America is a soccer nation. It may not be an MLS nation, but it is a nation that likes soccer, particularly among youth and the Hispanic audience as measured by Nielsen. The 2014 MLS Cup Final ratings numbers are a great view of this truth.
The aggregate U.S. viewership is the third-highest on record for a MLS Cup Final, trailing only 1996 and 1997.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) December 9, 2014
Total aggregate U.S. viewership for MLS Cup 2014, per an informed source: 1.887 million. ESPN 964K, UniMás 678K, Univision Deportes 245K.— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) December 9, 2014
The English language numbers aren't great. There's no covering that up. But soccer, more than other sports, has an audience that uses two languages as their native tongue. One need only look at the Liga MX ratings on the Univision suite of TV properties.
Liga MX playoffs action registered record numbers on Univision Deportes last week.
- Sunday's LMX Semifinal matchup between America and Monterrey averaged 1.3 million Total Viewers and 851,000 Adults 18-49, the most-viewed soccer match on all networks last week, regardless of language.
- The match, which aired on UniMás from 6:55 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 7, 2014, bested the top EPL match this season (11/2/14 matchup between Manchester United-Arsenal on NBC) by +8% among Adults 18-49.
Next year MLS will get even more coverage from Univsion and they will own Friday nights.
The Univision family of networks will televise a game of the week on Friday evenings -- primarily on UniMás -- and a wrap-up show on Sundays. The Friday night match on the Univision family of networks will be the first time a Spanish-language television network will have its own exclusive night with a major professional sports league based in the United States.
Some of those Fridays will be double-headers on their sports specific cable station, and all games will be available in English via the SAP button. Univision will run their 12-camera system (NBC used 11 this year) that presents matches. They used NBC's final over-air broadcast here in Seattle to shadow the out-going partner.
MLS ratings were up on the year. EPL ratings are up. Liga MX ratings are up. American soccer is an odd beast in that the local top flight league is not the most popular, nor highest quality league in the land. Next year the Bundesliga moves onto a network with significant carriage as Fox Sports takes over that league.
But the idea that Americans don't watch soccer is not just tired and old. It is wrong.
MLS LA-New England final match on @UniMás beat 5 NBA games on NBA TV last week among key demos.— Univision Insights (@hispanic411) December 9, 2014
Which means that the match on ESPN did as well. Yes, it was the MLS Cup Final. It was also against most of the NFL games for the week. That is likely a reason why Seattle was not in the top 10 rated markets that watched ESPN's MLS Cup Final coverage. LA and Boston were both in the top three and two other New England markets also appeared in that top 10.
Seattle's local ratings went up 32% with their transition from KING to Q13's family. The Sounders do have coverage in both English and Spanish. Their reach into ancillary markets via ROOT butts into Mariners coverage quite a bit. Finding a way to get more matches on TV in Spokane, Yakima, Tri-Cities would not just mean more eyeballs, it would be more eyeballs in areas that are already soccer friendly.
There are still old school media types that do not think that soccer will ever make it in America. Their biggest problem is that America has changed quite a bit in the past twenty years. Access to niche sports is at an all-time high and the demographics are shifting away from those that traditionally cover sports.
Soccer is not an example of two Americas. It is an example that soccer is America.