MLS commissioner Don Garber thinks there's too much of his sport on American television. Way too much. And no, he's not being sarcastic.
He made the poorly phrased claim while speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors and to avoid headlines like the one above, it probably should've come out a bit different. From the AP:
Garber said the sport must deal with a glut of soccer on American television, where MLS has national deals with ESPN, NBC and Univision. NBC takes over the English Premier League next season from Fox, which retains rights for the European Champions League and Europa League. BeIN Sport televises the Spanish, Italian and French leagues, GOL broadcasts the German Bundesliga and ESPN and Univision televise Mexican games.
"There's more soccer on television than any other sport by far,'' Garber said. "You've got European soccer. You've got Mexican soccer. You've got Major League Soccer. There's way too much soccer on television. I think all of us got to figure out a way to narrow that window so you can get a situation like the NFL has, a couple of days a week, short schedule, something that's very compelling and very targeted.''
What Garber seems to be saying is that he considers other, more popular leagues from around the world that are broadcast in the US to be competition for MLS and that his league needs to figure out a way to carve out a space for its sapling to grow amongst the bigger, older trees. Though MLS attendance has grown to be quite strong in its 17-year history, TV ratings have been painfully minuscule. But morning Premier League matches and weekday afternoon Champions League games probably aren't impacting that as much as MLS's inconsistent scheduling and need to keep growing while keeping its sometimes off-putting inferiority complex at bay.
But the one league MLS doesn't mind comparing itself to is the NFL. Which, obvious to most, is a very different sport in a very different position. Prior to joining MLS in 1999, Garber worked at the NFL for 16 years and it still seems to hold a special place in Garber's thoughts. Perhaps a bit too special.
Whatever Garber truly meant, NBC certainly doesn't agree with his assessment. The network — which, again, is also partnered with MLS — paid $250 million to broadcast the Premier League for the next three seasons. In addition to showing all 380 matches live next season, they have also announced they will air over 600 hours of original Premier League programming.
Even taking those dizzying numbers into account, who would've guessed that the day has already come where a man in the business of soccer in America complains about too much soccer on American television? This might the Twilight Zone.