Soccer Business Bits:USA/Brazil Ratings, Premier League Viewing & More

Sports Media Watch is reporting that the USA/Brazil match televised on ESPN2 drew almost 800,000 viewers on Tuesday night.  In Nielsen terms, that represents a .50 rating.  The number represents a significant increase over typical MLS broadcasts, which are often under 200,00 viewers.  The game also drew more viewers than the recent MLS All-Star game by about 70,000 viewers. By way of an unfair comparison, 19 million people watched the last televised US match when the US last to Ghana in the Round of 16 at the World Cup.

Keeping with the theme of televised soccer in the United States, ESPN has reached a three year deal with Fox Sports International to televise EPL matches in the United States.  The package includes 74 games per season and will permit broadcasts on ESPN television, mobile networks and   The agreement also includes rights to Spanish telecasts through ESPN Deportes. The agreement increases ESPN’s EPL commitment by approximately 30 games over last year.

The deal shows ESPN’s continued commitment to televising soccer in the United States and it allows the World Wide Leader to offer desirable, live programming at times when the network usually relies on repeats and studio produced fare.  Based on ratings from last year, ESPN can expect between 200-300k per match and higher numbers for especially desirable games.  Key for fans of MLS will be ESPN’s preference for EPL matches over MLS.  EPL games provide ESPN with a great opportunity to promote their relationship with MLS, however last year the network did not make great use of that avenue.

Finally, Soccer America offers a list of the top 10 largest soccer crowds in the US in 2010.  Most notably, the Mexican National Team accounts for half of the top ten (how is that relationship working out SUM?).  MLS teams account for two of the big crowds, but both matches involved international club competition.  The US Men pulled in two of the top crowds.

Soccer Stadium Update: Philly, KC & Vancouver

It’s been a while, so we thought we would take a look at the construction progress at a couple of venues around MLS.  We’ll start with PPL Park, where the sod is down and the stadium is two months away from opening.  The Philadelphia Union provide this wonderful time lapse video of the sod installation.  The video condenses three days of installation into about 1:30 of footage.  Meanwhile, the construction cam continues to document the steady progress in Chester as the finishing touches are being applied to the Union’s new stadium.

In Kansas City, construction crews are moving quickly to build the Wizards’ new home.  The Wizards are also offering up a construction cam that includes a neat zoom feature. Kansas and the local county have offered $230 million in incentives to lure Cerner and the Wizards to Kansas. The stadium is set to open in mid-2011, which promises to be quite a year for soccer specfic stadiums in MLS.

In Vancouver, the Whitecaps announced that they will play the first half of their inaugural season in a temporary stadium while BC place (their permanent home) is completed.  The temporary stadium (which is actually quite nice looking) will seat 27,500 and will cost only 14 million to build.  Given the  low cost of the structure, this seems like an outstanding temporary solution.

The Morning After: MLS & WPS Business Recap

barcaAnother weekend is in the books, as both MLS and WPS continue their march to the playoffs.  However, perhaps the highlight was the Barcelona/Galaxy friendly that drew more than 93k to the Rose Bowl.  Another huge crowd and another sign of the popularity of soccer in the US.  Stay tuned the rest of this week for a series of posts addressing this issue.  We have spoken with folks across the spectrum of soccer fandom to find out what would either make them MLS fans or make MLS more popular.  We will post these reports over the next couple of days.

Elsewhere, it was a wild week on the field in MLS, but a fairly disappointing one at the gate.  Just over 12k were in Foxboro for the Revs/TFC draw.  14,500 were in Chicago for the Fire/RSL game and just over 10k made the trip to Dallas to see the Hoops destroy KC.  In Houston, just under 15k were in attendance while Colorado pulled less than 11k.  10k made the trip to San Jose. These are pretty bad numbers, however this may simply reflect the presence of four of the worst home draws hosting on the same weekend.

This weekend was notable for the second free preview of Direct Kick offered during the year.  The first was opening day, and the League is again promoting the service for the stretch drive.  This still remains one of best deals in televised sports.

In WPS action, 5k saw St. Louis and Boston play to a 1-0 score line in the Gateway City.   A very poor crowd of 2300 also saw the home team win as FC Gold Pride held off Washington on Saturday.   Midweek, 3100 saw Boston and Washington play in DC.  For a very frank interview with Tonya Antonucci about the business state of the League, please click here.