Now that the MLS season is officially underway, lets take a brief look back at all the nationally televised games in 2015 and see what we can find.
National channel families included in the tally: ESPN, Fox, Univision and UniMas. All regional broadcasts are stricken from the discussion. I’ve left out the three Canadian clubs for obvious compatibility reasons. The Impact, Whitecaps and TFC are on their own scale entirely with TSN.
Perhaps most shocking (to me anyway), is that TV schedules don’t always reflect the league’s aesthetic realities. The Fire may improve after their dumpster fire of an opener on UniMas against the Galaxy. But they were given nearly twice the national exposure than were the defending Eastern Conference champion Revolution, an entertaining team that returns just about everybody. The Crew, a popular pick to win the entire league, has the smallest number of nationally televised games in the country.
There is a kind of method knitted into the fabric, here. Of the Timbers’ 12 nationally televised matches, for instance, seven are at home. Given Portland’s propensity for over-the-top tifos and rabid home support, not a surprise. Of their five away matches, two are at CenturyLink and one is at Yankee Stadium. Further, UniMas is clearly catering to the more Hispanic-rich southern belt. FC Dallas (6) Orlando City (5) and the Houston Dynamo (5) lead the way in network appearances this season.
As for the top clubs on each network this season: ESPN2 (Portland Timbers – 6); Fox Sports 1 (Seattle Sounders – 6); UniMas (FC Dallas – 6); Univision (Colorado Rapids/RBNY – 4); Univision Deportes (Chicago Fire/Houston Dynamo – 3). Should also note that Galaxy-Timbers is currently the lone game on Fox’s main network, while Galaxy/Sounders and Rapids/RSL (!) are the lone games on ESPN’s main network. I’m beginning to think Univision was stuck with the chewed end of the stick. Seven total Rapids and Fire games beamed cross country? Godspeed.
What do these numbers mean? That’s up to interpretation. MLS diehards will get their games regardless. MLS Live delivers all of them for around $75. But it’s dismaying that a national audience, ripe for swaying, has a far better chance to see a Fire-D.C. match than Revs-Crew. C’est la vie.