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MLS Follow Up November 24, 2009

Posted by in : MLS , comments closed
Sunday night, ESPN broadcasted the MLS Cup between the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake in primetime , putting it in direct competition with Sunday Night Football on NBC. The game received a 0.9 Nielsen rating, which was up from the 0.7 in 2008. It was also the fourth highest attended game in the history of the MLS Cup with 46,011 fans, with the highest attended cup coming in 2002, when 61,316 fans watched the Galaxy beat the Revolution in overtime at Gillette Stadium.The MLS couldn’t have asked for a much better game, as Real Salt Lake, a huge underdog, beat the Galaxy in penalty kicks. The league had probably its most marketable team (Galaxy), with its most marketable player (David Beckham), playing in the stadium the recorded the highest attendance this season (Qwest Field, home of the Seattle Sounders). However, the TV ratings are still low, moving up just 0.2 in the Nielsen from 2008. The 0.7 rating in 2008 was the lowest rating ever in the history of the MLS Cup.

The question still remains: Can soccer ever become popular in the United States? I still believe there is a market for it and that it can grow. There still seem to be more people in the United States who would rather watch English Premier League games, because they feel this is a better brand of soccer. More Premier League jerseys than MLS jerseys are sold every year in the United States. I think that the team in Seattle turned a lot of heads this year, with record attendance and a great fan-base who even turned out for a game where there team wasn’t playing. The MLS will shy away from the neutral site championship games next year, and the team with the highest record of the team teams in the MLS Cup will play host. As seen with the attendance at Gillette the year the Revolution were in the final, this has worked in the past.

The MLS has to continue to work to attract top players like Beckham into the league. Even for those who hate Beckham, no one can deny he brought attention to the league itself. Without the money that European teams have to throw around at top-notch players, it is difficult for the MLS to compete. However, I feel it is moving in the right direction, as more teams build soccer-specific stadiums and gain sponsorships to bring in money (Xbox was very prominent throughout Qwest Field on Sunday night). Although the talent may not be there, the MLS is still a very exciting brand of soccer as we saw in the playoffs. Hopefully, after the exciting championship we just saw, more people will give the MLS a shot.

MLS Season in Review November 23, 2009

Posted by in : MLS , comments closed

As I sat and watched the MLS Cup, and yes, some people did watch the game, I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw in Seattle. With an attendance of over 46,000, which I imagine is a record for an MLS Cup game, the stadium looked absolutely packed with fans, and the atmosphere felt much more like a major championship game than in the past. The MLS got what it wanted (partly) with LA  in the finals although I’m sure they would have preferred a more watched team than Real Salt Lake going against the Galaxy.

While there were some great things that could be seen from the game last night, the girls who brought in the MLS Cup not being one of them, it is apparent that the MLS still has a long way to go if it is to be considered one of the big boys of pro sports. The fact remains readily apparent that the quality and level of play in the MLS is still very inferior to foreign leagues and that the viewership suffers because of this. We have seen that European soccer is actually quite popular in this country and this is largely due to the level of play. Now I’m not saying that the MLS needs to try and get players like Ronaldo, Messi, etc. as the money is obviously not there. But to create a culture built around quality, they have to put the money out there to keep players like Clint Dempsey, Josy Altidore, and Oguchi Onyewu who have all gone to Europe to play. In my opinion, the MLS would be better served keeping players like that in the league than paying Beckham what they pay him. You have to build a loyal fan base, like the Seattle Sounders have done, to become a profitable team/league.

I could write a whole lot more but I truly believe the key to the MLS succeeding is talent on the field. They must keep talented young American players in the league to truly have a shot at taking out something like the NHL or NBA.