MLS Cup Potpurri: Cup Ratings, Harkes Signs Off & More

Before we delve into the MLS off season, here are some business notes from MLS Cup and the entire soccer weekend.  We’ll start with the MLS Cup overnight rating, which was reported by SBJ on Twitter as a .8.  To put that number in perspective, the .8 is double the 2010 rating but slightly less than the 2009 rating.  The .8 is only an “overnight” rating which means only major metropolitan areas are calculated.  The same source reported that Los Angeles locally drew a 1.5 rating for the game.  The Houston Chronicle reported that the game drew a 2.8 local number in Houston.  None of these numbers include Spanish broadcasts.

In broadcast news, Grant Wahl of SI reported that MLS Cup was John Harkes’ swan song in the ESPN booth.  According to Wahl’s story, Harkes will be replaced by current ESPN personality and Philly Union broadcaster Taylor Twellman.  Following his retirement from the Revolution because of concussion related issues, Twellman has quickly risen through the broadcast ranks and now earns the plum assignment next to Ian Darke.  The SI report also offers thoughts on the NBC booth.

Other big news from the weekend included the announcement that MLS is moving its final to the home ground of the highest seeded team.  While some fans cheer the move, the change from a long planned neutral site game will create difficulty for sponsors seeking to activate around the event.  Also, some of the traditional events, including parties, supporters summit and more will be impacted by the inability to plan for the Final.  At the same time, the move may ensure a lively crowd and substantial local media coverage of the game.



MLS Cup 2009: Final Notes

Some quick hits on MLS Cup before we officially move to the off season.

MLS Cup overnight ratings are out.  Overnights are tricky, because the final rating can change, but according to the presented figures, the broadcast reached 30% more viewers than the 2008 final on ABC.

The coverage of the match was outstanding in Salt Lake City and we think that the result was ultimately the best one for MLS.  They got their marquee game involving Beckham, but in the end, there was an underdog story and a city (SLC) that was inundated with soccer.  The newspaper coverage was great and the championship bodes well for sponsorships and ticket sales for the coming year.  Had Los Angeles won, it is likely that the victory would have been hardly a blip on the city’s radar.  Instead, RSL got wall to wall coverage, a parade and really captured the city.

Finally, one of the bigger stories to emerge from the weekend was the repeated indication that the MLS Cup will move away from a neutral site and to the home of the higher seed.  Many MLS fans support the move, but we think otherwise.  MLS Cup provides a big event that can accomodate plans months in advance.  The retail summit, supporter’s summit and all other sorts of League events can be scheduled months in advance.  Holders of MLS GSLs can plan their trips and MLS creates a destination event like the Super Bowl.  We think the change is misguided.