TV: Viewers for MLS conference semifinals up almost 53 percent

Boosted by the first MLS game ever on midweek prime-time network television, the four MLS conference semifinals averaged 446,250 viewers on English-language television.

That represents an increase of 52.7 percent compared to the viewers for the four MLS conference semifinals in 2019.

Thursday's Sporting KC-Minnesota United game, carried on FOX when the NFL game in the network's "Thursday Night Football" slot was postponed, averaged 840,000. It was a fraction of FOX's average for TNF but the highest viewership for an MLS game on network television in 2020, beating the previous high of 756,000 for Nashville SC's first game against Atlanta United on FOX.

For the first time, two of the four conference semifinals aired on network television. Sunday's Orlando City-New England game on ABC averaged 421,000.

The surprise was 321,000 viewers for Tuesday's Seattle-FC Dallas game on FS1, more than the combined viewership for the two 2019 conference semifinals on FS1.

The MLS playoffs continue to draw poorly on Sunday night, though. The Columbus-Nashville SC game averaged only 203,000. In round one, the two Sunday games on ESPN averaged 242,000 (Minnesota United-Colorado) and 223,000 (Portland-FC Dallas). By contrast, the two round one games that ESPN aired on Tuesday, Nov. 24, averaged 478,000 (Philadelphia-New England) and 457,000 (Seattle-LAFC).

The viewership for the two Tuesday night games on ESPN were responsible for the increase of almost 53 percent for the viewership for round one of the conference playoffs on English-language television as compared to 2019. Of significance, none of the round-one games aired on network television.

In 2019, the most-watched MLS conference semifinal game was the LAFC-LA Galaxy game that averaged 586,000 viewers on ESPN. In addition, 375,000 viewers watched the El Trafico playoff game on ESPN Deportes, the most ever for an MLS playoff game (excluding MLS Cup) on the Spanish-language network.

2020 MLS conference semifinals (English-language viewers):
Orlando City
vs. New England (ABC), 421,000
Columbus vs. Nashville SC (ESPN), 203,000
Seattle vs. FC Dallas (FS1), 321,000
Sporting KC vs. Minnesota United (FOX), 840,000
Average: 446,250.

2019 MLS conference semifinals (English-language viewers):
Seattle vs. Real Salt Lake (FS1), 169,000
NYCFC vs. Toronto FC (FS1), 111,000
Atlanta United vs. Philadelphia (ESPN), 303,000
LAFC vs. LA Galaxy (ESPN), 586,000
Average: 292,250.

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