New format ‘here to stay’ after L.A. premiere
Despite a drop in its TV rating and far from Chamber of Commerce weather, the 2012 MLS Cup was deemed by league executives to be a successful live event in this first year of its new format.
“The new format is here to stay,” said David Wright, MLS senior vice president of global sponsorship. “The atmosphere was incredible. I thought the ultimate proof was when everyone was still in the stadium long after the match was over.”
That was the case even though, except for a brief burst of sun during the match’s first half, there was a steady, soft rain throughout the league’s three days of events in Los Angeles.
|Rainy weather didn’t dampen spirits onsite at the Home Depot Center for this year’s MLS Cup.
CHRISTOPHER BOTTA / STAFF
“We felt this year’s Cup was a much richer experience than the previous neutral-site games,” said David Pekush, senior product manager for EA Sports Soccer, who made the trip from the company’s Vancouver office. “The home crowd made a huge difference, and from what we could see, there were a lot of casual MLS fans there, too. That worked for us. We find that if we can get ‘FIFA 13’ in a casual fan’s hands, they become a convert to our game and pro soccer.”
After the match, an ebullient Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of AEG, which owns both the Galaxy and Dynamo, said the newfangled MLS Cup will be a springboard for the league as it heads into the three-month offseason.
“Today was a perfect example of where this sport and MLS are headed,” Leiweke said. “It has unlimited potential. We’re going to get better. We’re going to grow the league. We’re going to add franchises. We have a lot of momentum.”
BOARD MEETING: The league convened a board of governors meeting the day before the title game. Commissioner Don Garber long has discouraged team owners and executives from detailing specifics of board meetings, but Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson said he could discuss the league’s top objective for 2013.
“There’s going to be a commitment to a higher standard of play,” Paulson said. “There will be an influx of players, perhaps a few on the marquee level, but also the acquisition of a core of younger impact players, along with enhanced development of our players. MLS understands that the game is everything. As our quality improves, as I expect it will quickly, we’re going to generate enormous interest.”
AEG KEEPING DYNAMO: Leiweke said after the championship match that the company plans to retain ownership of the Dynamo. At the urging of the league — which would like to see the end of entities owning multiple MLS clubs — AEG attempted this year to sell the Dynamo to Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander. The desired sale fell through, though, and now Leiweke seems adamant about moving on.
“We did what the league asked us to, which was to consider diversification,” Leiweke said. “But we feel no obligation now. I’m proud of the Dynamo and what we have at [one-year-old] BBVA Compass Stadium. We’re not going to sell that team.”
Did MLS tell Leiweke that it understands AEG’s position?
“Yeah,” Leiweke said. “We tried to do the right thing for the league, but it didn’t work out. They ought to leave us alone now.”
RATINGS REPORT: The TV rating for this year’s MLS Cup, broadcast by ESPN, was a dispiriting 0.5, down from a 0.6 a year ago. Last year’s MLS Cup, also a Houston vs. Los Angeles matchup, was on ESPN in prime time on a Sunday night. This year’s game not only was on a Saturday afternoon, but it also was up against the Alabama-Georgia SEC football championship game. Still, league executives were hoping for far more than the estimated 797,000 viewers who tuned in for this year’s title game, which also was the Galaxy finale for international icon David Beckham.
|ESPN’s John Skipper (center) with studio host Max Bretos (left) and SVP Scott Guglielmino
The ESPN/ESPN2 average of 311,000 viewers a game this season was up 8 percent from the nets’ average in 2007, the year Beckham entered MLS.
ESPN President John Skipper attended the match and visited with Garber, among others. Garber also on Saturday had a 20-minute meeting with David Nathanson, general manager of Fox Soccer, after an earlier Saturday appearance by the commissioner on the network’s English Premier League pregame coverage. Nathanson declined to comment on the meeting.
The good news came in Spanish: On TeleFutura, MLS Cup delivered 485,000 viewers, a 58 percent jump from 2011.
Jimmy Nielsen (left) and Tony Meola (right) took a photo with a fan at the Allstate tent.