Monday After

Back to a full slate of games in Major League Soccer after a break for international competition.  Before we get to the attendance, here are a couple of business items from the weekend.   We’ll start on television, where the broadcast version of NBC made its debut on Saturday afternoon.  The network did a great job with the telecast and everything about the broadcast screamed professionalism.  Unfortunately for the network, the game was a bit of a snoozer in the first half, but the repeated crowd shots, and stadium volume made for a great backdrop.  The ratings aren’t out for the NBC match, but reports indicate that the USA/Jamaica game on ESPN2 drew just under one million viewers.  Not bad for a mid-week soccer game, but when compared to the almost 4 million that watched Mexco/Cost Rica on Univision…. (thanks to Soccer America for the numbers).

On to attendance, where the week started slowly, courtesy of a sub-15k crowd at struggling Toronto.  Every bad crowd at BMO leads to excessive hand wringing from pundits about the team’s on the field incompetence finally hurting the gate.   SKC had a solid crowd on Saturday with just shy of 20k in attendance for the nationally televised match.   That same night, the Galaxy nudged past 20k for their home victory.

TFC followed its weak mid-week crowd with less than 16k on the weekend.  A 20k+ sellout in Portland provided the raucous background for NBC’s first telecast..   17k plus were treated to Henry’s glorious goal at Red Bull Arena on Saturday, while DC United crept past 15k for their important home victory over the Revs.   Surging Chicago managed more than 17,500 for their Saturday night match at Toyota Park,  a figure equaled in Dallas for their riveting Saturday night affair.  Chivas USA finished out the night with a paltry 11k plus.

Soccer Business Bits: NBC Takes Center Stage, Hello Brazil & More

The long awaited debut of Major League Soccer on the broadcast network of NBC is set for this coming Saturday.  On paper the game presents a match-up at teams at opposite ends of the table. However, as a showpiece match for the network, the Cascadia Cup game presents an outstanding spectacle for broadcast television.  NBC can be certain of big crowds, great atmosphere and great theater.  With the game scheduled for Portland, NBC will also hope for big numbers watching the game from televisions throughout the Seattle area.  The Peacock has been a great addition to the MLS roster of partners and the upcoming broadcast showcases should provide a great way to end the season.  The mid-afternoon start time will likely have a negative impact on ratings, as will competition from NCAA football, but viewership will certainly bear watching.

Brazil is getting ready for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.  Christopher Hunt of CNNSI has a great look at preparations in that country and the soccer culture that is seemingly everywhere.  Hunt took in some matches, looked at the stadiums and commented on the status of stadium construction as June 2014 creeps closer.  With the World Cup and Olympics headed to Brazil over the next four years, the South American country will become familiar to American sports fans.  Hunt’s piece provides some nice insight into the nation as it prepares for its moments in the sun.

Finally, there is the strange story of David Beckham and Alexi Lalas purportedly joining forces to purchase a Spanish soccer team.   The former Galaxy GM and current star midfielder are apparently considering buying a controlling stake in FC Malaga.   From an MLS perspective, the story is interesting because of the long held suspicion that Beckham would be involved in purchasing an MLS franchise when his career ends.  What impact this possible buy would have upon that effort is unknown.


Top Jersey Sellers

Major League Soccer released its list of top jersey sellers today, and the top two names on the list are no surprise.  Galaxy midfielder and household name David Beckham continues to prove his popularity and value to the league by topping the list yet again.  While this is the first time the league has released its top 25 jersey sellers, Beckham’s longterm popularity is well known.  The second name on the list is Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry.  The full list, courtesy of, is here.

Behind the two Europeans sits the most well known American player, Landon Donvan. For years, Donovan has been the most well known American player, and his place on this list bears that out.  Fredy Montero lands in the fourth spot on the list, the first player from the Pacific Northwest and the first South American.  The mult-national nature of the league continues with longtime veteran and Canadian International Dwayne DeRosario.  The DC United star has moved around in his career, but his popularity remains.

Perhaps in a sign that the league has grown, San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski is next on the list, despite neither being an international star nor a designated player.  The American just scores goals.  Recently added Australian Tim Cahill has raced to seventh spot in a very short time.   He is the second Red Bull on the list.  Irishman Robbie Keane is the third Galaxy player to hit the top ten.  Mauro Rosales is surprise entrant, seemingly proving the popularity of Seattle. Brian Ching is the first Dynamo player and the third American on the list.

