The most viewed club soccer match on American television in 2014 didn’t take place in a large European cathedral of soccer, featuring a massive club like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United or Chelsea.
It didn't take place in America either, featuring a team from the U.S. domestic league.
Instead, it took place in a 30,000-seat stadium in a Mexican city with fewer than 300,000 inhabitants. The teams facing off weren’t just unfamiliar to the average American sports fan, but likely to many American soccer fans.
Yet, when Leon traveled to Pachuca for the second leg of the Liga MX Clausura final on May 18, the United States tuned in, and did so in massive numbers.
The game, broadcast on UniMas – a smaller sister station of Univision - reached 4.7 million total viewers who tuned in to all or part of the broadcast, according to a release.
For comparison, 505,000 people saw the 2013 MLS Cup between Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake on ESPN, while another 514,000 watched on UniMas.
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It isn’t just MLS that Liga MX has surpassed in TV ratings.
According to a NBC release, the highest rated Premier League match on NBC all season was a Feb. 8 match between Cardiff City and Swansea, which had 1.2 million viewers – a number aided by Olympic coverage before and after the match.
Two months before the Welsh derby, though, ratings for the Liga MX Apertura semifinal between Leon and Santos Laguna dwarfed that match.
Per a release, the game reached a cumulative audience of 2.8 million viewers on NBC’s Spanish-language sister station Telemundo – a network which reaches just over half the households NBC does.
"Liga MX delivers more viewers than any other soccer league in the U.S.," Univision Deportes president Juan Carlos Rodriguez told Goal USA.
Spanish speakers make up the majority of the Liga MX audience, but according to Rodriguez, the non-Spanish speaking audience is growing.
“In general terms, we can say that the number of non-Hispanics tuning into Liga MX [on Univision networks] has grown versus five years ago and we reached 1.5 million non-Hispanics during the Clausura '14 season that just ended,” Rodriguez said. “This is evidence that non-Spanish speakers come to our broadcasts because of the quality and style of our coverage, which is a good sign.”
Another good sign for Liga MX broadcasts is that their numbers aren’t just besting other soccer broadcasts, but other American sports' broadcasts as well.
According to Univision, Liga MX matches on Univision average more viewers than the MLB regular season on ESPN and the NBA regular season on NBA TV.
In March, Univision’s broadcast of a regular season match between America and Veracruz outperformed all nine NCAA March Madness games on truTV and TNT for the week.
And finally, the May 18 Liga MX final second leg on UniMas drew more viewers than every single NHL playoff game airing on NBC, NBCSN and CNBC in the 2014 playoffs to date.
They’re numbers that Major League Soccer, and even the English Premier League can only dream about at this point. For 2014 and likely the foreseeable future, Liga MX will continue to rule the American airwaves.