Do People Really Give A Shit About The MLS?

By Jasmin Ouseph

Here’s some breaking news. Sports are a pretty big deal to many people around the world.

Worldwide, football (or soccer, as we Americans have coined it) indisputably ranks as the most popular sport according to numerous sources.

In the United States, however, soccer comes in at a mere fifth place (based off TV ratings and revenue generated by league), preceded by ice hockey, basketball, baseball, and American football.

The premier soccer league in the United States and Canada is Major League Soccer (MLS), sanctioned by the US Soccer Federation, the official governing body of the sport in America.

The mission statement of US Soccer reads, “to make soccer, in all its forms, a preeminent sport in the United States and to continue the development of soccer at all recreational and competitive levels.”

While gridiron football, baseball, and basketball are the preeminent American sports by general consensus, with others like auto-racing and ice hockey being more regional in their popularity, there isn’t a very defining pattern among the MLS’ viewership.

Among fans of the sport in general, opinions on the MLS specifically are mixed. The league is growing popular with young adults especially.

Kenneth Nti, a student at the University of Florida, believes that the MLS has “grown magnanimously from its birth within the nineties” and has the potential to establish a “soccer platform similar to those in Europe or South America.”

Statistically, at least, the MLS is on the rise.

A lot of that potential comes from the attention of international superstars that settle in the MLS upon retiring from Europe. Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard now plays for the LA Galaxy while Premier League and Serie A wonders Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, respectively, both play for New York City FC.

Others, meanwhile, simply lack an interest in the MLS.

Leon Peter, a student at Nova Southeastern University, finds that although soccer is his favorite sport, he doesn’t pay much attention to the MLS.

“The play is just sloppy, not as clean,” Peter said. “The skill isn’t as apparent.”

It seems others with similar opinions would rather stick to the Premier League, La Liga, and other European tournaments that see more training, more funding, and more resources overall than the MLS does.

The possibility of a home MLS-member club to support would create a great addition to the league’s fan base.

Given the immense popularity of the sport in Latin America, and the rich Latinx presence in South Florida, David Beckham’s supposed proposition for a Miami-based MLS club would likely be met with big interest.

Statistically, at least, the MLS is on the rise.

According to Amy Rosenfeld, a Senior Coordinating Producer for ESPN who oversees all soccer content for the network (including broadcast of the UEFA Champions League, US Soccer games, and MLS), success for the league according to ESPN standards would physically look like higher ratings.

Given that the MLS is barely 20 years old (it was established in 1996, two years after the US first hosted the World Cup), its ratings are looking pretty impressive.

MLS national TV ratings have increased by 18% from the 2014 year average total.

Currently, ESPN2’s broadcasts are averaging 283,000 per game.

With the 2015 MLS Cup match last Sunday, featuring a 2-1 win for the Portland Timbers, ratings were up 4% for ESPN, 40% for Fox Sports and 3% for UniMas.

Soccer is the world’s sport, and it is slowly but surely on its way to becoming a bigger deal in the US.

While European league matches are still drawing on average three times the weekly viewers the MLS gets, that shouldn’t rule out the hope that the MLS will see a growing fan base and greater national interest in the years to come.

Cover Photo Credit: Ryan Knapp/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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Correction: 12-9-2015 1:37 AM EST- A previous version of this article had the wrong final score for the MLS Final. The Portland Timbers won 2-1.

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