The week of Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game is about more than the match itself. In the shadows of Wednesday’s main event between AS Roma and the best players in MLS are the meetings to decide the future of the league and professional soccer in North America. The Board of Governors meetings were closed to those outside the front offices but the topics for discussion are clear – expansion and broadcast.
Involved in the broadcasting aspect of the sport himself, former U.S. Men’s National Team Goalkeeper turned ESPN commentator Kasey Keller discussed the issues MLS has faced both locally and nationally as well as the on going issue of over saturation of soccer on television. At the forefront of the issue is NBC Sport’s deal to broadcast both Barclays Premier League and Major League Soccer matches. It certainly a good problem to have but one that remains without resolution.
Months earlier, Commissioner Don Garber confessed that there is in fact, too much soccer on television. However, the problem not only lies in the quantity of soccer on television, but also the quality of the broadcast as much as the quality on the pitch.
One of the hard parts they are going to have to bridge is that there is a big difference between watching a game on tv and watching a game live. What has happened is the major soccer fans have also seen that distinction. That is why Kansas City is selling out their stadium all the time. That is why Seattle is getting great attendance. Portland is getting great attendance. Obviously Vancouver, Toronto…across the board, attendances are healthy, but TV viewership is not.
Despite the volume of soccer matches being shown both regionally and nationally, the ratings for North American soccer are not supportive of the value of the deal. NBC Sports appears all in for MLS and is anticipating its future value. However that deal ends following the 2014 season, as does the other television deals the league has signed with ESPN, UniMas, and Univision to also show matches in the United States.
We have this odd problem where our fans are getting smart enough to know the difference and they’re not watching Kansas City play Dallas – a MLS game – at 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock on Saturday because they’ve already watched 2-3 hours of football that they either TiVo’d or woke up early to watch coming from Europe.
MLS is going to have to drive their local markets harder to what LA was able to be with their Time Warner deal that maybe that’s where the TV money is right now.
Keller was on site at Swope Park – Sporting Kansas City’s training facility – for the MLS Media Game Wednesday morning to represent Castrol.
About Kasey Keller
Kasey Keller is the Castrol GTX High Mileage brand ambassador. He has had an impressive goalkeeping career across the globe, previously playing for the Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) and the United States Men’s National Soccer Team. He is a four-time FIFA World Cup™ player and the first American goalkeeper to become a regular in the German Bundesliga, the English Premier League and the Spanish La Liga. Currently, Keller is a commentator for ESPN and the Sounders’ color commentator in local broadcasts.