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MLS banks on Liga MX to boost next TV deal

In the NEW episode, number 245, Christopher Harris is joined by co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer to discuss several stories:

• MLS gets a record TV rating for a game on Thanksgiving Day,
• Can the Leagues Cup save MLS’ next TV deal?
• Latest news about the A-League rights in the U.S,
• Our recommended matches to watch this weekend
• And we answer your questions in the Listener Mailbag segment.

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

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  1. Turfit

    December 10, 2021 at 9:34 am

    It is amazing that the 2017 Copa Libertadores winners Gremio got relegated.

  2. Ra

    December 9, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    @Edwin. Relegation/promotion makes a huge difference to the entertainment of a league. Today we will have the relegation wacky race in the Brasileirao. Two traditional teams (Gremio and Bahia) have to win and depend on other results to avoid being relegated. Supporters from other teams have been taking coffins and making funeral arrangements for funny. A truly wacky race.
    https //

  3. Edwin

    December 9, 2021 at 5:29 pm

    @Leo said Even if MLS get a huge $350m deal, there are 27 teams and each would get around $13m in average per year. That amount is what an average team in 2.Bundesliga get. MLS need to have 20 teams in a MLS1 division and 20 teams in MLS2 division with 4 promotions/relegations per year between divisions, like Brasileirao. MLS teams are in the confort zone and they think people/broadcasters don’t notice that fact.

    Leo you are forgetting MLS has attached the TV media revenue with salary increases so a$350m yr deal with yearly with DPs would raise teams overall spending to $25-40m yr.

  4. disco george

    December 8, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    Late to the party (did the away trip to Portland for the playoff match last weekend and am still catching up), but I cannot disagree more about snow and winter weather being a big deal in MLS. Snow games are cute and fun when it’s a one-off WCQ qualifier, playoff match, or rivalry game, but it gets old really quickly on a regular basis.
    In reality, most of the matches that have been played in dumping snow and cold here (yes, even in November or March) over the years get maybe 2000-3000 in attendance.
    IMO, it would be a tradeoff for the owners in states with cold winters to completely change the calendar. Yes, they *might* get better ratings, but they’d also face some huge roadblocks with the potential loss of gameday revenue. You’d be competing with indoor events like NBA, NHL, and winter college sports, and getting casuals/non-STH ​and groups (corporate events, youth teams, etc.) out is a harder sell. Merch sales are probably going to be impacted (unless you sell puffy coats and raincoats in your team store), and more people are buying cheaper coffee and hot chocolate instead of $10 beers and pizza.
    IDK what the perfect solution is, but having actually been at a lot of these games, it’s not as cute as it looks on TV.

  5. locofooty

    December 8, 2021 at 9:39 am

    MLS needs that national package for exposure. Even better if they can remove local blackouts. That should definitely increase the value and of course Liga MX coming to the rescue as well. How much would ESPN be willing to spend for a national package with no blackouts. It will be interesting especially with word of Sinclair and Bally looking to add some type of national streaming package that gets rid of blackouts.

  6. Leo

    December 7, 2021 at 8:22 pm

    Even if MLS get a huge $350m deal, there are 27 teams and each would get around $13m in average per year. That amount is what an average team in 2.Bundesliga get. MLS need to have 20 teams in a MLS1 division and 20 teams in MLS2 division with 4 promotions/relegations per year between divisions, like Brasileirao. MLS teams are in the confort zone and they think people/broadcasters don’t notice that fact.

  7. dave

    December 7, 2021 at 7:31 pm

    @Ra, that is why the news from @locofooty makes this such a fun speculation!
    If MLS shut out RSN and give full rights to national broadcasters, that significantly increases the value of the national contract. Leagues Cup is a cash grab (looks to me like a fun one), and what good is a cash grab if it does not drive revenue?
    I agree ESPN probably have the best data. I think full MLS rights (no RSN or blackouts) would be worth more than La Liga, though I also think ESPN overpaid for La Liga.
    I might guess the over-under at $350 million assuming a package of all US MLS rights (no RSN, no blackouts), all US Leagues Cup rights, both languages, no USMNT or USWNT. Looks like you would take the under on my line and I would take the over on yours.

