MLS Viewership continues rising - On the verge of becoming the 2nd most popular sport in the US
Major League Soccer (MLS) has been experiencing a massive surge in viewership, transforming the landscape of soccer broadcasting in the United States. With the recent explosion in popularity, soccer games on TV today are attracting a more significant number of viewers, ultimately contributing to the increasing prominence of soccer on the US sports scene.
The Record-Breaking Attendance
On Independence Day 2023, a record-breaking 82,110 fans gathered at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, to witness a regular season MLS match. This figure surpassed the attendance of 67,827 at Super Bowl LVII, indicating a significant shift in American sports.
Global soccer events such as the 2022 FIFA World Cup have also played a significant role in boosting soccer's popularity in the US. The final match of the World Cup attracted 26 million U.S. viewers on linear TV, surpassing viewership for the NBA Finals, World Series, PGA Finals, Stanley Cup, and the Winter Olympics.
With the 2025 FIFA World Cup coming up we can expect those number to increase further, not least due to fact that the tournament is going to be held in the US, co-hosted by both Mexico and Canada. The sports scene is well under a change in the US and until 2025 we may look completely different upon the most popular sports in the nation where soccer is one to look out for.
The Decline of Linear TV and the Rise of Streaming Services
While soccer's audience has skyrocketed, linear TV has seen a decline in viewership, leading sports TV networks to explore alternative broadcasting options. The future of sports now lies in the hands of streaming platforms. As Apple, Amazon, YouTube, and Peacock compete to create the next ESPN, the sports streaming wars are heating up.
Interestingly, traditional sports have struggled to win viewers, subscribers, and advertisers on these new digital platforms. It appears that older-skewing legacy leagues are having a hard time attracting the younger-skewing audiences of streaming services.
Despite the challenges faced by legacy leagues, tech giants are not deterred from acquiring more of them. The focus, however, is shifting towards the most popular sports on digital platforms. New sports like E-Sports, Robo Sports, Trick Shots, and Parkour are gaining popularity, particularly among Gen Z males.
Apple's Big Score with MLS
In a significant move towards the digital future, Apple secured exclusive rights to MLS, the only traditional sports league that attracts the same demographics as streaming platforms, including Gen Z males. This partnership resulted in the launch of an MLS Season Pass within the Apple TV app, allowing fans to stream all games live without any blackouts across 100+ countries.
The MLS deal with Apple also facilitated an unprecedented revenue-sharing agreement with soccer superstar Lionel Messi. Messi's move to the US sparked 'Messimania', with games selling out, viewership records being broken, and the team's social media following seeing an exponential increase.
Despite soccer's success, MLS rights remain the cheapest of all legacy leagues. In 2023, MLS regular season matches averaged 343,000 TV viewers, nearly the same as an NHL game, showcasing the potential for further growth.
The Impact of Messi on MLS
Messi's arrival in Inter Miami has had a significant impact on MLS, both on and off the pitch. His presence has increased interest in the Leagues Cup, attracted millions of new followers to MLS social media handles, and boosted viewership numbers.
The 2023 season marked the first year of a ten-year $2.5 billion global broadcast deal with Apple TV. The arrival of Messi and the global reach of Apple have greatly contributed to the increasing popularity of the MLS on TV today.
The Anticipation for the MLS Cup
As the MLS Cup approaches, anticipation for the game and its viewership numbers is high. With eight teams remaining and the final scheduled for December 9th, soccer enthusiasts are eagerly waiting to see which team will emerge victorious.
The increasing TV and streaming numbers for MLS in the US indicate that soccer is on the verge of becoming one of the most popular sports in the nation. With the rise in viewership, the future of soccer on TV today looks brighter than ever before. As the sports broadcasting landscape continues to evolve, one thing is certain: the popularity of soccer in the US is only set to grow.
In conclusion, the rise of soccer on TV today is a testament to the growing interest in the sport among American viewers. With the promising viewership numbers, the future of MLS games on TV today looks bright. As we anticipate the upcoming MLS Cup, it's clear that soccer is not just around the corner - it's here and now, ready to take America by storm.
Author: Dan Anderson