The rest of the list is loaded with Pacific Northwest players, a Union double (thanks Freddy Adu) and a surprise appearance from Saer Sene of New England.

Monday (Tuesday) After

Thanks for your feedback on the poll.  Based on our sample, Twitter and beIN Sport were the most popular avenues for following the match, with a fair number of you catching the game at a bar or other public venue.  Keeping with the beIN Sport theme, the network announced that it will carry every match of South American World Cup qualifying live.  The official press release offers the following quote. “Because of our commitment to bringing the best in international sports to our viewers, these games are now available to millions of passionate fans who otherwise would not have been able to see them,” said Yousef Al Obaidly, managing director of beIN SPORT.  “Our extensive coverage of these exciting World Cup qualifying matches demonstrates our unique approach that has led to one of the most successful network launches in recent cable TV history.”

In other business news, new MLS partner NBC announced the start of its foray into widespread sports coverage.  The syndicated effort includes well known talent including Bob Costas, Rodney Harrison and Amani Toomer.  Once again the official press release offers the following,:  “Chris Corcoran, Executive Vice President, General Manager, Dial Global adds, “This is a great day in sports radio and we’re proud to have 178 affiliates share it with us. Our main goal from day one has been to deliver great content for radio stations and we are excited to finally hit the field and play. ”

We’ll finish with a look at attendance.  In mid-week, the Revs got in the win column before just over 10k, while the Rapids played at DSG Park before just over 13k.   Seattle beat Chivas USA before more than 38k, while the Dynamo fell just short of 18,500.

Where Did You Watch?

Quiet weekend in American soccer, so I thought it makes sense to start the week off with a new poll.  With beIN Sport the sole television outlet for Americans looking for the USA/Jamaica match, I want to know how you followed the game.  Vote in the poll and then drop a line on your thoughts about the new soccer heavy network.

Soccer Business Bits: USA Television, NBC TV & More

The US National Team plays a pair of important qualifiers over the next few days facing Jamaica in the rare international home and home.  What makes the games an interesting business story is the television availability of the games in the United States.  Recall that the last away US qualifier was only available via on demand.  As we discussed at the time, the home team has the power to sell the broadcast rights for the away team’s broadcast.  For a variety of business reasons, networks such as Fox, ESPN and NBCSN did not bid on the rights to the away match.  However, for the upcoming away Jamaica match, newcomer beIN Sport has locked up the rights.  The Al Jazeera owned network offers the recognizable voices of Phil Schoen and Ray Hudson.  Unfortunately, many fans won’t have access to the game because the new network is just starting gain a foothold on American television carriers, including satellite and cable.  That will not be a problem for the second game, when ESPN2 carries the match live from Columbus.

Elsewhere, the first Major League Soccer telecast on over-the-air NBC is set for September 15. With NBC’s regular season broadcasts of the NFL starting up, it will be interesting to see whether the Peacock will use the games to promote their new soccer property.  The network has been aggressive in its promotions through other platforms, but will it use its biggest entity to promote soccer?

One final note before the weekend.  For some great weekend reading, I recommend this excellent piece from the Sporting News.  Brian Straus does an excellent job looking at the history of the Kansas City franchise.

Selling Houston

Perhaps the biggest business story of the week is the pending sale of the Houston Dynamo to Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander.  The sale includes both the team and the lease for BBVA Compass Stadium.  According to reports, the sale will include the entire ownership interest in the team including the portions owned by AEG,  Oscar De Le Hoya and a third partner.   The Houston Chronicle reports that “The Dynamo organization is divided into two arms, and the Rockets will purchase both. One controls the team. The other is Dynamo Stadium Corporation, which paid to build the $95 million facility and has a lease and development agreement with Harris County-Houston Sports Authority to manage the stadium for 30 years.”

Rumors of the proposed sale started to emerge within the last month.   The sale will divest AEG of its final interest in a team other than the Los Angeles Galaxy.  The Hunts are now the only MLS Investor with an interest in two clubs.  AEG and the Hunts were instrumental in floating multiple teams during some of the lean years in MLS and the slow divestment of their interests is a positive sign for the league.

Alexander will join a number of multi-sport owners in MLS including the Krafts, Kroenke and the Hunts.  With the recent completion of their downtown stadium, solid attendance and consistent on the field success, the Dynamo were well positioned for a sale.  After the first tier of high profile league franchises in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle, Houston sits comfortably in the second tier with a solid coaching staff, a great fan base and a core of recognizable players known in the Houston sports community.