MLS Schedule: A Quick Business Look

MLS finally announced its 2011 schedule along with its ESPN/ESPN2 national television games.  The schedule is likely to change somewhat,, but here are some quick business thoughts.

We’ll start with the league’s biggest broadcast partner, ESPN, which will televise only 21 games over the course of the regular season.  Not surprisingly, the ESPN slate leans heavily towards New York, Seattle and Los Angeles, with the Red Bulls appearing in more than 33% of the ESPN games.  These teams offer big star power and great crowds which often equate to more television eyeballs.   The Galaxy and Sounders appear more than 10 times (combined) while the Canadian teams, Dallas and Columbus never make the list.  ESPN2 will also show a July 4 doubleheader.  To the dismay of many East Coast soccer fans, many of the ESPN2 matches will be 10:00 pm starts or later.

Galavision and Telefutural will combine to show 30 games with a mix of Saturday and Sunday showings.

There is a significant increase in mid-week games this year as the schedule was seemingly constructed to avoid play on certain FIFA dates.   Superliga also appears to have disappeared, as there is little evidence that the schedule accounts for the Summer tournament.  Purchasers of Direct Kick and MatchDay Live should get more bang for their buck this year with many Saturdays filled with eight games.

There are a fair amount of quirks in this schedule, with teams hopping back and forth across the country to play one game before returning home.   There are also long periods of off days followed by a few weeks of congested fixtures.  The absence of a second English language broadcast partner also leaves some fans in the dark about the television schedule.  However, Allan Hopkins of ESPN tweeted that a one year deal with FSC is close.