You may have heard about this goal Fredy Montero scored last week. The one where he just let one rip from about 35 yards out and placed it in the upper 90? Might just win Major League Soccer's Goal of the Year? Yeah, that one.
Well, if you are the kind of person who watches SportsCenter, you probably expected to see it featured on their nightly Top 10. Of course, you didn't. Two soccer plays did make the list -- Pappis Cisse's physics-defying goal in the Premier League and Lionel Messi's hat trick in La Liga -- but Montero's was nowhere to be found.
The MLS fan in me wants to be upset. How does the possible Goal of the Year, easily one of the more impressive I've ever seen a MLS player score, not even make ESPN's nightly Top Ten? Even worse, ESPN is one of the main broadcast partner for MLS, which would seem to make it a natural fit.
But the rational part of me has a harder time getting worked up.
The reason? Look at the ratings MLS is drawing.
MLS numbers last week: ESPN drew 508,000 viewers to Sat's Galaxy-Red Bull game; NBCSN had 96,000 viewers for Sat's Philly-Seattle game.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) May 8, 2012
Both of these games were about as close to marquee matchups as it comes in MLS. Just for good measure, both were on at nearly perfect times for maximum exposure, middle of the day on the West Coast and early evening on the East Coast. And to be fair, these aren't bad numbers. In fact, I'm sure they are quite respectable my MLS standards. But they aren't the kind of numbers that are going to make national broadcasters take notice, either.
As a point of comparison, the Manchester Derby drew more than 1 million viewers despite it being on in the middle of the day on a Monday. Granted, that was a HUGE game, but it does illustrate the problem MLS faces.
It's no secret that MLS is struggling to draw eyeballs to TVs, while breaking attendance records. It's a situation that is not so unlike the one the NHL faced prior to its partnership with NBC.
The question is, how does MLS go about changing that?
On some level, it's up to MLS to provide a more compelling product. Higher-quality matches will certainly help and progress has slowly been made.
To make that really possible, though, fans must take some of the responsibility too. The quality of broadcasts, especially at NBC, has taken a remarkable step forward this year. That most of the games continue to be watched by around 100,000 people is frankly a bit shocking. I'm not sure if fans just aren't taking the time to find where the channel is on their cable package or they really aren't interesting in watching games their team isn't involved in, but they are worth checking out.
Even beyond having highlights on national shows like SportsCenter, there has to be enough demand for these networks to keep investing in airing MLS games. I have no idea if these numbers are anywhere near what they are looking for, but I'm sure it can only help to see them go higher.
If we want respect, we need to show we're deserving of it.