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Growing the Beautiful Game

MLS Franchises Increased Social Engagements by 18% in 2022

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Social Media
February 23, 2023
February 23, 2023
 min read

Following an eventful offseason – which included a trip to Qatar to compete in the 2022 World Cup for dozens of players across more than half the league’s rosters – Major League Soccer is set to begin its 28th campaign this weekend. After more than a quarter-century, MLS continues to grow, and new teams are making noise on the pitch while developing further interest in the league and widening its footprint. Charlotte FC joined Major League Soccer as the first team based in the Carolinas last year and St. Louis City SC is following suit in the Show-Me State this season, with MLS expected to announce the location of a new expansion club by the end of 2023. As the league approaches its fourth decade in existence, MVP examined growth trends among its 28 franchises in 2022. We used our social platform to explore engagement and value across the clubs’ owned channels for the past two years to determine which organizations have the largest social audiences and which teams are adding fans at the fastest pace. Remarkably, a 12% boost in yearly impressions brought the MLS franchises’ collective total to 4.43 billion in 2022.

Banner Seasons for LA Clubs, Charlotte FC

In 2022, follower growth for exceeding 10% for seven existing clubs as well as the addition of Charlotte FC helped lift MLS teams' total yearly post value by 15% to $69.7M while also increasing total engagements by 18% to 122.4 million. And providing proof championships have effects that transcend the pitch, LAFC was among the clubs most responsible for the collective social media surge. Overall, the Western Conference power earned 19.6 million engagements last year, 2.45x more than it managed in 2021. Among the reasons for the significant jump was annual follower growth of 32% throughout the club’s Cup-winning season, which ultimately helped generate a 2.43x increase in total post value. LAFC was the only club that competed in both years of our study to more than double its yearly total post value. However, five other franchises experienced boosts of at least 50%, led by FC Cincinnati’s increase of 56%.

While LAFC exhibited the most yearly growth in total engagements and post value, its crosstown rival LA Galaxy still led the way in total post value. The Galaxy’s $10.96M in total post value throughout 2022 represented 51% growth and pipped LAFC’s aggregate by 4.6%. LA Galaxy, which has at least 30.6% more social followers than any other club, also set the standard for total impressions with 562.9 million last year.

In terms of averages, however, Charlotte FC joins the discussion of top performers. The Queen City was awarded an expansion franchise in 2019 with plans to begin play in 2021. Therefore, excitement and anticipation had time to build, and the team established a social following early. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Charlotte FC’s introduction to MLS was delayed until 2022. When the team was finally able to take the pitch, it hit the ground running, with fans on social media clamoring for content. Charlotte FC’s overall engagement rate in 2022 was at least 92.3% higher than any other club received and at least 3x higher than 22 clubs earned last year. Ultimately, the rash of interactions across Charlotte FC’s owned social channels helped the franchise increase its yearly average post value by 2.51x. Trailing Charlotte FC, LAFC increased its average post value by 2.18x year-over-year, with FC Cincinnati, Nashville SC, and New York Red Bulls rounding out the top five of our rankings.

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Playoff Contenders Raise the Bar

In true North American fashion, MLS varies from many international football leagues, as it ends its season with a playoff tournament showcasing the year’s best teams. Though the postseason format will change in 2023 – adding two teams per conference and featuring best-of-three series in Round One – the 2022 playoffs included 14 teams competing in a single-elimination bracket. The top seeds in each conference last year, LAFC and Philadelphia Union, received opening-round byes.

Using MVP’s software, we endeavored to analyze how much of a lift each contender received during the postseason. Therefore, we broke our data into two distinct sets, studying how the clubs performed on social media from Opening Day on February 26 through October 9 and from October 10 through the MLS Cup Final on November 5. We found all 14 teams increased their average engagements and engagement rate from the regular season. But it was the two teams who would eventually vie for the title in early November who topped our lists. LAFC had the highest average engagements, impressions, and post value. Its engagements per post were at least 86.4% higher than any other team’s average and more than doubled 12 of their 13 counterparts. But Philadelphia Union far exceeded their postseason rivals’ growth in each metric from the regular season to the playoffs. The Eastern Conference champion increased its average impressions per post by 99% – no other team had a jump of more than 69%. But most remarkable were Philadelphia Union’s average engagements and post value increases. With only two other clubs boosting their average post values by even 50% – and four clubs noticing declines – Philadelphia elevated its average by 2.18x. It also boosted its engagements by 2.16x during the postseason. Rounding out the top three in the latter metric were FC Cincinnati with a 2.07x boost and Austin FC with an increase of 2.04x.

St. Louis City SC Joins the Party

With the season kicking off on Saturday, few fixtures are as highly anticipated as the one taking place at Q2 Stadium as St. Louis City SC hosts Austin FC in its MLS debut. The expansion franchise was announced in 2019 and has been awaiting this day ever since, with fan interest becoming evident on social media of late. Last year, the club grew its Twitter following by 59% while also generating 3.36x more post value than it earned in 2021. It is simply the latest example of a league that has demonstrated a consistent growth model among its base. This season, the league hopes to take another step in terms of engagement and visibility thanks to a new broadcast deal with Apple TV. Stay connected with MVP as we monitor the agreement’s impact on social engagement and league interest as the season progresses.

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