What: Major League Soccer looks to leverage World Cup coverage and the success of “El Tri” to increase viewership.
Why it matters: Major League Soccer wants to continue its growth as league despite the USMNT not qualifying into the 2018 World Cup.
With the 2018 World Cup in full swing, networks invested in broadcasting soccer league games are hoping that the country’s fascination in the quadrennial tournament draws in new fans to their league partners, despite the lack of participation by the United States men’s national team (USMNT).
While it would have helped television networks greatly had Christian Pulisic led the national team past Trinidad & Tobago, who eliminated the red, white and blue after defeating them 2-1 in CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, some experts feel that overall soccer TV ratings should experience an increase as a result of the “World Cup Bounce.”
I absolutely think Mexico’s success will contribute to increased viewership for MLS.
“The World Cup Bounce” can be described as an uptick in televisions ratings for live matches, thanks in part to the tournament drawing in a large number of viewers that normally do not watch soccer. The hope, for networks, is that these new fans will remain interested in the sport, even after the tournament is over.
One of the more obvious beneficiaries from this phenomenon is the American soccer league Major League Soccer (@MLS). The USMNT (@ussoccer_mnt) is usually loaded with MLS stars who get to shine on the world’s largest stage. The 2014 US roster included 10 players from MLS, including familiar names such as team captain Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders (@SoundersFC) and Michael Bradley of Toronto FC (@TorontoFC). A USMNT appearance in this year’s tournament would have helped MLS continue to further build television viewership.
“History shows us that there was a bump in MLS ratings after the 2014 World Cup,” said Dan Lobring, who previously worked for MLS franchise, the Chicago Fire, and is now with sports marketing agency rEvolution (@littleRbigE). “Of course, the big difference being the absence of the U.S. in 2018 which leaves a gray area on how significant of a bump there might be coming out of 2018.”
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While the USMNT may have failed to qualify into the 2018 World Cup, the American soccer league is still well represented in Russia, with 19 players on MLS rosters participating in the 2018 World Cup. Players such as Mexico’s Carlos Vela (@11carlosV) of LAFC (@LAFC) and the dos Santos brothers – Giovani and Jonathan of the L.A. Galaxy (@LAGalaxy), Costa Rica‘s (@fedefutbolcrc) Francisco Calvo of Minnesota United (@MNUFC), Peru‘s Yoshi Yotun of Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) and Panama‘s (@fepafut) Anibal Godoy of the Seattle Sounders are playing quality minutes for their respective international teams, showcasing MLS’s depth of talent on the world’s grandest stage.
“The World Cup is unquestionably the most important sporting event on the globe, and once again it will elevate the sport of soccer and MLS this summer,” said MLS spokesperson Marisabel Muñoz. Muñoz points out that there are also 14 former MLS players on World Cup rosters, on top of the 19 active MLS players on World Cup rosters. The 19 MLS players represent the largest contingent of international talent from MLS since the league’s debut, and nearly equals the combined representation of the five previous tournaments.
Mexico‘s (@miseleccionmxEN) World Cup success could also be a boon for MLS, considering the immense popularity of “El Tri,” within the American border. Mexico’s upset victory over the defending World Cup champions, Germany, drew 4,002,000 viewers on Fox Sports (@FOXSports) English telecast and another 7,120,000 on Telemundo (@TelemundoSports) Spanish broadcast.
“I absolutely think Mexico’s success will contribute to increased viewership for MLS,” said Lobring. “I think MLS and broadcast leadership in North America across the board are pulling for Mexico to continue its early success. And when you have three marquee players from MLS on ‘El Tri,’ that’s a big deal for the overall profile of MLS, especially having those three from such a large and critical media market in Los Angeles.”