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The Great Canadian Ratings Report: MLS not sharing in World Cup love

Chris Zelkovich
Eh Game

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Toronto FC is doing better on the field but can't attract viewers. (Getty Images)

Since the eyes of the world will be on Brazil and the World Cup starting this week, you have to wonder how all this attention on soccer's biggest event will affect Major League Soccer in this country.

Wonder no more, as it will have no effect. You might think TV audiences would diminish, but it's doubtful they'll be affected at all -- mainly because they're pretty much near bottom as it is.

As has been the case since the second week of the season, Canada's MLS teams rank pretty much at the bottom of the television ratings with two games last weekend barely beating the 100,000 mark. Those were not exceptions.

Though Toronto FC benefited from the off-season hype to open the season with a record audience (352,000) on TSN, things have gone downhill since then. Either fans didn't like what they saw or they found something better to do.

Worse yet for MLS owners in this country, maybe they just don't care.

Despite having several big-name stars -- Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Dwayne DeRosario -- TFC has rarely even topped the 100,000 mark in ratings since the opener.

It's all a bit of mystery. The productions are usually entertaining, thanks to plenty of passionate fans in the stands, and two of the Canadian teams (Toronto and Vancouver) are competitive.

Maybe all those soccer fans who will be glued to their TVs and computers for the next month have tried the MLS version of the game and decided they prefer the international version.

On the other hand, several other sports fared much better. The Toronto Blue Jays almost hit the million mark on Friday, the team's biggest television audience since the much-hyped 2013 opening day.

The Grand Prix of Canada was a big hit, too, with TSN pulling in 248,000 viewers on TSN and another 481,000 on French-language RDS. In all, more than 2.2 million people watched all or some of the race on the two networks. That didn't include those who chose to watch on NBC.

As for the Stanley Cup finals, NBC is enjoying a great series so far with ratings up significantly over last year. Saturday's game not only won the evening for NBC but set a Game 2 record. In Canada, fans have found the series a little less compelling.

So far, CBC has averaged 2,419,000 viewers through three games of the New York-L.A. final, down slightly from last year. That's not bad considering that last year's final was a lot more competitive and went to six games. The longer the series goes, the higher the ratings.

Here are the most-watched sports events on English-language television for the past weekend, according to BBM Canada overnight ratings:

1. NHL Rangers at Kings Saturday CBC 2,617,000*
2. NHL Kings at Rangers Monday CBC 2,176,000
3. MLB Cardinals at Blue Jays Friday Sportsnet 998,000
4. MLB Cardinals at Blue Jays Saturday Sportsnet 791,000
5. MLB Cardinals at Blue Jays Sunday Sportsnet 586,000
6. Horse racing Belmont Stakes Saturday TSN 349,000*
7. NBA Heat at Spurs Sunday TSN 298,000*
8. Auto racing Canadian F1 Grand Prix Sunday TSN 248,000*
9. Tennis French Open men's final Sunday TSN 234,000*
10. Auto racing NASCAR Pocono 400 Sunday TSN2 215,000*
11. PGA St. Jude Classic final round Sunday Global 212,000
12. Tennis French Open women's final Saturday TSN 166,000*
13. Auto racing F1 Canadian Grand Prix qualifying Saturday TSN 164,000
14. UFC Henderson vs. Khabilov Saturday Sportsnet360 136,000
15. PGA St. Jude Classic third round Saturday Global 132,000
16. Soccer Vancouver at Philadelphia Saturday TSN 116,000
17. MLB Red Sox at Tigers Sunday TSN2 110,000
18. Soccer San Jose at TFC Saturday TSN 109,000
19. Auto racing Indy Car Firestone 600 Saturday Sportsnet 59,000

* U.S. network ratings not measured.

THREE TO WATCH

Tennis, anyone, eh? It's not hard to get caught up in the excitement surrounding Canada's new tennis stars. Led by Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic, Canada is making a lot of noise and attracting plenty of attention. Eugenie Bouchard's semifinal match last Thursday morning at the French Open drew an average audience of 536,000 to TSN and RDS -- an amazing number for that time of day. Raonic returns to the court this week at the Gerry Weber Open. Daily coverage starts at 6 a.m. EDT on Sportsnet One.

Tee time: With Tiger Woods still recuperating from back surgery, the eyes of the American networks will be on Phil Mickelson, who will try to tame Pinehurst No. 2 at the U.S. Open. Mickelson has never been camera-shy but will be thrilled to have the focus on his golf game instead of his financial dealings. Coverage starts Thursday at 9 a.m. EDT on TSN .

Cup runneth over: So apparently there's this soccer tournament in Brazil and apparently a lot of people will be watching. The month-long madness begins Thursday at 4 p.m. EDT on CBC.

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