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Nets Score with MLS’s Opening Weekend

The first weekend of Major League Soccer’s 20th anniversary season is in the books and its national TV partners put big audiences in their nets.

The UniMas-Univision Deportes Network simulcast of the March 6 MLS season opener won by the defending champion LA Galaxy over the Chicago Fire averaged 341,000 viewers in the 10 p.m. window last Friday night, a total that included 215,000 adults 18 to 49, according to Nielsen data.

The coverage marked the first time a major U.S. sports league began its season on a Spanish-language service, which also included another first-- an English SAP option.

Those deliveries marked respective increases of 44% and 111% on UniMas from last season’s opener between the Fire and Chivas USA. The match also outdelivered NBCSN’s presentation of the March 9, 2014 contest by 3% and 2%, respectively.

As part of the new eight-year, $720 million rights deal, MLS also opened dedicated windows on Sundays. ESPN2 tallied 539,000 viewers for its pregame and match coverage of the first contest between league newcomers New York City FC and Orlando City SC, from 4:30 through 7 p.m. on March 8. That delivery outscored all of the network’s MLS telecasts last year and more than doubled its 2014 audience average of 225,000.

The rookie contest ended in a 1-1, with Brazilian international Kaka knotting matters in stoppage time on a deflected free kick.

Fox Sports 1 began its 2015 campaign with a doubleheader, garnering 268,000 viewers for the first match, a 1-1 draw between Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls, almost doubling the 142,000 viewers NBCSN averaged with its 2014 coverage of the domestic futbol circuit.

The nightcap did,notching 289,000 watchers as the home team Seattle Sounders defeated the defending Eastern Conference champion New England Revolution, 2-0.