11 May 2006

MLS: Definately on par with the NHL

Google has released a new trend analysis tool (HT: Gameday at Yuda) that measures news mentions and search volume. For those that were wondering when MLS would start to get the same recognition as at least the NHL, wonder no more. It seems to have happened, both nationally and locally, at least in terms of search volume. Now, the NHL strike skewed things a bit, but if you look at the last season (featuring the return from the strike and the AO vs. Crosby rookie battle) you see that the NHL's search volume seem to be about the same as Major League Soccer.

However, the NHL News Volume dwarfs that of Major League Soccer (not reflected locally, but definately nationally). What does this say to me? People are equally interested in the NHL and MLS, but the news serves NHL fans better. Something we've always thought, but never really had real data to prove.

Note: Edited post to after prematurely posting

Update: Check out what happens when you look only at the United States... that really shows the gap between the media coverage (bottom) and relative customer demand. It also occurred to me that perhaps MLS gets conflated with the real-estate listing service, so take a look at "Major League Soccer" and "National Hockey League", although I doubt news or search terms work like that (given that when you search for "MLS" via google, it takes you first to Major League Soccer, and not a real-estate service.)

19 Comments:

At 11 May, 2006 09:59, Anonymous Oscar M said...

Darn it, you beat me to it. I had a similar idea when I ran across this tool yesterday too! Good work though.

 
At 11 May, 2006 10:09, Blogger mirarchi said...

Good stuff -- thanks for the interesting read. I hope MLS news coverage eventually catches up to fans' interest in the sport.

 
At 11 May, 2006 11:00, Anonymous MikeB said...

Very cool. I'm wracking my brain trying to think of phrases besides the league abbreviations to try and get some interesting results.

A five way sport comparison within the US shows soccer holding its own.

 
At 11 May, 2006 11:04, Blogger D said...

Ooohhhh.. good stuff Mike B. Note again that soccer is typically in the middle of the search terms, but on the bottom of news coverage. Message: They people want soccer, but are getting other things more.

Pass out the torches and pitchforks, it is time to head to Bristol!

 
At 11 May, 2006 11:28, Blogger Kinney said...

I was fooling around with this yesterday as well, really cool tool that google put out. I was comparing MLS teams to see which club was most popular (unfortunately Chicago Fire skews the searches a bit).

Also it is interesting to just look at the dc united trend and find the spikes. The largest is the freddy adu signing, you see the impact of winning the championship at the end of 2004. The first spike in 2005 at the end of the first quarter is the CCC. The large spike in the middle of 2005 is the Chelsea game, then the Copa Sudamerica blip after that.

Also, look at the countries in the "regions" section. US first, the Chile doing their homework for the Copa, then Chelsea fans (possibly some Blackburn or Reading ones as well). Then PUMAS fans or Mexicans interested in the CCC. We can really see how the friendlies and internationl tournaments up the exposure of DC United around the world.

 
At 11 May, 2006 11:49, Anonymous GUTuna said...

I think we're also seeing that many soccer fans have to turn to the internet for news (often generated by other fan/media types) because the mainstream media low-ball soccer coverage.

 
At 11 May, 2006 11:59, Blogger D said...

GUTuna -- the possibility occurred to me, and I haven't thought of a way to control for it yet. Yes as MikeB has shown, football and baseball, which get a lot of media coverage, also get tons of search terms, so I'm temporarily assuming that media coverage does not decrease internet searching too much. That may be wrong.

 
At 11 May, 2006 11:59, Blogger D said...

Kinney -- Very interesting... This tool offers too much fun.

 
At 11 May, 2006 13:00, Anonymous Joe said...

D and Gutuna, why would you control for the fact that soccer fans turn to the Internet for news, because mainstream coverage is scanty? To me, that's the whole point. Great job digging this stuff up.

I think we need a push on this issue across many blogs, and maybe some columnist will pick up on it, get things really rolling.

Or maybe not, but what the hell?

 
At 11 May, 2006 13:06, Anonymous Joe said...

Hey, check this out. DC United kicks the crap out of the Washington Capitals, and is even or better with the Wizards.

 
At 11 May, 2006 13:53, Anonymous GUTuna said...

