The 2016 MLS schedule is here and three things stand out for the brand marketer.
1. Increased reach
MLS will be in more homes with more content in 2016. Most significantly, Fox is stepping up its MLS game scheduling for the first time four matches on the big FOX Network. Broadcasts will include a 30-minute pre game show. FOX’s remaining 30 matches will be shown on FS1. ESPN has also elevated MLS matches committing to broadcast 29 of its 34 games on its main network, up from eight last year.
2. More “soccer occasions”
Broadcasters and MLS both recognize the League does not exist in a vacuum and there is an opportunity to marry up MLS with other soccer offerings to create compelling soccer occasions. A number of “MLS + Non-MLS” soccer doubleheaders are scheduled for 2016. ESPN plans to align five MLS matches with games from the UEFA European Championships; FOX is targeting a doubleheader with the FA Cup; and UniMas will leverage Copa America Centenario matches. These pairings are on top of the core Sunday night MLS programming strategy of back to back ESPN and Fox Sports broadcasts.
3. Centenario Spotlight
Many soccer fans will be squarely focused on Copa America Centenario come June and League has done the smart thing electing to take a break between June 3-14. While league play will be hiatus, the high profile tournament will showcase national team stars playing in MLS to a broader audience. Soccer will once again hit the mainstream, engage the Event Seeker, all of which represents an opportunity for brands that are prepared to capitalize.