Soccer is becoming more popular in the US — but MLS broadcasting deals haven’t kept up

MLS has come a long way: 15 years ago, the league had 12 teams, and 1 ownership group paid just $7.5m for the right to start a new franchise. Today, there are 26 teams in the league, and one billionaire paid a $325m fee to launch a new team.  So, the increasing number and price […]


February 17, 2020

soccer image

MLS has come a long way: 15 years ago, the league had 12 teams, and 1 ownership group paid just $7.5m for the right to start a new franchise.

Today, there are 26 teams in the league, and one billionaire paid a $325m fee to launch a new team. 

So, the increasing number and price of these teams must mean they are turning huge profits, right? Not exactly.

The majority of MLS teams lose money

Pro soccer is gaining in popularity among US viewers (soccer is the 2nd most popular spectator sport among Americans 18-34 after US football), but the MLS has struggled to negotiate lucrative broadcast contracts.

But despite booming popularity, the broadcasting biz is backwards

Last season, average per-game attendance in MLS was 21.3k, while average attendance at NBA games was just 17.9k.

But the MLS broadcast deal with ESPN, Fox, and Univision (which doesn’t expire until 2022) brings in just $90m annually, while the NBA’s broadcast deal (which extends through 2025) guarantees the league $2.6B in annual revenue.

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