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American sports fans dislike soccer and why we’re OK with that: World Soccer Talk Podcast

In the NEW episode, number 180, Christopher Harris and co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer cover a range of topics including:

• Why the best soccer leagues are not the most popular,
• What MLS Is Back TV ratings tell us about soccer on US TV,
• How Peacock did on its first major day of Prem coverage,
• Are CBS Sports heading in the right direction,
• Plus letters from you, the listeners, in our mailbag section.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

Send in your questions, comments and feedback via e-mail web@worldsoccertalk.com, via Twitter (@worldsoccertalk) or Facebook. We’ll read them out on-air in the next episode.

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. Edwin

    July 22, 2020 at 6:43 pm

    I added that information that “Barry was asking for but the mods keep deleting it yet they claim they aren’t anti-MLS. It seems any dissenting view that cuts at claims presented hear are silenced. I’ve had alot of informed detailed post with info all deleted. Very childish.

    • Donald Duck

      July 22, 2020 at 7:12 pm

      I am seeing all your posts Edwin I dont know why its not showing on your side but my comment section is filled with your facts.

      • Edwin

        July 23, 2020 at 2:24 pm

        I had more Demo info in there that seemingly got removed maybe because it was from ShowbuzzDaily. But Barry was asserting I was being a hypocrite and I was stating stuff without backing it up. In my post that were deleted I had that info. I always try to present a compelling argument that is stats driven.

  2. Donald Duck

    July 22, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Holy hell Nottingham Forest had the biggest collapse this season wow just wow. Congratulations to Swansea City. Also what a match between Barnsley and Brentford such a fun celebration after the match too see. Barnsley survived relegation (due to Wigan loaing 12 points).

    If every season could end like this i would be a happy guy.

    Now hopefully (Italy Serie A) can have a finish in the same fashion.

    • MP

      July 23, 2020 at 10:11 am

      Yeah Forest totally bottling it was superb. Never liked them.
      Bet the old bill are glad that fans aren’t allowed at the games – they’d have no idea how to even start the policing of the potential Swansea v Cardiff final at Wembley!

  3. NaBUru38

    July 22, 2020 at 4:52 pm

    If you like the MLS is Back’s short format, then the MLS could use an Apertura/Clausura split-season format. The top 8 teams in each tournament would advance to the playoffs, with the remaining spots filled according to aggregate points.

    • NaBUru38

      July 22, 2020 at 5:00 pm

      Or 4 teams from each conference, or whatever.

  4. John Kvam

    July 21, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    One thing people knowfor sure, MLS keeps adding new franchises.
    I remember reading appox. ten years ago that people then were saying MLS will never
    have even 25 teams. Allready there aremore teams than that. And new expansion
    teams are on the way soon.
    Soccer is here to stay in America and it will continue to grow, as each
    generation gets a little more into it.

  5. Edwin

    July 18, 2020 at 12:15 pm

    Concerning MLS TV ratings and whether this temporary unique situations affects prospects of a future TV deal I don’t believe so. First I wanted to point out a few overlooked things.

    The TUDN ratings shouldn’t be used as a singular focus just as you tried to cast aside the opening night ratings you should use similar thinking here as the ratings or lack there of don’t tell your listeners the whole story. Normally the majority of MLS games in Spanish are broadcast on Univision or a combination of Unimas/TUDN simulcast. For whatever reason maybe because of the unique on the fly nature of the MLS is Back Tournament these games are only being carried exclusively on TUDN not the normal MLS Univision or Unimas/TUDN broadcast. So expect limited TV numbers due to limited distribution.

    Moving to the FS1 numbers, MLS TV# on FS1 is often brought up for ridicule by Chris and particularly in this episode in discussing the MLS FS1 ratings impact MLS Future TV deals, However what is missed by WST and is not properly conveyed to your readers/listeners is whenever FS1 airs MLS it’s often about 99% of the time the highest rated broadcast on FS1 all day. So just to put things in context MLS is still valuable to FS1.

