Atlanta United fans hold The Atlanta Journal-Constitution special edition after the team beat the Portland Timbers during MLS championship on Saturday, December 8, 2018, at Merceds-Benz Stadium. (Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

MLS Cup featuring Atlanta United’s win draws best TV ratings since 1997

Originally posted Wednesday, December 12, 2018 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

The MLS Cup victory by the Atlanta United over Portland on Saturday night drew the biggest TV audience in at least 20 years, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The game aired on Fox nationally and brought in 1.56 million overnight viewers. That’s nearly double from the number who watched a year earlier and the most since at least 1997, the second year of MLS’s existence. 

But it’s still a tiny fraction of what the Super Bowl draws and is overshadowed by the ratings for the college football championship, the Stanley Cup finals, the NBA finals or the World Series. 

And the game’s appeal in terms of TV viewing is limited outside of the cities directly connected to the game. 

Atlanta drew an 11.5 rating, the most by far of any city. Portland came in second with a 7.3. That 11.5 rating equals 497,000 viewers. That means nearly a third of all viewers of the game nationwide were from this metro area alone.  And about 32 percent of all TVs in metro Atlanta that were on had the game on. 

At its peak, 662,000 Atlantans watched when the United won the game 2-0 between 10 and 10:15 p.m.

Milwaukee came in third with a 2.2 rating. No other city exceeded a 2 rating. 


Saturday's final drew an MLS-record 73,019 fans to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The United team averaged more than 53,000 attendees per game and became the first MLS team to draw more than 1 million spectators in just its second season of existence. 

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
I cover local radio and TV for both the print and online editions. I write a blog on the same topics.Rodney Ho's Radio & TV Talk blog (new) | Recent archiveSports...
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