Premier League gets viewership scare from MLS as Lionel Messi effect made clear
The Premier League appears to be losing some ground to MLS among the youngest viewership demographic in the United States in a trend that could be accentuated by Lionel Messi’s transfer to Inter Miami
Lionel Messi helped bring Inter Miami back from the brink on Wednesday night in a dramatic U.S. Open Cup match against FC Cincinnati.
Lionel Messi helped bring Inter Miami back from the brink on Wednesday night in a dramatic U.S. Open Cup match against FC
The Premier League still leads the way in U.S. football viewership share, but MLS is showing signs of catching up to England’s golden goose. A new study has shown that even before Lionel Messi’s transfer to Inter Miami, the American division is now more popular than the Premier League among Gen-Z viewers.
The sport marketing company For Soccer polled 2,020 people in the U.S. last autumn for its report, surveying both hardcore and casual fans.
Gen-Z respondents — roughly 11 to 26 years old — said they care about individuals above all else. They voted Messi their favourite football player, ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo by five percentage points. Now that Messi has come to the U.S. and MLS streams all games through Apple TV, the league has likely gained significantly more young supporters. Since 2019, the average MLS team’s valuation has climbed 85 percent to $579 million, according to Forbes.
Sports are eager to cater to young fans because they can convert them into lifetime consumers. Football is one of the fastest-growing entertainment options in the U.S., and there are billions of dollars at stake for leagues around the globe competing for eyeballs.
“With partners like Apple, players like Messi, stadiums being built, the World Cup rocket fuel driving the future of our league, I think the opportunities for increased valuation are endless,” said commissioner Don Garber. “I think that the $1 billion number is the right valuation for where we are today. And when we’re together next year, I think the valuations will be even higher.”
Of course, MLS won’t expect to chase down the Premier League in popularity among all U.S. football fans anytime soon, if ever. NBC signed a six-year, £5.3billion ($2.7bn) broadcast deal with the Premier League at an annual value of about £880m per season. Apple, meanwhile, gave MLS a reported 10-year, £2bn ($2.5bn) contract, which equates to about 200m per season — much less than the Premier League.
There’s no denying the Messi effect, however. Inter Miami have turned into an attendance juggernaut overnight. They’ve also yet to lose a match that the Argentine plays, triumphing in the Leagues Cup and advancing to the U.S. Open Cup final over the past month