Major League Soccer is growing here in the UK at an alarming rate and the Sky Sports television deal is clearly helping that. This weekend saw a 53% rise in the number of people watching the live 9PM game between New York City FC and New England Revolution on Sunday night.
Over 55,000 people tuned in to watch NYCFC record their first ever win as an MLS franchise in their historic home opener as they beat the Revs 2-0. 36,000 fans watched NYCFC’s game with Orlando City last Sunday at the same time so 19,000 more fans tuned in in what is an impressive increase.
One downside was the number of Brits who stayed up late to watch the 11PM game between the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy. Only 13,000 stayed up for that 2-2 draw at Providence Park – almost half of the 25,000 people who stayed awake for last weekend’s late game.
The Sky deal is clearly boosting MLS across the pond though and this weekend saw more British supporters watching NYCFC vs New England than those who tuned in to see Lionel Messi’s Barcelona against Eibar (35,000) on Saturday.
That Liga BBVA game was live on Sky at the same time as the Premier League clash between Burnley and Manchester City though and that obviously had an effect.
The key for Major League Soccer this weekend was that both games were aired on Sky Sports’ primary channel, Sky Sports 1, whereas last week saw the games shown on Sky Sports 3.
The 55k Brits who watched the 9PM match were more than those who watched games from some of Europe’s top leagues this weekend, including the Bundesliga clash between Borussia Dortmund and Cologne (21,000), French league action between Bordeaux and PGG (25,000) and a considerable amount more than those who watched the Serie A clash between Cagliari and Empoli (6,000).
These are evidently great signs for MLS and an ever-increasing support base from the UK will only help the league grow into an elite league even faster.
Next weekend’s live coverage on Sky will see NYCFC in action for the third week running as they travel to the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at 8PM before showing the Eastern Conference clash between New York Red Bulls and DC United at 9PM on Sunday night.
Both games are on Sky Sports 5 this weekend and it will be intriguing to see if the number of UK fans tuning in rises for a third consecutive week.
How important do you think a strong UK fanbase is for the growth of MLS?