Major League Soccer’s annual championship game, the MLS Cup, will air this year on ABC, marking first time the American pro league’s title match will appear on a broadcast network since ABC aired it in 2008. The game is set for Sunday, November 10 at 3 PM ET/noon PT and will also be available to stream live on the ESPN and ABC apps.
The shift to ABC comes as it’s Disney sibling ESPN’s turn to host the final as part of a contract with Fox and Univision. Last year’s MLS Cup on Fox, which saw the hometown Atlanta United beat the Portland Timbers 2-0 in front of an MLS-record crowd of 73,019 at Mercedes-Benz Arena, drew 1.56 million total viewers in primetime (on a Saturday), the most-watched MLS championship game since 1997. That was also up than 90% from the 2017 final.
ABC was the exclusive home of MLS Cup during MLS’ first 13 years, from 1996-2008, and ESPN has televised the game for eight of the past 10 seasons. For this year’s game, ESPN’s top broadcast team of Jon Champion (play-by-play), Taylor Twellman (analyst) and Sebastian Salazar (reporter) will handle the call.
Soccer is having a good run in the U.S. at the moment, mostly thanks to the well-watched Women’s World Cup this summer that saw the U.S. win its fourth title. That final drew 14.3 million viewers on Fox, topping the ratings of the men’s World Cup final the summer before.
Just ahead of the Women’s World Cup final, ESPN inked a deal with the American women’s pro soccer league, the NWSL, loaded with World Cup stars, to televise 14 matches during the 2019 season that began in April. ESPN2 will air that final October 27.
“ABC has a rich history of soccer coverage, including MLS Cup for more than a decade in the early years of Major League Soccer. We are excited to once again showcase the league’s marquee event on the network,” said Burke Magnus, ESPN’s EVP Programming and Scheduling, on Wednesday.
ABC will also be pleased that big-market Los Angeles’ LAFC is running away with the Western Conference this year and has already clinched a playoff spot, with rivals the L.A. Galaxy not far behind. Atlanta is tops again in the Eastern Conference. The playoffs, now shaped a a single-elimination tournament, begin October 19.