By JOE REEDY, AP Sports Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – If there was ever a great time for Major League Soccer to start negotiating their next television deal, it is definitely now.
The league goes into the last two months of the regular season with a significant increase not only compared to the previous season, but also in 2019.
“The growth we’re seeing is excellent. It is really important to get out of COVID and keep growing, not just from last year to two years ago, ”said Seth Bacon, senior vice president, media at MLS.
MLS’s contracts with ESPN and Fox expire at the end of next season. ESPN has aired games since the league began in 1996, while Fox had games from 2003 to 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 averages 384,000 per TV show, up 50% from last season and 39% from 2019.
Fox / FS1 saw a 14% year-over-year increase to an average of 231,000. That is also 1% more than in 2019.
The season average of FS1 is 185,000, the highest since 2015. The game between Sporting KC and Austin FC on May 9 averaged 346,000, which was the most-watched regular season game on the network since 2017.
Even more encouraging for the league are the record numbers among the Spanish audience. The games on Univision and UniMas averaged 302,000, 21% more than in 2020 and 26% more than two years ago.
Three of the five highest regular season games at UniMas since 2010 took place this season.
The MLS All-Star Game on Wednesday against the LIGA MX All-Stars – which the MLS won on penalties – could be another benchmark for the league. It’s unlikely to break the 2003 US record of 1.18 million when the game was on ABC and hit the MLS stars against Chivas de Guadalajara. However, it could top the combined English-Spanish audience of 1.91 million for the 2017 game against Real Madrid.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.