Joe & D,

I'm not really saying we should control for it. It's a legit show of interest for the sport. Just pointing out that most of us spend WAY too much time on the net looking for soccer info and we're not alone!

This also shows that we get great local coverage!

 
At 11 May, 2006 14:07, Anonymous MikeB said...

Speaking for myself I spend waaaaaay too much time on the Internet period. :) Time to find that life thing...

 
At 12 May, 2006 09:03, Blogger Kinney said...

Joe, we beat out the Capitals in 05 because of the strike. The end of 05 and 06 numbers are a little higher than DCU but much closer than I would have expected. OT: Look at the size of the Ovechkin goal bump that the Caps got in early 06.

 
At 12 May, 2006 10:04, Blogger Kinney said...

Here are some more interesting trends.

eurosnobs? Change it to all regions to see how much of a global game basketball has become.

Joe's idea on a national level. Also look at Joe's Washington sports trends with the Skins in, gives some perspective. And the buzz that the Nationals get is just amazing. I am not sure how much of it was because it is new, but it seems they are moving up above redskin territory agian this year.

MLB v. MLS - Notice there is not that much difference in news coverage. It think this is because it is just straight volume not quality and depth. Think game recaps. Also, notice how MLS trails off when the NFL comes into play (left off for clarity but we all know when that is), with little uptick even with our playoffs and championship (and increased coverage). Meanwhile Baseball has a significant jump when its playoffs roll around. I think this is due to tv coverage and we get squeezed out, but an arguement against us none the less.

Finally where MLS stands compared to other non-big-4 sports. I wish there was a way to encapsulate pro tennis but I couldn't think of one. Specifically look how MLS stacks up to NASCAR. We have the same season so it is really interesting. Especially considering they have the same problem we do with lower interest when the race for points heats up in the fall and they get national network tv coverage.

Yes I was bored.

 
At 12 May, 2006 10:06, Blogger Kinney said...

Ooops. I knew I was going to mess something up. Forget the commentary on the eurosnobs part. That goes down below with the look at US national leagues. The jump really is amazing.

 
At 12 May, 2006 11:04, Blogger WFY said...

The Nats trend probably has a lot to do with the fact they have 10X the amount of games of the Redskins, twice as much as NHL, NBA, etc.

 
At 12 May, 2006 11:33, Anonymous Val said...

Why on earth does everyone use the NHL as a measuring stick when it comes to soccer's popularity?

Were talikng about a sport that just went on strike, which no one except for Canadian ex-pats and people in northern states gave a crap about.

Are we trying to measure what soccer is or should be in this country or is this some kind of pissing contest between sports that most people could do without?

 
At 12 May, 2006 11:41, Blogger D said...

Val -- I went with the NHL for a couple of reasons. First, let me make it clear that I kinda like hockey, and was at one point in my life a big Caps fan. That being said, here's the reasoning: The NHL is considered a major league. It gets the SportSCenter time on ESPN. It's covered nationally. It is also the league that MLS is, RIGHT NOW, closest to in popularity. Which means that it is, if you will, the closest target.

Proving that soccer, and MLS in particular, is at least as interesting as the NHL means that MLS will have achieved a level of respectability as at least a second tier league in America. Currently, I think the perception is that MLS is a niche sport (like Arena Football). I think the reality is different, and that perception needs to catch up with reality. Picking the NHL is the easiest way of doing that, since they're sort of the runner we've been following the last couple of years.

 
At 13 May, 2006 15:40, Anonymous Chris said...

I'd argue that the use of "national hockey league" doesn't really make it work any better. I'm not sure that in my life I've referred to the NHL as the National Hockey League, unless I'm answering the question "what does NHL mean?". On the contrary, I use Major League Soccer often, though not as much in internet typing. Unfortunately, acronyms aren't much help when trying to search for things, or at least getting a realistic look at their statistics.

Now if you want to look at players, Adu outranks Ovechkin, even in searches in the DC area. He even outranks Sidney Crosby nationally. Even DC United searches are relatively equal to the Redskins at this time (which seems to be the trend towards the middle of the year every year).
What does all this mean? No clue, but googling is fun

 

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