  8. Ra

    December 7, 2021 at 5:03 pm

    @dave $300-$450M on these rights? I don’t see how. To me, they are lucky if they get something in the low 100s. It is interesting to see how much ESPN will bid, considering they have knowledge of the MLS viewership #s on ESPN+.

  9. dave

    December 7, 2021 at 3:42 pm

    @locofooty, if the next MLS contract is all games in all locales, without blackouts, fantastic!
    Any guesses on what it means for MLS rights? Back envelope a baseline of $90 million minus $30 million (US Soccer) times 2 or 3 (sports rights inflation since last deal) for ~$150 million. Leagues Cup should be a hefty addition, MLS has grown in teams and games, broadcasters can show all local games. Enough for another 2 or 3 multiplier to $300-$450 million total?
    This just became a lot more fun rights negotiation to speculate on and follow. Thanks for sharing the news.

  10. JP

    December 7, 2021 at 1:41 pm

    @locofooty, no local blackouts would go far in creating goodwill among fans of the league, or really any sport for that matter. Very forward thinking, time has come for all leagues to end RSN monopolies in local markets!

    Cut the chord and currently don’t have my RSN for local hockey (could possibly VPN workaround if really wanted), but enjoying all the out of market every night and don’t even miss it. Still follow and listen to the radio stream if they have a game, but watching someone else. If that’s the case with me, fan for over 30 years, it definitely hurts with younger fans.

    RSN’s must go or RSN’s must create online access for a reasonable fee (not tied to cable authentication).

  11. locofooty

    December 7, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    On twitter:
    The new national @MLS media deal will not have local blackouts, per
    @thesoccerdon. “Our package will have every game, including our local games, in the package.”

  12. Edwin

    December 7, 2021 at 7:58 am

    @Turfit One thing you are ignoring is you are assuming the choir is right, and has the solutions. They may think the do, I think they don’t its alot of Monday MOrning Quarterbacking going on. How I see it #3 isn’t a bad spot folks aren’t going on or really caring about all the less popular Euro leagues on TV in the US. Next that ranking is arbitrary in some light. It will be hard for obvious reasons to just pass by Liga MX,

    So that brings me with #2 EPL remember I mentioned arbitrary? EPL position is largely determined by it faces no US Major Professional Sports League competition like #1 and # 3 face. When EPL does face some competition head to head in 12pm and 1pm windows during College Football season its rating go down thats not a coincidence NBC just has a Premier League game get 500kish . So if EPL the biggest promoted soccer league on the planet gets hit like that surely MLS gets some leeway here. Lastly on EPL folks then say well its disadvantage could be bigger the games are in the AM thats just soccer fan PR spin. EPL isn’t getting bigger numbers going H2H with the American Major Sports leagues, even some posters on here have admitted its the ease of the EPL games in the mornings and early afternoons that allow them to watch more of it but if the games were on during their other sports watching they’d watch much less if they had to pick. This mentions nothing of the fact that EPL numbers are inflated by having 30+ NBC games on a yr for the past 8 seasons.

    MLS was judged for so long apples to oranges vs EPL in ratings when it had on 2 or 3 OTA matches a season of course its viewership will be lower. Now it has 5-10 windows and some folks reply when ppl say MLS ratings are starting to slowly rise is its only because of more OTA windows. Well OBVIOUSLY imagine if MLS had 30+ OTA windows instead of 5-10. One could say EPL has that advantage yet it only a little over 100k more in TV ratings than MLS. MLS Cup is still the most watched games in English/Spanish language between the two leagues most yrs. So just because the choir is singing doesn’t mean they know the hymn they think they know.

  13. Turfit

    December 6, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    @Edwin, LigaMX is #1, EPL is #2, MLS is #3. Things need to improve with MLS because it should be #1 and it is not. So the “choir” needs to keep on singing!!!

