In 2011, the MLS schedule was released in February. Last year the schedule was released in the first week of January. The 2013 version was released on Tuesday afternoon along with the list of nationally televised games. As we do we every year, we are a taking a look at the schedule of games and some of the business aspects of the schedule release.
For business junkies, the most interesting part of the release is probably the announcement of nationally telecast games. New MLS partner NBC will televise 41 matches over the season, including three games on over-the-air television (same as last year). Two of games on the NBC mothership will come at the end of the season and two of the three will feature DC United. The late season games give the network to leverage its Sunday Night Football juggernaut to promote the matches.
Games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2, NBC, NBCSN, Univision and UniMas (formerly Telefutura). In Canada, at least 30 games featuring Canadian clubs will air on TSN/TSN2 in English and RDS/RDS2 in French. One of the new features this year will be the week 3 “rivalry week” which will feature 8 matches between regional rivals. According to the league’s press release, “[m]ore than 90 percent of this year’s regular-season games are on weekends or holidays, and none will overlap directly with FIFA World Cup qualifying matches. During the summer months, most games will kick off no earlier than 4 pm local time in an effort to reduce the impact of hot weather.”
Not surprisingly, New York and Los Angeles have the most nationally televised games with Houston and Chicago a close second. It is also not shocking to see New England and Columbus at the bottom of US based teams on American telecasts. However, RSL’s limited appearances (3) is something of a surprise. Rio Tinto usually shows well on television.
The start of the season is less than two months away, with two nationally televised games in English and one in Spanish. The season concludes on Oct. 27, with five games, followed by playoffs. MLS Cup 2013 will take place on Dec. 7 or 8.