While other U.S. sports leagues battle another Covid outbreak, Major League Soccer ended its 2021 season with some good news as it attempts to convince TV networks they should pay $300 million a year to carry its games.

ESPN said this week the 2021 MLS Cup on ABC averaged 1.14 million viewers, peaking at 1.6 million viewers, delivering the fifth-most watched audience for an MLS Cup on a Disney-owned network since 2009. New York City FC beat the Portland Timbers in a penalty kick shootout (4-2) to win their first championship.

That’s up from the average 1.07 million viewers who watched the 2020 game on Fox Sports last year, and up 38% from an average of 825,000 viewers for the 2019 game.

The viewership report arrives at a good time for MLS as the league seeks a significant increase from networks. Industry sources suggest MLS is seeking $300 million per season – up from the roughly $90 million it brings in from ESPN, Fox Sports, and Univision combined.

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