  14. Edwin

    December 6, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    I meant MLS Cup*

  15. Edwin

    December 6, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    In this thread alot of folks who don’t already watch MLS complaining about the playoffs. The playoffs are how its done here in America. For all the complaining MLS is still the most watch league game besides Liga MX just about each yr. I think we can kind of get caught up in a soccer bubble where we only see things from our line of thinking. Not saying this to put anyone down. Just being a voice in dissent when ever there’s so much looking at it one way you need a different perspective, Just about everyone posting in this thread, “I agree” “yeah I agree me to yeah me too” sings on the same choir. The appeal regardless of what is thought here is for the wider american casual sports audience. Thats how its done and will continued to be done, So wasting time complaining every few months about this doesn’t change anything.

  16. JP

    December 6, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    @dave, yes NHL regular season is mostly meaningless once it’s determined who will likely qualify for the playoffs (unless you’re terrible, probably getting in). Don’t need 82 games to figure that out.
    The lockout shortened season of 2013 was one of my favorite since it was condensed.
    50+ games is all they need. About a quarter of the way through for this season already and it’s clear which teams have absolutely no chance and which are on the playoff bubble. Another 20-30 games should suffice to sort that out, not almost 60!

  17. dave

    December 6, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    @JP, that is an interesting format. MLS do not have a century of tradition and long-term fans that expect it to be maintained. It gives them opportunity to explore and implement something better.
    I do not like when the regular season means next to nothing. To use an NHL example, all the Presidents’ Trophy winner receives is one extra game at home per 7 game series. Not much of a reward for 82 games of hard work. I would not want them just placed in the finals, and it is fun that a low seed sometimes knocks them out. But it is too easy for that to happen in the current format.

  18. JP

    December 6, 2021 at 4:16 pm

    @dave, I like what they do in Belgium. Only followed it last year so might have the details wrong, but something like this.

    Top 4 clubs qualify for playoffs.

    Point totals divided by 2

    Home/away matches with each of the teams (6 matches), points added to the adjusted point totals from start of playoffs.

    Most points at end is champion.

    I like this because it gives a decided advantage to the club who performed best over the course of the regular season (regular season matters), but allows for another club to win if they had some bad luck/injuries during the year and were still relatively close to the top.

  19. dave

    December 6, 2021 at 3:52 pm

    @Tom3, I agree with the sentiment “The MLS . . . playoffs . . . don’t really have anything to do with the regular season”. I find the Liga MX playoff format an attractive mix of making the regular season matter while still allowing underdogs a chance. Broadly:
    * Top 4 get a bye, next 8 play one-offs hosted by the team with the better regular season record (direct to penalties if tied after 90)
    * Re-seeding prior to round of 8 and round of 4, with each run as home and home
    * If tied on aggregate after 180 in round of 8 or 4, team with the better regular season record advances
    * Final is home and home with extra time and penalties if tied on aggregate after 180
    Every pip in the regular season table matters. As it happens this year, both Liga MX finalists advanced based on the regular season tiebreaker. Had Tigres obtained one more draw in the regular season (or Leon one fewer), Tigres would be finalists rather than Leon

  20. Tom3

    December 6, 2021 at 3:29 pm

    The MLS has broken their playoffs. They mean nothing and don’t really have anything to do with the regular season. I’d at least have two-legged playoffs for the rounds before the final. I understand having a single final but I’ve lost a lot of respect for their playoff system and the wisdom of the folks running that league. I stopped watching the playoffs every year when all the top teams lose in the first couple of rounds in those one-off playoff games.

