Wrexham is rapidly rising the ranks of the most famous clubs in the United States. It flows well with the club’s promotion back to the English Football League, as it rises the ranks in the pyramid. Stateside, though, Wrexham is rivaling some of the domestic sides in terms of popularity.
Paul Mullin, one of the stars of Wrexham’s season as its leading scorer, said his life is largely unchanged despite Wrexham’s success both on and off the pitch.
“[McElhenney and Reynolds] say outside of the top-10 teams we are probably the most famous,” Mullin told The Times. “Quite weird. I don’t see myself as famous or recognisable and nothing has changed me. I literally do exactly the same, like walking into McDonald’s. I’ve never been to America and I’ll probably get a shock when I go in the next few months.”
Is Wrexham actually that famous in the United States? We can compare them to MLS, at least.
Looking specifically at Major League Soccer, some of the American viewership of Wrexham games exceeds those of MLS contests on US TV. In Wrexham’s FA Cup fifth-round loss to Sheffield United in February, 139,000 fans watched on ESPN2. This game was shown live on a midweek afternoon.
Compare this to the most recent MLS game on US TV, which was Sunday’s Atlanta United game against Chicago Fire. That broadcast on FS1 kicked off just before 5 p.m. ET. It averaged just 64,000 viewers. That is less than half of what ESPN2 pulled for the Wrexham contest.
Is Wrexham actually more famous in the US than most clubs?
The minuscule number of viewers does raise some concerns over the viewing future of Major League Soccer, particularly on US TV. This is a fifth-division team in Wales that is pulling audiences notably larger than MLS audiences. Granted, Wrexham has a hit show on FX that fans follow, and Americans are infatuated with Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds, the two owners of the club. Still, those are simply storylines people follow in a club.
Some considerations must be taken into account, though. For example, FOX’s number does not account for MLS Season Pass. Apple’s streaming service, which has coverage of every single game, simulcast the game. Viewing numbers for the broadcast on Apple TV’s MLS Season Pass are not made available, similar to how ESPN often doesn’t release numbers for ESPN+.
Also, the stakes in the Wrexham game were higher than the MLS game. One was a cup tie, and the other was simply a regular-season game. Third, but certainly not the last of the reasons, was the time of day. Wrexham’s FA Cup clash had no competition in terms of sports viewership in the United States. Meanwhile, the MLS game competed in a prime Sunday slot when there were basketball, soccer, baseball, hockey and other sports on. Not to mention, Sunday afternoons are generally times when people step away from their TVs.
Each of these things simultaneously brings up the viewership of the Wrexham game and brings down that of the MLS. Regardless, it indicates a strong following for the Wrexham game, and perhaps a lack of for this MLS fixture in particular. People made an effort to watch the Wrexham game during a less-than-prime hour for sports fans in the United States. Many soccer fans would be working or in school at midday. The same effort did not come from MLS fans at least for Atlanta against Chicago. Which, to be fair, is not exactly a game that jumps off the fixture list.
PHOTO: IMAGO / PA Images
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