There is plenty of reason to be concerned about MLS's share within the overall soccer market, but that has to be tempered by how much the overall market is growing. As for the ratings comparison, it's the lack of context (up 70% over last year) that is the spin, not the context (ESPN-to-ESPN comparison). You put the same game on Fox and ESPN, the Fox broadcast is going to get a better number. (As an aside, you put the same game on ESPN and Fox Sports 1, and the ESPN broadcast is going to get a better number.) Really, for the broadest context, the Fox game two years ago between Toronto and Seattle was most likely the best overall audience MLS has gotten to date, as Toronto brought in over a million Canadian viewers, which is far more than the lack of a US market cost the league. Sadly, the Cup Final matchup that the numbers indicate would bring the best possible audience (Atlanta-Toronto) can never happen, because both teams are in the East. But also in a contextual sense, MLS's audience is vastly better than in the late 90s. For those numbers you have to remember that most people had only 40 or so channels, and 90% of those channels were showing low-budget programming or reruns. Things that also didn't exist in 1997: * Netflix streaming * YouTube * Smart phones * On Demand * DVR * The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, or any of the critically acclaimed cable programs that came into being because cable channels started putting real money in their product. There was an enormous built-in advantage for networks in terms of viewer numbers back then. The ratings over the last 4 MLS Cups show you that an advantage still exists, but it was 10x larger in the late 90s. The fact that MLS pulls a similar viewer number from a Cup Final from back in the 90s makes the opposite point from what it was used for--anything that has held it's audience from the late 90s, the very high-water mark for network TV viewing, is 'winning.' ESPN must also be very happy about the age range of the viewers, since they are the most likely to drop (or never add) cable.