Saturday’s USL Championship game between Louisville City and Indy Eleven created history as the first USL game shown on over-the-air network television in the United States. Ultimately, it pulled a larger national TV audience than an MLS derby on FOX.

In the goal-fest, Louisville City defeated Indy 5-3. The game was available on CBS as part of its new broadcast deal with the league.

In total, CBS announced a total viewership of 362,000. That is an impressive figure for a Division Two game. It also provides a metric to show the popularity of the USL Championship in the United States. By comparison, the MLS game of the week on US TV did not match the viewership numbers for CBS and the USL.

Los Angeles FC battled LA Galaxy in the latest edition of El Trafico, certainly a marquee matchup among the Major League Soccer fixtures. The audience on FOX was 211,000 for Saturday evening’s game. Several factors could have contributed to this relatively lower number for MLS. Kickoff was at 7:45 p.m. ET, which means American audiences may have been watching other events. That includes other MLS games at the time or the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Final Four. However, FOX may not have advertised this game to the best of their ability despite the grandeur of the derby clash.

Much like previous MLS games the over-the-air FOX network, the FOX viewership does not include the viewership of MLS Season Pass. This should have been the biggest game of the weekend for viewers on MLS Season Pass from Apple, which shows that devout MLS fans may have been watching on the subscription service.

USL Championship makes headway with national TV audience

All of those factors considered, the audience figures on national TV are a major triumph for the USL Championship. Louisville City has long been one of the best clubs in the second division in American soccer, and this shows that fans would want to tune in to watch their games. As the USL season is only a handful of games in, excitement may have been at its peak for this game.

Yet, CBS has developed a measure of success for what its broadcast deal with the league can look like. There are no games on the immediate schedule that will return to the national CBS TV network, but the broadcaster will have games available on the CBS Sports Network. That can be a benefit for the USL, which is working to break the hegemony of Major League Soccer in the United States.

For MLS, the national TV audience remains a concern. Apple does not release subscription information, which makes it hard to gauge how successful MLS Season Pass is for American audiences. While Apple has said it is comfortable with where the subscriptions are at, the national TV games are a rare opportunity for any fan to watch MLS. Those fans did not tune in despite Saturday’s game featuring one of the best rivalries in Major League Soccer.