This is why Fox and Telemundo's deal for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup broadcasts topped $1 billion while ESPN and Fox paid only $600 million for the combined rights to Major League Soccer and U.S. men's national team matches through 2022. The U.S. is increasingly taking to soccer, but not MLS' brand of it.
Though Portland's Providence Park draws more than 20,000 fans per match and the Portland Timbers' supporters group, the Timbers Army, fills the building with chants, smoke and giant tifo displays, enthusiasm for MLS just hasn't spread far beyond stadium walls. Consider, for example, that last year's MLS playoffs averaged just 320,000 viewers per match. A playoff game between the Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake during the Timbers' first-ever MLS playoff run drew fewer viewers than a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond on TBS.
Meanwhile, European leagues such as the English Premier League continue to grow in popularity. NBC paid $250 million for just three seasons of EPL coverage last year, but has seen audiences for Saturday morning matches reach an average of 438,000 viewers. That's up from 220,000 on Fox and ESPN in 2012 and includes 1.2 million for a Cardiff-Swansea match, 1.1 million for a tilt between Swansea and Manchester United and 1 million for Man U-Crystal Palace matchup. In total, 4.9 million U.S. viewers tuned in for the last day of EPL matches and averaged 1.8 million per match, up from 869,000 last year.
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