Numbers are in for the Sunday night match on ESPN2 between Seattle Sounders FC and the Portland Timbers. Though quite regional and starting at 10:30 PM Eastern time the bleed-over from soccer fans that stuck through hours of World Cup coverage and put forward a strong total of 426,000 viewers per Soccer America (Geoff Baker has a slightly higher 430k).
That total is good for the highest MLS numbers on ESPN2 in the past four years. Probably more important than the one off is section;
But viewers on all three of MLS's English-language networks are up more than 80 percent year-to-year.
2014 MLS Average Audiences:
ESPN (1 game): 495,000 (+89%)
ESPN2 (3 games): 309,000 (+83%)
NBCSN (12 games): 172,000 (+81%)
Note: Percentage changes vs. same number of games in 2013.
The ratings in Seattle were strong, if you read Major Link Soccer you already know this, but let's look into exactly why they were strong.
Sunday's Household Ratings in Sea-Tac Market: #Mariners 5.3, #SoundersFC 3.7 BUT 25-54 yr olds (main demo): #SoundersFC 3.8, #Mariners 1.2— Aaron Levine (@AaronQ13Fox) July 14, 2014
From Nielsen, season averages in Sea-Tac Market: Median age of #Mariners viewers is 61.9. Median age of #SoundersFC viewers is 44.4.— Aaron Levine (@AaronQ13Fox) July 14, 2014
That's a full generation of difference. It's the Baby Boom versus Generation X. It's "growing up with the NASL around" versus "what's soccer?" It's Woodstock versus Lollapalooza.
Sure, there's younger people watching both sports, averages are just averages. Just attend a Sounders match and see that it is Gen X and the Millennials (nee Y) powering the audience. All that chatter about soccer being the sport of the future?
Ignore it. It's the sport of now.
The ratings are increasing and part of that is due to placement. Sunday followed the World Cup Final. NBC Sports is using their EPL leverage to build their MLS ratings even though they are on their way out. ESPN2 has a match tonight - the slowest sports day of the year. Thursday morning sports talk shows will have little choice to mention the MLS scores, because there will be no other scores.
MLS will not hit World Cup TV ratings, nor NFL ratings. But MLS, plus Americans that watch Liga MX, EPL, Bundesliga and the other matches on networks in the USA will put up numbers that compare to any sport here (but American Football).
There's a lot of thought pieces out there about what the World Cup will mean for the sport. That +80% ratings number? That's not a thought piece, that's a reality primarily powered prior to the Cup.