Chris Stearns

Major League Soccer Television Headlines Ahead of 2018 Season

It’s hard to believe we’re only two months out from the start of the 2018 Major League Soccer season. It’s a big season ahead with LAFC joining as the 23rd team. They’ll play in the brand new Banc of California Stadium, scheduled to open in April. DC United are finally getting a soccer stadium of their own, having spent their entire existence in the old RFK Stadium.

First, a couple of highlights from TV ratings from the 2017 MLS season:

  • 2017 MLS regular season gross television numbers were up four percent compared to 2016. Both Fox/Fox Sports and Univision saw five percent increases in average viewership, while there was a tiny decrease in viewers across ESPN/ESPN2.
  • MLS Cup 2017 – a rematch from the previous season between Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC – was broadcast on ESPN. The 2016 edition of MLS Cup was broadcast on national FOX. The 2017 edition saw a 75% rise in viewers from last time ESPN broadcast MLS Cup in 2015 and marked the highest-rated final on cable since 2012.

While reading the details of the 2018 MLS Schedule release, a few points about the television coverage struck out to me.

  • Even without the USMNT in the World Cup, people are still going to tune-in. While MLS will take a short break during the start of the World Cup, they’ll have five matches that air immediately following a World Cup match, including Atlanta hosting Seattle after the World Cup Final. You don’t get better lead-in programming than that, so expectations are high for strong ratings and keeping strong viewership numbers in the second-half of the season post-World Cup.
  • Overall, national FOX will have seven MLS matches in 2018, up from five in 2017. ESPN also has an increased number of regular season matches, 28, compared to 25 in 2017.
  • Univision Deportes will broadcast 14 Saturday afternoon games, with UniMas having rights to an additional 11 matches. On the heels of increased viewership in 2017, it will be interesting to see if Univision can maintain their momentum of strong ratings from the Hispanic market.

We’ll have much more on the start of the 2018 MLS season over the coming weeks ahead of kickoff on Saturday, March 3rd.

Categories: Major League Soccer, Television Ratings