MLS National TV First Kick Disappointing, Lacks Sounders

FC Dallas hosts New York Red Bulls to start MLS on NBC Sports Network. Look at the background of this photo from an MLS Cup Playoff game, exciting atmosphere?

In a season with high TV expectations from North American soccer fans due MLS on NBC, three Canadian teams and a huge local TV rights deal for the Los Angeles Galaxy the league will start with a lackluster lineup of games. Instead of Major League Soccer's television partners (NBC, ESPN, Galavision in USA; TSN in Canada) launching with the most popular teams in the nation thereby starting with a foot forward there will be some disappointment as the Galaxy nor the Seattle Sounders will be in the opener.

Instead Arlo White and NBC Sports Network (currently versus) will start with FC Dallas hosting New York Red Bulls while Galavision grabs the other Sunday game between Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo. ESPN does get to head to Portland where the Timbers host the Philadelphia Union. Canada does get a stellar opener between the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact on TSN, even if the teams aren't MLS Cup contenders it will have national appeal.

While some will like that the league and its partners are being more diverse, the sacrifice in ratings negates any esoteric bonus of fairness. For the league's quality to improve as quickly as Don Garber wants (top league by 2022) there needs to be higher quality soccer, that takes money that only high television ratings can offer. If atmosphere matters it is rather surprising that two teams that are assured of sell-outs with over 25,000 people, who draw in eyeballs and with a handful of the better players in the region and all the American trophies of 2011 is a miss.

New production will still draw plenty of interest from MLS diehards, and maybe there will be a bump since the majority of fans won't be at their Saturday home games when all three US national broadcasts take place. Though very early, only one MLS Cup contender (FCD) is on the docket. Every match-up is between an Eastern Conference and Western Conference team, which is trend that should continue for the other teams playing opening weekend. If Toronto FC doesn't have a bye, or play LA they will have brutal travel to start the season.

League Press Release Follows;

MLS Announces the Four National Broadcasts of First Kick 2012
First Kick presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods begins Saturday, March 10
NEW YORK (Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011) – MLS today announced details of the four nationally televised matches during the opening week of the 2012 MLS season, known as First Kick presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods.
The matchups, times and broadcast information are below, including storylines for each game.
Home teams listed first, all times Eastern
Sat., March 10 – Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Montreal Impact
6 p.m. ET on TSN and in French on RDS or RDS2 from BC Place (PREVIEW VIDEO)
· The MLS debut for Montreal Impact, the League’s 19th team.
· Launches a new chapter in a 20-year-old rivalry between these two Canadian clubs, who had many spirited encounters in lower divisions. Later this night, the cities’ respective NHL teams also square off in Vancouver.
· The Whitecaps are unbeaten in home openers since 2001 and their first MLS home game was a 4-2 win against Toronto FC.
Sun., March 11 – FC Dallas vs. New York Red Bulls
3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network, from Pizza Hut Park (PREVIEW VIDEO)
· The first MLS game to be broadcast as part of the new, three-year partnership with NBC.
· FC Dallas will look to avenge their elimination from the 2011 MLS Cup Playoffs by the Red Bulls on Oct. 26 at Pizza Hut Park.
· Two of the League’s hottest stars are likely to factor prominently – FC Dallas’ Brek Shea and New York’s Thierry Henry – both named to the 2011 MLS Best XI.
Sun., March 11 – Chivas USA vs. Houston Dynamo
7 p.m. ET on Galavisión, from The Home Depot Center (PREVIEW VIDEO)
· Just 113 days after their 1-0 loss in the championship, the Dynamo return to the site of MLS Cup.
· Two of the largest Hispanic fan bases in MLS have a vested interest in the first Spanish-language broadcast of the new season.
· Chivas USA defeated Houston 3-0 in Carson last July, their first win against the Dynamo since their inaugural season (2006).
Mon., March 12 – Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union
9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes & ESPN3 from Jeld-Wen Field (PREVIEW VIDEO)
· Timbers Army and the always-boisterous Jeld-Wen Field await the Union in the 11th Monday game in MLS history.
· Two of the most exciting rookies in 2011 – Portland’s Darlington Nagbe and Philly’s Michael Farfan – will look to provide a spark for their team.
· Portland sold out every league game in 2011, while Philadelphia’s PPL Park was filled to about 99 percent capacity and the Sons of Ben traveled well.
Each club will play 34 games in the 2012 MLS Regular Season; CLICK HERE for details on the format.
For the dates of the 2012 home openers for all 19 MLS clubs CLICK HERE.
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