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Sporting KC CEO Robb Heineman says MLS can increase popularity by "Americanizing" broadcasts

Robb Heineman

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USA Today sports

Sporting Kansas City's president and CEO Robb Heineman is obviously on board with MLS' stated goal of becoming one of the top leagues in the world. But at the same time, he also acknowledges the challenges MLS faces as it competes not only for talent, but also for mass appeal in a sports-saturated culture.

One way to do that, Heineman told a Kansas City radio station, is for the league to Americanize the world's game – and not only on the pitch.

So while part of that approach involves keeping top US players in the league, he told Sports Radio 810 WHB on Wednesday, another key part involves how broadcasters present MLS matches (LISTEN TO THE COMPLETE INTERVIEW HERE).

“Where we can Americanize this sport is in the television broadcast,” Heineman said. “We're spending a lot of time talking about that here because that, for us, is the next big frontier from a Sporting perspective. Our ratings have started to creep up over the course last couple of years. They're still a fraction of what the Chiefs and the Royals are, and we understand that.”

Catching up with the NFL, Major League Baseball and other entrenched leagues will entail borrowing from their broadcast strategies, Heineman said.

“The way we believe that [lower ratings] can change is if you Americanize the broadcast a bit, give you tighter angles and tighter shots on what's going on in the game,” he said. “Where we really see that in-stadium is when we have people who sit close, the first two or three rows, and sit down at the Field Club. They come up and they say, 'I'm not a huge soccer fan, and I certain never understood the speed and physicality that these players play.'

“And so I think some of that has to reflect through on the broadcast,” he went on, “to allow us to get not only the core fans, the die-hard fans, but also the casual fans and non-soccer fans to spend some time watching our broadcasts.”

Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.