    Finally it would be nice if WST actually dug deeper into TV viewership when it discusses TV ratings, You often miss and fail to covey to the audience the most the most important aspect of TV viewership the 18-49 yr Demo#. The 18-49 yr old Demo number is the ONLY thing TV networks and advertisers care about. Networks sell ad space and advertisers buy that space based off of how many viewers in the 18-49 yr old demo are watching a broadcast. That area is where MLS shines and doesn’t get talked about enough, 50-55% and sometimes more of the MLS viewing audience falls within that subset. Soccer normally trends highest amongst this age range in sports. MLS has some of the highest % of viewers in soccer, this means MLS often while being topped in total viewership by as much as 4 times on TV wins ratings battle by having the larger key demo audience. This happens no matter what the overall MLS audience size. World Soccer Talk doesn’t discuss this or educate the audience enough about this. TV viewership is just discussed in black and white terms with no nuance which is a disservice, especially if you are going to be the one stop shop in soccer media

    • Robert

      July 18, 2020 at 4:40 pm

      My thank you for this useful and interesting comment!

      • Robert

        July 18, 2020 at 5:46 pm

        I have always considered Chris’s comments on the MLS as constructive and useful!
        As a person who whats to see a league improve along with its media coverage, it is good to point out ways to make those improvements.

        • Edwin

          July 18, 2020 at 7:00 pm

          Information is only useful when its correct I like the information of breaking media news and conversation from sources that Chris and Kartik break, I however provide constructive criticism on the TV ratings coverage because they spend so much time commentating in the matter and putting out articles to push a view point to their readers and listeners but are falling short to explain the greater story, which is what my original post was about. From the incomplete information that is past to it’s audience you get a whole community of uninformed people that repeat the information that they hear and form opinions, I have ran into a few of these people. If you go over to the TV ratings comments section there is a guy with a whole diatribe of falsehoods.

          The thing is there needs to be greater understanding of TV Ratings explained by WST to it’s viewers. It would be nice to get a “Soccer why all TV viewership is not Equal” article. that explains the importance of the TV DEMO# and not the viewership number as the viewership number means little to Networks and Advertisers. I had this explain to me on Twitter a few years ago thru DM’s and conversations with Network people in the business. I think it would lead to a more robust discussion and informed dialogue on the TV Ratings. As stated in my earlier post MLS does well in the Key Demo P 18-49 yr old MLS punches above it’s weight there and pulls equal to or greater numbers of the subset often than programming with 2-4x the viewership.

          However we get the annual hand wringing articles and comments from people absolutely convinced MLS is a TV failure and will have a failure of a TV Deal. Then when the new deal id much larger than they expected because of all the “MLS BAD TV ” ratings articles they’ve seen they will be convinced its a SUM conspiracy or that all 8 USMNT games a yr or the every 4 year WC is carrying the deal rather than the truth. MLS punches above it’s weight in the 18-49 yr old demo. Lets elevate this conversation there’s more nuance to it that WST is having amongst it’s audience.

          • Barry

            July 18, 2020 at 11:43 pm

            According to the Sports Business Journal the average age of MLS’ viewing audience is 39 compared to the NBA at 40 and the NHL at 42. Minor differences. Now compare that to the huge difference in ratings between MLS and the other two sports. Last year’s NHL Stanley Cup finals averaged 7.2 million viewers per game. The NBA finals averaged 15.1 million per game. MLS Cup totaled 1.3 million. Given those numbers it is obvious the NBA and NHL draw far more viewers in the 18-49 demo than MLS.

            And that is shown in the rights fees each league commands. MLS receives less than half of the national TV rights fees the NHL does and about three percent (yes, you read that right) of what the NBA receives. I think that tells you all you need to know about how MLS does in the 18-49 demo broadcasters look for. It is a larger piece of the viewership pie than in the NBA and NHL, but of a drastically smaller pie.

