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Volume 26 No. 207
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Seattle's Best: MLS Cup Ready For Raucous CenturyLink Crowd

The MLS Cup on Sunday will be the highest-attended match in Seattle history, after 69,000-plus tickets for the Toronto FC-Sounders final at CenturyLink Field sold out in a matter of hours. The third championship meeting between the two club in the last four years ranks as one of the most in-demand sporting events in the region's history, according to SeatGeek. Resale value of MLS Cup tickets averaged $622 earlier this week -- trailing only the '14 NFC Championship game ($628). Average attendance for this postseason was already up 18% (31,100) from last year (26,343). "Having it in Seattle and having 70,000 people in the building is going to come across fantastically for us on television," said MLS Senior VP/Media Seth Bacon. These are just the latest positive developments in an MLS postseason full of good news, following a shift in playoff format. The league had long used an internationally-inspired two-legged playoff system that included a FIFA-mandated two-week national team break smack in the middle. But starting this season, the schedule was rearranged to avoid the FIFA national team window and a single-elimination format was adopted. The decision has paid off so far, according to Bacon. "We were very focused on creating a more compelling narrative, something that was more easily digestible for fans and sponsors, something that we thought could position us to grow," said Bacon. "Every team, every player, every executive, every media partner, every sponsor and most importantly, every fan, knows this game matters. Whoever wins this game moves on and that has really come to bare in the viewership that we have seen in our playoffs."

GETTING BOOST FROM ABC: Sunday's match will air on ABC, marking the first time since '08 the net will broadcast the MLS Cup. It also will appear on Univision's main linear channel. Broadcasting the match on ABC and Univsion gives MLS more visibility as the two main linear channels promote the final through their other programming. It also gives the league an opportunity to continue strong viewership numbers. ESPN's total audience for playoff broadcasts was up 66% versus the regular season, including 95% for the 18-45 demo. ESPN Deportes' playoff audience was up 126% versus the regular season and 376% in the 18-34 demo. The LAFC-Galaxy playoff game registered as ESPN Deportes' highest telecast ever and the sixth most-watched telecast on Mexico's ESPN channels in '19. Bacon said that, going network-by-network, MLS has seen double-digit viewership growth in playoff average versus regular-season average, and, in some cases, triple-digit growth. Viewership has grown at least 20% each round of the playoffs. Bacon: "That's the growth we're looking for."

BIG DIGITAL DRAW: There also has been digital carryover. MLS' partnership with Twitter continues to boost the league's video growth -- Twitter video views are up 86% and minutes watched are up 113% this postseason. Audi MLS Cup Playoff Twitter video views are up 86% and minutes watched up 113%. Traffic to MLSSoccer.com has increased 47%, compared to '18, while the MLS App is up 30%. It adds up to the highest digital engagement in MLS postseason history, according to the league. It also has not hurt that the '19 MLS Cup Playoffs have been the highest scoring in league history at 4.08 goals per game. Bacon: "We're capturing something that we can continue to build on, continue to grow long into the future."