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RBNY Fan Take: MLS Misses Out on Golden Opportunity with UEFA Final on FOX
Soccer gets no bigger than Saturday's showdown between Manchester United and Barcelona in the Champions League Final. A one hour pregame show starts on FOX Soccer Channel before coverage moves over to FOX; not FSC or FX, but FOX. On the same day that a soccer match is actually televised nationally in the United States, Major League Soccer has a relatively full schedule. Eight MLS matches are scheduled for May 28. Not surprisingly, none of these matches will be shown on FOX or any other national television network.
Major League Soccer isn't getting a national TV deal anytime soon. We're all well aware of that. A deal similar to the one the NHL and NBA have, where games are shown on cable networks such as ESPN and FOX Soccer Channel along with national networks like FOX and ABC, is the long term goal for the league. Saturday afternoon could have served as a test run of sorts for both MLS and FOX, a "get our feet" wet moment for a league that could use one handout from such a station.
This could have been a win-win for both FOX and MLS. The league would have obviously benefited from both having a game shown on national television and small ads for that game running on the bottom of the screen throughout the Champions League Final. MLS and FOX could have switched the league schedule around slightly to showcase either New York or Los Angeles, two teams with star players that attract the attention of the casual sports fan, to gain more viewers for that particular match.
FOX could have used this opportunity to advertise both MLS matches being shown on FOX Soccer Channel and FSC's new "Soccer Night in America." Just as ABC puts an ESPN logo on the screen during NBA games, FOX could have placed the FSC logo on the screen during both the Champions League Final and MLS match. The station has a two-hour window to fill between 5 pm, when Champions League coverage goes back to FSC, and 7 pm when the MLB game of the week begins. Surely FOX could have worked out a deal with the two baseball teams in order to move that game back 20-30 minutes to accommodate for the MLS match.
Ideally, this is something Major League Soccer would have thought about over the winter. Scheduling a New York vs. Los Angeles match, a game that's guaranteed to have recognizable stars and be very entertaining, for May 28 and having that game shown on FOX after the Champions League Final would have been a big deal for the league. Sure, one game isn't making MLS into an entity that's level with the "big four" North American sports leagues.
It certainly wouldn't have hurt the league, though.
One problem Major League Soccer fans and individuals that work within the league that I've spoken with have with MLS is that the league just doesn't "think big." MLS and its clubs are seemingly happy to settle for whatever television and advertising they can get, "like the kid in class that's afraid to raise his hand because he doesn't want his classmates to laugh at him if he's wrong" as one person said to me awhile back. Using the Champions League Final to showcase Major League Soccer for even a couple of hours could have been a step toward selling out just a few more matches nationwide and getting just a few more thousand viewers to watch MLS games on FSC and ESPN.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
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