Showing the United States v Panama after Mexico's qualifier is quality lead-in programming and a savvy decision that led to decent ratings for ESPN (0.8 rating, 1.4M viewers) and for Uni Mas (1.2M viewers), but is the combination that should remind advertisers, TV executives and soccer promoters that the demographics for soccer are both uniquely dual and valuable. The media markets that got those eyeballs on ESPN are also an example;
San Diego was the top market for the match telecast, delivering a 2.5 rating. Rounding out the top five were: Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. (2.5), Baltimore (2.1), Hartford-New Haven, Conn., (1.9), and Nashville (1.9).
The combined 2.6 Million average viewer number is just outside of the broadcast networks' prime time viewership, while half the country did not experience the match during prime time. ESPN coverage of the match on its own was the 10th most watched show on cable for the evening. The combined viewership would place the match at seventh most viewers that night for cable only and about 20th overall (including Spanish language non-sports).
Those are not NBA numbers (14 Million, lead the night). They are for a nationalistic event with strong lead programming and have little relationship to league matches for MLS, EPL or Liga MX. Instead they are just reminder that soccer is loved in this country. Part of it is by a somewhat hidden and growing demographic - the Spanish language sports fan. Tapping that for non-nationalistic soccer matches would be a key revenue expansion for MLS.
It is part of why Chivas USA exists. It why Miami is short-listed, particularly when it includes a Latino billionaire as one of the owners. It is why the SuperLiga existed and why the quest to catch Liga MX quality in the CCL is so important. It is why there is an MLS game of the week on a Univision property.
MLS has recognized the dual demographic nature of the American soccer fan. Tuesday night's qualifier against Panama is another reminder. Maybe those ratings numbers show that bringing some of the Latin-American talent back from Liga MX into MLS can help bring new eyeballs to a league with ambitious quality goals.