  21. dave

    December 6, 2021 at 3:23 pm

    This discussion is filled with good ideas. A few that resonate with me:
    * @Roberto, I am also a fan of split seasons, which are common in the Americas and familiar to Liga MX fans. Agree with your ideas for better MLS playoffs, especially home and home
    * @locofooty, agree NFL stadiums were a big driver originally for MLS. With the diversity and extremes of climate and weather in the contiguous 48, almost every month has great conditions in one part of the country matched by subpar conditions in another
    * @greg hits the nail on the head with “Right now the MLS regular season feels almost pointless”, a sentiment I would extend to most US leagues. Unless a very big fan of the sport and league, it is easy to just watch the playoffs. Any half decent team makes the playoffs
    @Mercator says “I wish they would just have a proper CCL . . . or scrap CCL entirely”. I follow Liga MX and have never watched a CCL game. To me it is a nuisance that interferes with the Liga MX season. I would be much keener on a carved out few weeks for Leagues Cup. Invite a few guests if there is a need to call it CONCACAF
    @Mercator says “Even I, a big football fan, don’t find MLS playoffs as compelling when there are big NFL/CFB games on”. I have no problem skipping weeks of the NFL, but even a bad college football game ranks ahead of MLS for my watching. Many (probably a lot more) feel that way about NFL. Unfortunate timing for the business end of MLS’ season

  22. Mercator

    December 6, 2021 at 1:47 pm

    @Roberto – The season runs from Feb – December as it is now. So really we are only talking about 3 months, difference, maximum. The leagues cup could be played during 4 of those weeks in warm climates, so thats really 6-8 weeks gap. Either take a break, or just schedule warmer climate teams for those games in December or Feb. There are maybe 10-12 teams in truly cold climates, just don’t schedule them at home in Dec or Feb. For Floridians, Texans and others in southern climates, games in the dead of winter are actually preferable to games in July and August. The USMNT is playing in Ohio in January, so no reason MLS cannot either. RUSSIA plays a Fall/Spring schedule, the weather is really a non-factor for a league like MLS that already is playing Feb – Dec.

  23. Mercator

    December 6, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    Good Pod. The Leagues Cup doesn’t interest me in the least but I guess they will make more money out of it. I wish they would just have a proper CCL instead of all these random tournaments with Mexico. or scrap CCL entirely. The problem is too many meaningless games, so I don’t see how this improves that. 30 teams, 6 groups of 5 – Play every team once (29 games) and play second game against group teams (4 games). 33 game season, you play every other club at least once and the schedule is clear and easy to follow. The a domestic cup and an international cup – I don’t care if its Luges Cup or CCL, but having 3-4 additional non-league tournaments is confusing and makes them seem meaningless. The MLS playoffs already seem meaningless – what point is the regular season is low seeded teams jump in and run the table. Revs actually seemed to be DISADVANTAGED for finishing first and having so much time off. It’s crazy.

    I wish they would move to the Fall/Spring schedule like Kartik mentioned. This is prime American football season, its no wonder MLS gets overshadowed. Even I, a big football fan, don’t find MLS playoffs as compelling when there are big NFL/CFB games on. The weather issue is non-sensical, that is not the reason for MLS’ current schedule so to wheel it out like its some insurmountable issue is bizarre. Much colder climates manages a Sping/Fall schedule, and these are leagues with 0 clubs in warm climates, unlike the MLS where half the clubs could easily play straight through winter. Put the Leagues Cup in Jan/Feb and schedule warmer climate home games in Dec and Feb and the schedule works perfectly fine. Added benefit of actually having summer tournaments off instead of this busch league nonsense where MLS plays right through major international tournaments.

    Interested to hear thoughts on FIFAs latest walk back on their 2 year world cup proposal, suggesting instead an expanded confederations cup (similar to Nations league but cross confederation). I actually think this is a great idea and would create matches people want to see, while streamlining the calendar. Nations League and Confederations cup in years 1 and 2, confederations cup and world cup in years 3 and 4. I would love a cross confederation nations league, with say the top 2 from each confederation in one pot, next 2 in another, etc.

  24. Roberto

    December 6, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    Actually many teams are beholding to the wintry weather. How long would the winter break be? The interior west has below zero temperatures for months. Some stadiums do not have below ground heating. In reality the current summer schedule is the only workable system.

