Soccer Business Bits: Confederations Cup, MLS and More

us-soccerIt has been a very busy last few days in American Soccer.  The Confederations Cup has moved through the group stage, MLS is reaching the halfway point, Superliga is under way and the WPS is moving forward in its inagural season.  The big soccer business controversy of the week occurred on Wednesday night when the highly anticipated Seattle/DC match from Qwest Field was bumped from ESPN2 for extra innings of a College World Series game. Despite a 30 minute pre-game show buffer, it was into the second half before the baseball was over and the soccer game on the screen.  Unfortunately for MLS fans, the 3-3 tie was one of the best of the season and could have served as a great showcase for the League. MLS fans were (wrongly) angry with ESPN for failing to switch off the baseball to show the start of the MLS match.

Unfortunately for soccer fans, ESPN has a policy of staying with live events until their conclusion.  The game was made available on ESPN360 and replayed later in the evening.  Moreover, soccer fans must realize that the College World Series generates better ratings than MLS on the ESPN networks.  Commissioner Garber addressed the situation in his latest “Commissioner Speaks”.  MLS has done the right thing by making the game available for free on its website.

ESPN made another interesting programming decision during broadcasts of the Confederations Cup.  On Sunday, the Italy/Brazil and USA/Egypt matches were played at the same time, yet interestingly, ESPN chose to put the USA game on ESPN2 while the other game was on ESPN (complete with a 30 minute pre-game show).  Italy and Brazil are certainly two of the most prominent soccer playing nations in the world, but we strongly disagree with the decision to  have the USA play second fiddle in its own country.  However, it does say something about the relative popularity of these teams within the United States.  ESPN made its decision based on what they believed would draw the most interest.

SuperLiga 2009 is underway with small crowds in Chicago, Los Angeles, New England and St. Louis for the first match day.  The “St. Louis experiement” was not particularly successful, with less than 6k in attendance for a Wizards “home match”.  League-wide, MLS attendance was fairly typical with a big number in Seattle on Wednesday night with 29k at Qwest.  By playing in Oakland, San Jose was able to draw 17k against Los Angeles, in a game that got a TV lead-in from the Confederations Cup.  Houston did well with about 17k and New York was a pleasant surprise with 14k in a rain storm. There were 11k in Colorado and 8k in Dallas.  As always, we reccomend MLS Daily for a great attendance break down.

Finally, in WPS action, just over 3k were in Boston for a Wednesday night game, while only 2500 were in attendance for a weeknight game in New Jersey.  Just over 2700 were in St. Louis for a match against Washington.  For a League that had been doing well at the gate, this was a fairly disappointing weekend.  wps

5 Responses

  1. For starters, it was a 3-3 game in Seattle, not a 3-2 win for the Sounders.

    Secondly, it’s not that they stuck with the College World Series. I’m fine with that and I understand why they are obligated to do that. What irks me is that ESPN’s family of networks weren’t all featuring live programming. One of their channels was even showing a replay of the USA-Italy game. You’re telling me THAT game couldn’t have been pre-empted to bring the live MLS game?

    It was probably one of the best matches of the season, and relatively few people got to witness the whole thing. It’s a shame and ESPN deserves some heat for this. They always show games on another one of their channels if programming on the original channel runs long. Why not this time? If David Beckham was involved, you can bet that they’d put it SOMEWHERE.

    And ESPN360 doesn’t count for anything. Who even has access to that? Nobody that I know…

  2. Thanks for noting the error in the post. Fixed.

    That is usually their protocol, but there are other contractual commitments to which we are not privy with respect to the programming on the other channels. What ESPN could do is issue a statement explaining why they didn’t make the change. What we also don’t know is the level of protest/comment ESPN has received. Soccer Blogs and boards are up in arms, but that is pretty small slice of the sports world.

  3. […] light, but could be skewed since the Brazil-Italy game was over with by half-time. Footibusiness discusses ESPN’s decision, among other […]

  4. USA in the Confed Cup finals! Who would’ve thought!

  5. This Confederations Cup is sooo interesting! It has restored my faith in U.S.A. soccer. They used to just play the ball back constantly always looking too scared to advance and attack. Against Spain, they finally counter-attacked well and looked like a legitimate contender. They also had unbelieavable defense all around. Also, if anyone saw Brazil play South Africa, I hope you agree it was the most boring game I have ever seen. But, now we get a chance for our rematch with Brazil.

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