            • Edwin

              July 19, 2020 at 1:54 am

              Ok thats kind of a conflation of two things but yes at the biggest level of the Finals of course MLS a league with less historical with less generation of generation of fans draws smaller demo numbers at that level. HOWEVER, during the regular season MLS and NHL see saw back and forth in the lead for 18-49 demo# is more or less even. Look it up regular season NHL vs MLS Demo numbers and viewership. Both draw similar TV viewership on cable TV excluding the OTA broadcast. NBA beats both out majorly. BTW the NHL Stanley Cup average was 5.33 million according to Sports media watch, MLS really does punch above it’s weight. It will take generations of not just MLS but soccer fans for soccer to get those big grand finale series numbers like the other 4 of the Big 5 US sports. Look no further than Liga MX they’ve built that generational support which reflects in TV despite not having the highest quality of soccer. MLS will get there.

              I guess it comes down to how you choose to view MLS TV prospects if you are a optimist there are signs to reinforce your beliefs if you choose to be a pessimist there are things you can point to that will reinforce your belief. It just seems the nature of the pessimist is to find anything without actually vetting the numbers. Optimist tend to look deeper at things while finding the bright side. That’s not to say that there haven’t been times where I look at a MLS rating and go jeez no real reason why that shouldn’t be better. But even with those on a whole things are encouraging for the next TV deal. In fact it was announced this evening that ESPN has picked up additional games and will simulcast coverage of some of the games that had only been airing on TUDN. That is a good thing and means ESPN is happy with the TV ratings they are getting.

              • Barry

                July 19, 2020 at 9:22 pm

                Rather than just make claims why don’t you support your suggestions with some real data for a change. As I documented your claims about MLS and 18-49 year olds is no where close to true when looking at the biggest games in each league. So now your argument is that your claim only applies to the regular season. But of course you don’t post even one stat to support that claim and instead ask me to look it up for you.

                It is pretty hypocritical to criticize WST for not providing demo data, suggest it tells a different story, but refuse to support your claim with any data.

  6. 11

    July 18, 2020 at 4:28 am

    Okay, here it is…soccer or world football will never become a top sport in this country that is competitive to even approach the upper echelon. I’m OK with that…soccer definitely does not need the US to succeed… in fact, the true reason I don’t want football to become that popular here is because I’d prefer the US to stay out of world football…it has enough problems already…a not too casual look at our existing top sports makes it quite clear that football doesn’t need that kind of company.

  7. Anthony

    July 17, 2020 at 5:16 pm

    A few comments on the themes from the podcast…

    1) When Bundesliga restarted, I watched a few of the games, mainly to get a glimpse of Dortmund (Haaland, Sancho, etc) and to see how Leipzig and Bayern were looking. However, after a couple of weeks, it was clear that Bayern was going to win again, and it became less interesting. I’ve basically been watching Premier League exclusively in recent weeks. For some reason, the way NBC promotes EPL makes way more teams and matches compelling than the way other leagues are covered. I can be happy watching a Sheffield vs Everton match, know the history of the teams, understand the stakes, etc. I can’t do the sam for a Wolfsburg vs Frankfurt match.

    2) I have watched a few of the MLS matches, but I don’t really find most of the teams compelling, especially without fans, which do add a lot of MLS TV broadcasts

    3) I have been disappointed that more Americans aren’t watching soccer. ESPN SportCenter seems to be promoting some of their matches, but I am not sure how many people watch SportCenter these days. Without a World Cup to draw casual fans in, a lot of people can’t seem to get over the hump to watch soccer. Until the US starts producing better players, who then improve the US men’s national team and go on to play at a high level in Europe, it is going to be extremely tough to get more traction for any kind of club soccer in the US. So if you want soccer to succeed in the US, you simply need the men’s national team to do better.

  8. Azer

    July 17, 2020 at 2:10 pm

    I though when watching the Premier League on Peacock, NBCSN would stay far away. Instead this past Wednesday for the Arsenal vs Liverpool game on Peacock we still had to put up with their stupid commercials for 90+ minutes and commentary from Arlo White. When it this disaster going to end?

  9. Barry

    July 17, 2020 at 11:50 am

    On the podcast they were wondering why the Premier League gets so much more viewership in the US than other european leagues which they believe have higher quality soccer. I think the reasons are pretty obvious.

