The MLS Cup Final is just a few days away and excitement and tension is building up in the soccer community in America.
It is the final that nobody predicted as the Columbus Crew will play host to the Portland Timbers after another incredible play-off tournament that literally saw everything: dramatic penalty shootouts, brilliant goals, end-to-end action and the most unusual of storylines in MLS playoff history.
While MLS Cup fever is at an all time high in America, does this high stakes match have the same popularity and excitement from other parts of the world, and does the game itself have any relevance in football culture in other countries?
Popularity in England
The most obvious country to embrace MLS is England, the nation where the beautiful game came from. MLS was first shown in England on ESPN in 2007 when the league was just starting to gain popularity, but aside from David Beckham, none of the players in the league at the time where too well known, meaning that the league wasn’t too popular.
However as MLS grew more popular by the year, the TV audiences for the games in England increased, and with Sky holding the rights for all MLS games in England, the league has only grown in popularity.
But what about the MLS Cup Final itself? Surprisingly, the regular season games are more popular than the play-off games themselves. This can be down to many things, such as the teams involved in a match, the time of the games, and the stars playing on the pitch.
For example, the season opener between New York City FC and Orlando City, which starred David Villa and Kaka for the first time in an MLS match, drew in a English TV audience of around 300,000 people, while the 2014 MLS Cup final between the LA Galaxy and the New England Revolution, which featured Robbie Keane and Landon Donavon, only attracted an English audience of around 100,00 viewers.
However the MLS Cup this year has been welcomed with open arms by the English football community. Sky did a good job with promoting the playoff games, and the games gained a lot of popularity and coverage all over social media from English companies and fans.
Spreading throughout Europe
Eurosport has recently started showing MLS Cup games around other European countries, but the impact has not been as big as it has been in England. Again, this could be down to many factors, one big one being the time difference which saw many games being shown in most European countries well into the early hours of the morning.
Also, this is the first time this year that MLS games are being shown in other European countries besides England, so for many this will be their first experience of an MLS Cup final.
One country that is all too used to the final is America’s downstairs neighbour, Mexico. MLS came up with a great idea to broadcast games in Spanish on Spanish speaking channels in both the USA and Mexico, meaning that fans with the league in Mexico could watch MLS games without having to guess what commentators were saying,
A new market in Mexico
This television feature has been around since 2007 and coverage of the seven MLS Cup Finals since then have all been broadcasted every year. Whilst many Mexican fans would strongly agree that the Liga MX is still the superior league in North America, it’s good to know that MLS is starting to make strides in their country.
The MLS Cup is the biggest game in the American soccer calendar, and it’s only recently that the rest of the footballing world has started to take notice of this truly unique game.