By Paul Kennedy
The overnight ratings for ESPN's coverage of MLS Cup 2012, David Beckham's final game with the Los Angeles Galaxy, were 0.7, down from the 0.8 rating for the 2011 final in which the Galaxy and Houston Dynamo also played.
The 2012 final had a 4:55 p.m. ET kickoff while the 2011 game was aired in prime time (9 p.m. ET kickoff) when it went up against NFL Sunday night football.
The big sports event on Saturday afternoon was the SEC football championship between Alabama and Georgia, which drew a rating of 10.0.
The first of three Beckham finals with the Galaxy also generated a 0.8 rating on ESPN in 2009.
No MLS Cup has achieved a rating of 1.0 or higher since the 2001 San Jose-Los Angeles championship game, Landon Donovan's first final.
MLS Cup Ratings
0.7 2012: *Los Angeles-Houston
0.8 2011: Los Angeles-Houston
0.4 2010: Colorado-FC Dallas
0.8 2009: Real Salt Lake-Los Angeles
0.6 2008: Columbus-New York
0.8 2007: Houston-New England
0.8 2006: Houston-New England
0.8 2005: Los Angeles-New England
0.8 2004: D.C. United-Kansas City
0.6 2003: San Jose-Chicago
0.8 2002: Los Angeles-New England
1.0 2001: San Jose-Los Angeles
0.7 2000: Kansas City-Chicago
0.7 1999: D.C. United-Los Angeles
1.0 1998: Chicago-D.C. United
1.4 1997: D.C. United-Colorado
1.4 1996: D.C. United-Los Angeles
THE BECKHAM EFFECT. Beckham had an impact across much of MLS, including on the ratings front. According to Tom Hoffarth at insidesocal.com, MLS averaged 276,000 viewers -- up 6.5 percent -- for its first 29 games of the season on ESPN and ESPN2. The 14 games involving the Galaxy averaged 352,000 viewers.
The highest rating of the regular season for an MLS game on ESPN was a 0.5 for the Seattle-Portland game in June. The game drew 888,000 viewers, benefiting from the Italy-England Euro 2012 match that served as a lead-in.
(The importance of lead-ins can't be emphasized enough. NBC Sports Network's top viewership was 405,000 for a FC Dallas-Portland game on Aug. 5. It aired at the height of NBCSN's coverage of the London Olympics. By the fall, MLS viewing figures dipped to as low as 39,000 on NBCSN.)
MLS PLAYOFF RATINGS. ESPN or ESPN2 televised five 2012 conference playoff games, generating three 0.3 ratings, one 0.2 and one 0.1. The largest audience was 540,000 for the first game of the Los Angeles-Seattle series.
NBC Sports Network aired eight games, drawing 0.1 ratings for seven of them. The rating for the first leg of the Houston-D.C. United series was recorded as 0.0. It drew only 59,000 viewers.
The lone game on NBC -- Houston-Sporting Kansas City -- drew a 0.4 rating. A second playoff game was scheduled to air on NBC, but it was scratched when the first leg of the Houston-D.C. United conference final series had to be switched from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11 because bad weather forced the postponement of the midweek New York-D.C. United game.
EPL UNDER FIRE. English Premier League clubs have come under criticism for paying little taxes. Clubs made more than $240 million in profits but paid only $5 million in corporate taxes, according to their most recent filings.
"Even though this isn't illegal, it's not right," former British sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe told Independent on Sunday. "I will be raising this issue with the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee this week, as a matter of urgency."
An EPL spokesperson last year said its clubs paid more than $1.6 billion in various taxes.
Tax avoidance has become a hot topic in Britain. U.S. companies like Starbucks, Google and Amazon have come under fire for “immorally” using tax practices to pay little or no corporate taxes.
USL PARTNERS WITH NATIONAL GUARD. United Soccer Leagues has designated the Army National Guard as the “Official Military Branch of USL” and the primary sponsor of the 2012 Super Y-League North American Finals, set to begin Friday at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
The Army National Guard will also sponsor the 2012 Major Beach Soccer National Championship, to be held Dec. 15-16 in Clearwater, Fla.
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