  25. greg

    December 6, 2021 at 12:26 pm

    Good discussion….Kartik’s idea about a September start and winter break is good for MLS. Now that most have their own stadiums they aren’t as totally beholden to stadium availability around the NFL. Also agree that while the Leagues Cup idea sounds interesting, the MLS suits might be overestimating how much it’ll drive engagement back to the league. Might inadvertantly outshine the league regular season.

    Right now the MLS regular season feels almost pointless. Yes, it is 4 games fewer than EPL teams play, but that season is a round-robin home-and-away. You get to know the teams. MLS is too big, too diffuse. And too many teams in the playoffs means the regular season is neutered in impact.

    If they want all these teams, two divisions with pro-rel would be great. Compact schedule of home-and-way all around. If you want playoffs maybe just top 3 with #1 getting a bye or top 4. The Leagues Cup will replace the missing matches if the divisions are less than 20.

    BTW, re: the Beatles’ doc…Chris, it wasn’t just that they were rehearsing for a rooftop gig and that’s why they rehearsed so much. The original idea was to play in that film soundstage to a live audience and record a new album. In front of people. And they hadn’t really played live in years. And they had just under 3 weeks to write the songs and get ready for the show. Even for as crazy talented a band as them, that’s a daunting task – any songs in progress had to be taught to the band, new ideas jammed out until they worked. The rooftop concert was what happened after they realized the soundstage wasn’t going to work as they thought.

  26. locofooty

    December 6, 2021 at 10:25 am

    About the schedule, Chris and Kartik touched on it with excellent points in a recent podcast…one of the main, if not the main, reasons the league began as a summer league was for the use NFL stadiums and to have a tenant during the summer. I don’t think a lot of studies were done back then on weather impact. Hilarious when it’s pointed out that leagues in the southern hemisphere play a yearly season. Of course they do, it’s winter over there when it’s summer here. Just a quick look at the weather around the world will tell you that. Simple, football is played better under fall/winter conditions. Maybe the calendar works now for those involved in the league and everyone is happy, but don’t kid yourselves that MLS started as a summer league because of the weather.

  27. Roberto

    December 5, 2021 at 5:24 pm

    Providence Park should be rocking next weekend with New York FC coming to town. A full house+ of some of the best fans in the country. Wish it was Seattle but Portland will do a great job or representing the NW.

  28. Roberto

    December 4, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    The play off have provided some good actions even without the top seeds. Hopefully next year there will be fewer teams and it will go back to home and away elimination games!

  29. Roberto

    December 4, 2021 at 8:58 am

    Great pod-cast, probably the most time spent talking about the MLS, ever!
    I am not sure about inter-league play and how that will effect the MLS season. A long break will set teams back and make for a very long season. The idea of playing at the same time as most of the European leagues will make it harder to pick up more viewers and will likely affect attendance You both and many of the WST followers say they watch so many games already, so why would adding the MLS be likely to be a good idea?
    This years playoff show the weakness of one leg and out setup. Maybe if this league’s cup system is used, the MLS can do like I believe Argentina does, a split season. If the break is in the middle of the MLS season, there could be a 1st half and 2nd half champions, who then have the semi and finals for the League cup.

  30. dave

    December 3, 2021 at 10:18 pm

    Enjoyable podcast. Interesting to read perspectives above on MLS. It seems MLS may have their work cut out to consistently drive higher national ratings. A few reactions:
    * Great to hear Leagues Cup details. My first reaction is that if most teams take it seriously (will some treat it like meaningless pre-season exhibition?) this could be a very fun watch
    * Full, meaningful, cross-league play nicely addresses “which league is stronger” debates. In college basketball, the ACC-Big Ten challenge shows how much deeper the Big Ten has become in the past decade. I would not be shocked if MLS in aggregate holds its own
    * My MLS regular season watching is probably like @JP – an occasional match on a summer evening between the end of Stanley Cup and the start of Liga MX and college football. A small window
    * I caught a few MLS playoff games and thought they were outstanding! The Bobby Wood winner for RSL and the NE-NY game stood out. Games were hard fought, well played, and fun to watch. The MLS season has awful timing relative to sports and soccer leagues I care more about, so I watch very little of it. But as others note, changing timing of the season would carry its own risks

  31. JP

    December 3, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    @dave, I know what you mean. My interest drops a bit in January but that’s also winter break for most, so works out well. Love February because it fills the post Super Bowl void and also when the dog days of NHL starts to begin (after trade deadline). Plus we get UCL round of 16.

