small incremental TV growth before COVID.

        Same with the La Liga over pay and the other soccer leagues pulling 30-100k on TV are viewed as the important popular leagues in this country conversation among soccer ppl gets prioritized around those leagues in this country despite abysmal viewership.

        We soccer so backwards in this country, we popularlize crapping on more followed leagues in this like MLS and glorify less followed ones as the more popular.

        • dave

          April 23, 2022 at 4:41 pm

          @Edwin, you raise good points. Summing across all demographics (including Hispanic and young), the most popular soccer leagues in the US are Liga MX, EPL, and MLS. You can tease the data and find a metric that places any of those in first. Liga MX gets the best TV ratings, EPL rakes in the most money, MLS fills a lot of stadiums, etc.
          .
          I suspect part of the criticism is that MLS lacks the cachet of top European leagues. An EPL fan can credibly tout that they are watching the best soccer in the world this weekend. A fan of La Liga or Bundesliga could argue the point plausibly, while a fan of MLS or Liga MX could not.
          .
          Some of the criticism is MLS failing to deliver on its own promises. About a decade ago, Garber said “I do believe in 10 years’ time or less, people will think of us like Serie A, La Liga, and hopefully the way they think about the Premier League”.
          .
          WST podcast had an interesting summary of a Sunday on ESPN. Audiences grew all day through an afternoon women’s NCAA basketball game. Much of the ESPN audience then disappeared for two hours of MLS and reappeared in even larger numbers for evening NBA. While I believe this dip and rebound would happen for any league soccer on ESPN on a Sunday afternoon, it is not what MLS promised broadcasters for 2022.

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