The MLS Cup Final, traditionally a Sunday afternoon affair broadcast on over-the-air network ABC, will move to cable (ESPN2) and a prime-time slot (8:30 pm) for the first time, the league announced today.

The move was made to allow for the match to start later in the day local time, which places it solidly in the East Coast evening time slot. The final will now go up against NBC's Sunday Night Football rather than afternoon NFL games, a situation that could actually work in Major League Soccer's favor. The trade-off from over-the-air to cable is significant, though the competition for viewers might actually be less intense. ABC was unable to accommodate the game with a later start time thanks to their own Sunday prime-time lineup, which includes several popular shows.

NBC's Sunday Night Football on November 22nd feature the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears; while both teams feature strong national profiles, neither may be serious championship contenders at that point in the season (in my humble opinion, they won't), which could push a few casual viewers in the direction of ESPN2 and the MLS championship match. For a sport and a league that draws paltry television ratings no matter the slot, competition, or platform, even a few more eyes would be a bonus.

Last year's final received a paltry 0.7 rating, which means that the move from broadcast to cable should be of little concern. ESPN2 is widely available enough that a rating similar (although hopefully better) is possible.

What do you make of this move? Will it ultimately benefit the league, or is the move to cable for the final a mistake?
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