    As for empty stadiums, Eredivisie currently out of my rotation just because of that.

  32. José Cerrato

    December 3, 2021 at 10:05 pm

    Yo sigo a la MLS, y me parece tonto pedir que la MLS cambie su calendario de marzo-diciembre a agosto-mayo.
    No se puede por el invierno, en EE.UU nieva bastante.

  33. jason

    December 3, 2021 at 7:56 pm

    @JP For about 8-9 months a year soccer is my number one thing. But I always seem to lose interest in soccer during the December-March period and hockey gets my interest during that time. I am in that hockey mood during the cold months natrualy. Plus I love the IIHF World Junior tournament. i guess the freshness of the new season is gone by December and reality hits for teams that I like that stink again. Also no trophies being handed out as that is way down the road. So its the real dog days of the football/soccer season really. FA Cup early rounds is probably most interesting thing about the winter months. The other thing is that Euro leagues are starting to have empty stadiums or small crowds again. I hate that a ton and can’t watch games like that.

  34. Pastor

    December 3, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t really follow MLS even though we have a team in town. I don’t care so much about the calendar in terms of aligning with Europe. There are plenty of leagues that follow the same schedule (Brazil, Argentina, Ireland) as MLS.

    I think MLS would be better served with a single table instead of the conference nonsense, top four go to a playoff. Home and away ties for the semis and a single game final on Thanksgiving each year.

  35. JP

    December 3, 2021 at 2:26 pm

    In regards to the MLS calendar, there’s upside and downside to anything they could do. It all comes down to how they maximize the number of potential viewers.

    In our soccer bubble here, probably over-estimated how many people should be watching, when the case is soccer is still very far down on most sports fans radar.
    So, change the calendar to Fall-Spring and go head to head with NFL, College football, NBA, NFL playoffs, March Madness, NBA/NHL playoffs and so on. They have virtually no chance of gaining the attention of those not already predisposed to watching soccer. At the same time, those predisposed to watching soccer at those times of year could very well choose Europe and go back to following their traditional American sports at night (raising my hand here)

    Those predisposed to watching soccer and MLS likely to watch whenever it’s on, so the current calendar gives them a few months of space to themselves (unless you include MLB) to maybe grab some of those casual/non soccer loving sports fans in addition to the dedicated fans.

    I agree it should be changed to align more with the rest of the world, but I’m not the one who stands to gain or lose money from those decisions.

    Speaking for myself, most of my MLS viewing (local team only) came from about June to September or so. Once the European leagues get up and running and NHL season starts, simply not much room for MLS.
    This has been the case since MLS’ inception in 1996. I’d follow sporadically in Spring, more in the summer, tail off in August, then by fall be done with it and often amazed the season was still ongoing (argument to shorten the season maybe?)
    The Revs were really fun to watch this season so did make space for them at times even later in the year, but only when up against nothing else (local NHL, Euro soccer, or NHL). I can’t imagine MLS significantly increasing viewership with a calendar change. It should be done, but ratings wouldn’t be the justification.

    Yes they did very well on Thanksgiving apparently, but as you said, a lot of people probably left the channel on after the Lions/Bears game and it was nice background noise. National holiday with an NFL lead in probably their ceiling. Only scenario that could beat that would be a July 4th weekend with a USMNT/USWNT World Cup match as a lead in…..or maybe not since most would want to enjoy the outdoor weather and wouldn’t be stuck inside a house with family as is the case on Thanksgiving for many in the US.

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