    1. Style of play. This is not a phenomenon restricted to the US. The Premier League generates far more international rights fees than any other european league. By viewership it is the most popular league in the world. The English all action, more physical, more direct style of play seems to play well across the globe. It also helps that English is one of the most common languages world wide.
    2. Competition. Juve has won eight Serie A titles in a row. So has Bayern in Germany. In the past 15 years either Real Madrid or Barcelona have won every La Liga title except one. On the other hand there have been five different champions in the last eight years in the Premier League.
    3. English language coverage (highlight shows, print articles, podcasts, etc) of the Premier League is far more extensive than for any of the other major European leagues.
    4. Historically there has been more availability of Premier League telecasts in the United States than other European leagues.

  10. rkujay

    July 17, 2020 at 6:16 am

    I have followed football since the 1950s. When my (now) 40 something son started playing there was zero tv coverage in the states, save the world cup. When we went to son’s matches, people did not know the laws of the game. I put that off to the lack of exposure here. Fast forward to the late 1990s. Going to my grandson’s matches…same thing. When my son was young it was said that ‘Soccer is the next big thing in America’. Soccer will always be the next big thing here. I’ve stopped having the discussion with others. It’s my game. The beautiful game.
    As for the discussion above regarding politics, I say this… Politics and football are inexorably joined. Just look up Spain’s Franco and Di Stefano,

    • Robert

      July 17, 2020 at 8:54 am

      World Football for many is an escape from the world’s troubles and in general the game is neutral, politically. Unfortunately those troubles have a way of spilling over into the game. As mentioned above, in the past and to this day many Ultra supporters have Fascist leanings. We see this mainly in Eastern Europe and Italy and those politics promote Racism.
      In this country there are more positive activities by the Ultra groups. In Seattle the main group is the Emerald City supporters, a sub-group is Gorilla FC, who help build housing for the homeless, which is a big problem in the area. They are also the people behind the Iron Front flag and they stand against Racism and Homophobia.
      So, the MLS as a league is not political but the current effort to finally deal with racism in the country is a SOCIAL issue. Those who have make it a political issue can be part of the problem. Then the issue may become are you for or against Racism.
      Football supporters in this country have often been a benefit to there communities, because they have built community pride. That is a positive aspect of world football.
      As far as support for the sport in the general population. I am stuck in a world football backwater, after years in Seattle. Anyway even here the local paper added real Football news last year, it was after Charlotte, 50 miles away got a MLS team.

      • jason

        July 17, 2020 at 9:21 am

        Is it really positive? I hope people involved with Gorilla FC has no connections to the CHAZ group in anyway? Not saying I know if they did or not. Its a question I would like to have an answer to. Hope it is “No”. But I think it is a valid question

      • Turfit

        July 17, 2020 at 10:46 am

        There is a Stephen Covey quote, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”. When Political or Social issues are the headlines then the league has lost it’s way. This is a very large country with diverse beliefs systems to politics, social issues and even religion and cultures and one of the most beautiful thing about the beautiful game is that it can bring all of us together. The main thing is the football, MLS needs to focus on the football.

  11. jason

    July 16, 2020 at 10:15 pm

    In regards to the talk about Pulisic discussion in general sports media, at the 1 hour 30 minute mark. Clay Travis with Outkick is talking about him quite a bit. Very high on him.

    • Donald Duck

      July 16, 2020 at 10:39 pm

      I like Clay Travis and Jason Whitlock. Speaking the truth even when it is not popular.

      The problem with Soccer in America is the 1 sided views both politically and socially and no one elses matter.

      Pulisic should be must watch (unless you hate Chelsea) and any highlights should be top of the hour not some 5 second clip randomly placed between two 5 minute segments on what Lebron is eating for lunch and dinner.

      I love ESPN Plus however I hate ESPN due to them being to “woke”.

      ESPN has become MTV.

