Major League Soccer concluded its conference semifinals on Wednesday and Thursday and the results could not have been any worse for the league or its broadcast partners.
The MLS Cup Final will be without the league’s biggest stars, including Landon Donavon and Robbie Keane of the Los Angeles Galaxy, Clint Dempsey of the Seattle Sounders, and Thierry Henry of the New York Red Bulls.
The conference finals are now a nightmare with the Portland Timbers facing Real Salt Lake and Sporting KC squaring off with the Houston Dynamo. All four of those teams have strong local fan bases, finishing among the top nine in MLS attendance this season. However, the average sports fan outside of those cities would have a hard time naming a single player on any of the rosters.
The leading scorers on each of the four clubs are Alvaro Saborio for RSL (12 goals), Caludio Bieler for Kansas City (11), Diego Valeri for the Timbers (11), and Will Bruin of Houston (10). Not exactly star power.
The result is a ratings catastrophe waiting to happen for ESPN when the MLS Cup Final is aired on Dec. 7. Last year’s MLS Cup drew the second-lowest rating in the league’s history and that game featured David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane.
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