Stats Don't Lie: The World Cup Did Not Make The MLS Any More Popular

USA Soccer

Team USA’s performance at this year’s World Cup, which included winning their group and advancing to the round-of-16, was expected to lead to a bump in both attendance and TV ratings for Major League Soccer.

But if there was a bump, it was short-lived.

With the regular season ending last week, overall attendance was up just four per cent – or about 640 fans per game. And that includes the successful debut of the Philadelphia Union who were fourth in the league in attendance (19,252 per game).

The other 15 teams averaged 16,505 tickets sold per game. That was just a 2.9 per cent increase over 2009 (16,037), a “bump” of less than 500 fans per game.

But at least attendance was up. On the other hand, MLS television ratings were actually down from the previous year. The 25 games on ESPN2 averaged 249,000 viewers per game. That was down 12.3% from 2009 (284,000) and 1.6% from 2008 (253,000).

One has to wonder if the popularity of professional soccer in the United States has reached a plateau.

The league can go out and get all the David Beckhams and Thierry Henrys it can or cannot afford. But until Team USA actually wins a World Cup (unlikely) the only thing that will raise the level of soccer excitement will be the emergence of an American-born soccer equivalent of Michael Jordan.

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