I enjoy soccer, especially the Premeir League and the international games, and I don’t seem to be the only one. A report released today suggests that America’s pro soccer league, Major League Soccer, will soon overtake the National Hockey League as the United States’ fourth most popular pro sports league…if they haven’t already.
In 2010, MLS average attendance was 16,675 spectators per game, a 4 percent increase over 2009. The NHL drew an average of 17,072 fans per game last season, a 3 percent drop from the year prior.
With regard to ratings, MLS also is making a surge. The league’s televised 2011 opener between the Galaxy and Sounders on ESPN was up 129 percent in ratings and 112 percent in viewership, drawing 604,000 English-language viewers. The game’s Spanish-language broadcast on ESPN Deportes drew another 79,000 viewers, an increase of 84 percent from a year ago.
Also more popular than the NHL on television: everything. While the American soccer product pales in comparison to the skill level, prestige, and national passion of the European leagues, MLS seems to be getting stronger while the NHL and even NASCAR appear to be losing fans and TV viewers. If only we could get Gary Bettman to run MLS, and sign Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to the Columbus Crew.