Many soccer fans fantasize that there is a huge amount of untapped viewers of the sport. They point to the great ratings that the World Cup gets and proclaim "see! MLS should be getting more viewers" and while they may be right on the surface, the ratings for the Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United in the USA weren't that good. The national number is a preliminary 1.8. This match was on a broadcast station available in 100% of households and did not double the typical 1.0 of the MLS Cup Final despite having the two best teams in the world playing for the most significant international club trophy.
There were some bright spots. It shouldn't surprise people here that Seattle had a strongish 2.9 rating/10 share, good for 2nd in the USA. DC was #1 with a 3.3 while New York, Providence, Los Angeles and Austin round out the top 5. For comparison the Seattle Sounders v Portland Timbers match on ESPN (that's cable only folks, lower penetration) got a 3.0 in Seattle.
In the end, for this sport to succeed as a business, for Major League Soccer to expand its limited salary cap it is going to have to get TV ratings for its Finals that compete with a random run-of-the-mill midday Saturday baseball game on Fox. That's a 2.7 this year, 1.7 last. Sure the soccer diehards will watch, we always will. But the current financial structure of the league already captures that. If we want the League to do more, for the sport to be more, a simple thing needs to happen - people need to watch this sport that we love, a lot more of them.
We should expect a full press release from Fox some time today, as the source data was from one of their official twitter accounts. That will be included when it is made public.