SBJ/Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Playoff races, U.S. team help MLS Web numbers surge

Competitive playoff races in Major League Soccer along with the U.S. men’s national team’s successful bid to qualify for next year’s World Cup are helping MLS’s website reach new heights in viewership.

According to comScore data, the number of average monthly users on MLSSoccer.com is up 86 percent from 2012. With the MLS playoffs beginning this week and continuing through to MLS Cup on Dec. 7, Chris Schlosser, MLS Digital vice president, is confident the website will break the record for average monthly users that was set last year.

In September alone, there were more than 2 million users on the league’s website, along with a total of more than 5 million users across the league and club sites, according to MLS data. With the regular season ending this past Sunday with tight playoff races and four teams in the hunt for the Supporters’ Shield — won by the club with the best regular-season record — October traffic for the league site has more than doubled (up 116 percent) the volume of October 2012.

Besides videos, features and news on its own league, MLS on its website provides coverage of the men’s national team — which clinched a bid in the 2014 World Cup with a win over Mexico on Sept. 10 — and global soccer from a North American perspective.

Schlosser said connectivity from social media, where MLS has more than 255,000 Twitter followers and more than 600,000 Facebook likes, has played a big part in the increase in website users.

Also helping the numbers was the July debut of Golazo, MLS’s second-screen experience that lets fans follow matches though the real-time integration of statistics, video highlights, photos and social media. Average traffic per MLS game has increased 16 percent, and the average time spent by a fan has increased by one minute per visit after the launch of the Golazo system.

MLS began running its own website in 2010 after a six-year digital partnership with MLB Advanced Media. The MLS website currently employs 50 full-time and 50 part-time employees. When the site launched, there were 70 employees in total. For the year, more than 8,000 stories will be published and more than 500 hours of original video will be produced for MLSSoccer.com by the end of the 2013 — both highs.

According to comScore, MLS Digital Properties — the rollup of league-partner sites that includes MLSSoccer.com, Goal.com, the youth soccer sites Got Soccer and Top Drawer Soccer, and the website of U.S. Soccer — has had the highest user count among digital soccer properties in the United States for 22 of the last 24 months. Competitors in this space include the online soccer coverage of ESPN, Fox and NBC Sports.

Revenue for MLS Digital Properties this year has increased 45 percent over 2012, Schlosser said. He declined to provide specific financial data, but that sum includes subscription revenue from the MLS Live streaming service, which provides access to 230 game broadcasts for a full-season cost of $60.

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