Off-Base Percentage: Soccer Coverage is Growing

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Off-Base Percentage is a weekly post about the lighter side of sports, mainly baseball. Whether it occurs on the field, in the locker room, or in the media, if it is a little ‘off-base’ then it is fair game. If you are looking for analysis of a player, team, or sport it won’t be found in this post. This is for the sports fan that wants to take a step back and look at sports from a ‘different’ angle. Enjoy.

Most casual sports fans know by now that Manchester City won its first league title since the ’60′s this past weekend. They did it in style too. After giving up the lead to the Queens Park Rangers midway through the second half Man City waited until stoppage time to score two goals in dramatic fashion and snatch the trophy away from Manchester United, who themselves only snuck out  a 1-0 victory over Sunderland.

Not only did the final week of the English Premier League season have a lot of drama, but a lot of people in the United States witnessed it in high definition. 1.35 million people tuned in to watch the final ten matches on television over the weekend. Last year only a little over four million people watched. Even better, all ten games were televised by networks in the U.S.–seven were on english-speaking channels. Networks like ESPN and FOX and their family of channels were the main ones showing the madness unfold.

Even more amazing was that when Manchester City and Manchester United played a couple weeks ago in the Manchester Derby, more people viewed that game around the world than watched the Patriots and Giants play in the Super Bowl. Over one million in the U.S. alone watched the Manchesters battle–which was a record for ESPN. That wasn’t even the most watched game by Americans, though. The Chelsea vs. Barcelona game on FX eclipsed 1.1 million viewers.

Could all of this extra coverage mean that soccer is taking steps toward becoming relevant in our country? Or does it mean that citizens originally from other countries are watching  all of these games? I am not sure, but it does mean one thing. Television networks have realized how big of a market the soccer world actually is. They have discovered the untapped soccer following in the United States and now they are capitalizing on it. This means we will only see more coverage. FOX recently bought a group of Spanish games from GolTV that they plan to show on FOX, FX, and other channels. And just as every other sport in the United States and even the world, it is a business too. The MLS must start pushing for more viewers to get the television rights to ESPN and FOX. Now, with all of this coverage I am not expecting the United States to win the World Cup in 2014, but if kids watch some of these games instead of the good ol’ Saturday morning cartoons we may see a rise in interest. The best way to build a sport is through youth. Just ask the Brazilians and the Dutch.

So, indirectly maybe all of this growing means the sport itself will grow in our melting pot of a country. I know I’d like to see it happen. Plus the more soccer on TV the better in my opinion.

Is soccer growing? Did you watch Manchester City or Manchester United play at all in the last couple weeks? What about MLS? Let me know on Twitter @Believelander.

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