      • Jason

        July 17, 2020 at 9:11 am

        True. Thankfully with English Championship coverage that is not and ESPN production. Just skip the 8 seconds of kneeling at the start and your good 🙂

        • jason

          July 17, 2020 at 9:11 am

          an ESPN production*

        • MAHLUF

          July 23, 2020 at 1:13 pm

          If you think supporting that fact that racism will not be tolerated is “political” then it says a lot about you.

          • Donald Duck

            July 23, 2020 at 1:44 pm

            Our kneeling is not a Black Lives Matter saying it is BLM the organization. ESPN hates everything that is center/right and there talk show hosts have said anyone who supports Trump is a racist so yes I personally do have an issue with ESPN.

          • no to racism

            July 23, 2020 at 1:48 pm

            Racism should not be tolerated.
            The t-shirts and arm-bands that is currently being worn is promoting an organization that a lot of people disagree with that has nothing to do with race. This is an example of MLS and USL being political.

        • Donald Duck

          July 23, 2020 at 1:47 pm

          The problem with ESPN+ is they dont put all the matches on like i would’ve loved to switch back and forth between 4 or 5 matches but alas only 3 were available for us to watch.

  12. JP

    July 16, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Nice to see you guys finally coming to the realization soccer is still very much a niche sport here in the United States. I too expected ratings to improve with it being the only game in town, unfortunately lots of people still have the “soccer is boring” mindset that our media and pop culture brain perpetuates and won’t give it a chance.

    Premier League dominates here I think because of the common language and how easy it is to find on television (good marketing and consistent channels). EPL is what got me into club soccer from just being a WC, Euros, and CL (final) fan, but immediately got hooked on La Liga along with Serie A (in HD and English commentary instead of grainy RAI) when beIN took over. Haven’t looked back since, EPL became unwatchable to me over time in comparison.

    Haven’t watched much MLS, but didn’t even realize the camera angles were “new”. As Chris or Kartik said, looks like what La Liga and Serie A often provide with much of the field in view and can see the runs players are making and the attack develop. That’s another reason I don’t like EPL, the constant tight one player focus when dribbling and the field almost cut in quarters in the attack zone. Can’t see what’s happening on top or bottom half of the field or who a pass is intended for or how a player got open etc.

  13. jason

    July 16, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    At around the 10 minute mark Kartik mentioned he had CNN on before he started exploring installing Peacock………………Ok sir I think you should cut out CNN. I know that you know they are garbage. Check out many of the great political commentators on youtube instead like Tim Pool and Brandon Tatum. And with all the streaming options Cable TV is not even needed. ESPN+ is only getting better. For cherry on top, log into Arsenal and Chelsea sites for free to get their full match replays. Other teams like Leicester, Everton, and Watford I think you can get 15-20 minute game replays on their sites.

    Also, I have been enjoying the Danish games since they have crowds at their matches now.

    • Robert

      July 16, 2020 at 3:08 pm

      Actually CNN has very good reporters and fairly complete coverage of national news. Who are these you tube guys? What experience do they have?

      • Jack S.

        July 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm

        CNN wouldn’t have an audience if they weren’t on the televisions in every airport in the U.S.

        • Robert

          July 16, 2020 at 6:40 pm

          In any bars that are open, Fox will be on, doing a worthless job of covering the news, just like they do with soccer!

      • jason

        July 16, 2020 at 8:05 pm

        Cuomo? Lemon? Ha. Only competent and fabricating stories. Tim Pool actually digs deep into actual details of the story. channel is called “timcast”. Another I recommend from a sports angle is Clay Travis. channel is called “outkick”

        Kartik’s soccer IQ is incredible though. I admire he does not insert politics in these podcasts. He still has a slip sometimes though. This comment during the show was an example. Their coverage of MLS is as much as I am going to get from that league right now. They are WAY too political. Theirry Henry’s kneeing to his overlords is the perfect example of this.

        • Yespage

          July 17, 2020 at 8:43 am

          Mentioning CNN exists isn’t political. Jason, you have entered in 10x the amount of political banter in a couple responses here as Kartik probably has in all of their podcasts.

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