USMNT World Cup Qualifiers Surge on ESPN While MLS Declines

Posted by | October 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

While Major League Soccer has struggled this season, the USA Men’s National Team has been a strong draw on ESPN.

ESPN has averaged an 0.8 U.S. rating and 1.3 million viewers for eight USA World Cup qualifiers this year, up 60% in ratings and 72% in viewership from comparable matches leading up to the 2010 World Cup (0.5, 758K).

The network’s three most-viewed World Cup qualifiers have aired this year alone, with the most recent match — USA/Mexico on September 10 — ranking second (1.4, 2.2M).

Keep in mind those World Cup qualifiers have also aired on Spanish-language networks. For the two USA/Mexico matches this year, the Spanish-language audience has dramatically increased the total viewership — the March 26 match earned almost 7.0 million viewers across ESPN and UniMas, while the aforementioned September 10 match earned a combined 5.8 million.

By contrast, Major League Soccer has been far less of a draw. ESPN and ESPN2 have averaged 220,000 viewers for 17 matches this year, according to Sports Business Journal, down 31% from 317,000 for 18 matches last year. MLS viewership has also declined 13% on the NBC Sports Network.

Of note, U.S. Men’s National Team matches and Major League Soccer are part of the same television package. Sports Business Journal reported this week that negotiations have already begun with incumbent rights partners ESPN, NBC Sports, and Univision.

(Averages from Sports Business Journal, ESPN Media Zone)

  • Tati

    MLS is a joke and will always be. When you have a salary cap system in a world where a player can simply fly over to Europe and earn more, you guarantee yourself years and years of subpar talent.

    Sad but true. Soccer is a free market, whereas Basketball, Football(am), Baseball are socialist systems.

  • Ron_Revolt

    In other words, American sports are socialist and European sports are Free market. Cannot disagree.

    But I do take exception with the idea that MLS is a joke and will always be. MLS is more a minor league to the big Euro leagues, but interest is growing – even if viewers aren’t necessarily tuning in. MLS has doe a good job of getting fans in local markets to come to games. The league is less than 20 years old. The league will keep growing; viewership will increase eventually.

  • jim

    Why would you watch MLS when there’s 5 or 6 English games on every weekend?

    The only soccer that’s popular in the US is the Mexican national team. And in 20 years all those viewers will be Dallas Cowboys fans!