Last week Major League Soccer revealed a new plan to Sports Business Daily that involved boosting TV ratings. As we all know, soccer is a sport that is still growing in popularity year by year here in the United States. Hopes are that one day soccer will be just as popular in the U.S. as it is in other regions of the world.
Game attendance has been at record highs this year, with new expansion team Atlanta United having amazing turnouts for their first few home games. However, the TV ratings just do not seem to match.
Parts of this new plan is to replicate the television production values of other major sports in the country. Some of the things listed in this new plan include:
- microphones on coaches for listen ins
- cameras in locker rooms pregame
- allowing access to team huddles
These things all sound interesting and will give viewers a lot more to look forward to when watching their favorite clubs go head to head each weekend, but will they be enough?
Take a look at some of the broadcasts of games from other leagues around the world. Let’s use the English Premier League as an example. None of these things are necessary, yet the viewers and ratings are always high on gameday. Fans know the competition is fierce and the league is challenging the players. Could there be underlying factors that may stop people from showing too much interest to the games on television as compared to just going to support your club on the pitch on gameday?
Let’s take a look at the general format of the MLS and think about the excitement factor for a second compared to other leagues. The MLS season lasts about 8 months, and just over half of the teams qualify for the playoffs. This does not make the competition as fierce as compared to other leagues.
I will use the example of the English Premier League again to compare. The EPL season is the same length, but there is way more at stake based on where you place in the league once it is all said and done. There is also no playoff tournament to figure out who the winner of the league is. First place in the standings is the winner of the league.
This does not stop the other teams from working towards placing well though. The top four teams qualify for the Champions League while the fifth through seventh place teams can battle for Europa League contention.
All of these are still very sought after and commendable titles to go after. Knowing where your team places and what is at stake is definitely something that will make fans want to sit down every week and catch these matches. The fans now feel as if every game counts towards an end goal of trying to either win the league or at least qualify for one of these tournaments.
The MLS should also look into partnering up with some of the lower-tier leagues to enforce a promotion or relegation type of system. In the EPL, the bottom three teams in the league face relegation down to a lower league. They then get replaced by the top three teams from the league below it. This brings the pressure to perform.
People will support their clubs in any way possible to ensure the players are performing well enough to avoid relegation. This also gives teams with great potential in areas where there may not be an MLS team the opportunity to grow in to a top contender at some point.
All of these factors will raise the amount of support and viewership. You will have new people in new areas watching. People who are already watching will be more inclined to watch due to the extra entertainment value of the added pressures of these new systems put in to place.
The MLS has done a lot for American soccer and will continue to do so. These are the changes that I feel are necessary to further the growth of American soccer and gain more support.
What are some things you would like to see added or changed by the MLS to promote ratings and growth? Feel free to comment below and let’s talk about it.
Featured Image by World Soccer Talk
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