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MLS ratings seeing significant growth over past 2 seasons

Helicopters fly over the field before the MLS All-Star soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
Helicopters fly over the field before the MLS All-Star soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

LOS ANGELES – If ever there was a great time for Major League Soccer to be going into negotiations for its next television contract, it definitely is now.

The league goes into the final two months of the regular season with ratings not only up significantly over last season but 2019 as well.

“The growth we are seeing is excellent. To come out of COVID and maintain growth not only from last year to two years ago is really important,” said Seth Bacon, MLS' Senior Vice President, Media.

MLS' deals with ESPN and Fox expire at the end of next season. ESPN has been airing games since the league started in 1996 while Fox had games from 2003-11 and then returned when the current rights deal began in 2015. The league is currently negotiating with both networks as well as others.

ABC/ESPN is averaging 384,000 per telecast, which is up 50% from last season and 39% from 2019.

Fox/FS1 has a 14% increase over last year, averaging 231,000. That is also up 1% compared to 2019.

FS1's season average of 185,000 is its highest since 2015. The Sporting KC-Austin FC match on May 9 averaged 346,000, which was the most-viewed, regular-season match on the network since 2017.

Even more encouraging for the league is its record numbers with Spanish audiences. The games on Univision and UniMas are averaging 302,000, up 21% from 2020 and 26% from two years ago.

Three of the five highest regular-season matches on UniMas since 2010 have occured this season.

Wednesday's MLS All-Star Game against the LIGA MX All-Stars — which the MLS won on penalty kicks — could provide another benchmark for the league. It is unlikely to break the U.S. record of 1.18 million from 2003, when the game was on ABC and matched the MLS stars against Chivas de Guadalajara. However, it could surpass the combined English-Spanish audience of 1.91 million for the 2017 contest against Real Madrid.

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