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ALABAMA - It will be a busy weekend for sports fans across the United States, as a good number of high-profile events will take place.

Among the usual NFL games on weekends, the NBA's In-Season Tournament final will offer fans a high-profile basketball game early in the season. Across the soccer world, MLS will decide its next champion as LAFC takes on Columbus Crew on Saturday, sharing a window with Liga MX's semifinal rounds. Club América will host Atlético San Luis on Saturday while Tigres will try to close its semifinal tie against Pumas on Sunday.

Sports fans are used to having high-profile soccer matches around this time of the year, but the inclusion of the NBA's In-Season Tournament final will prove a big challenge for Saturday's MLS Cup final to draw a similar audience as last year's final.

It will not be an easy task, as In-Season Tournament games have seen a huge increase in viewership over games in "comparable windows" from last season. According to a report from Forbes, tournament games on ESPN and TNT had a 26% increase from games played during the same time last year.

MLS will hope that this year's final can be as exciting as the 2022 edition between LAFC and Philadelphia Union that was decided on penalties. According to numbers from Nielsen and the Sports Business Journal, last year's thriller between LAFC and the Philadelphia Union drew the 2nd-best average viewership since the creation of Major League Soccer, in 1996.

The 2022 broadcast combined for 2.16 million viewers among Fox and Univision/TUDN, who oversee the league's Spanish language coverage. Only the 1997 edition between DC United and the Colorado Rapids in 1997 had a bigger TV audience. Among fans looking for Spanish-language coverage of the match, Univisión and TUDN also had record numbers, as only the 2014 final returned better ratings than last year's showdown (668,000 viewers).

According to data from the same report, MLS viewership for last year's MLS Cup final was up 38% compared to the 2021 match between NYCFC and Portland Timbers. As more fans around the United States become more interested in MLS, the league will hope Messi's figure will be their final push in their quest towards adding a global audience.

Liga MX will have it a little more complicated to draw big audiences to their semifinal matchups, as only the Tigres-Pumas tie seems to still be up for grabs. But in the overall picture, this is not something that should concern the Liga MX hierarchy.

According to figures from World Soccer TV and Nielsen, Liga MX games averaged the most viewers among any soccer league in the U.S. market, even surpassing Premier League audiences. During 2022, Liga MX games averaged 845,000 viewers compared to the English league's 475,000.

If we use the last Liga MX final as an indicator, the Mexican league could see a huge increase in interest for next week's decisive match. During May's Clausura final, Liga MX ratings saw a peak of 3.3 million viewers as the two finalists, Tigres and Chivas de Guadalajara, rank among some of the most popular Mexican clubs. Chivas, whose matches are broadcasted across the US market on Telemundo, averaged almost double of what a Premier League game averaged during 2022. (828,000 viewers on US television only).

In order to get there, Liga MX would need Club América and Tigres to decide the Apertura 2023 champion. With América almost certain to play in the final (5-0 win over Atlético San Luis in the 1st leg), a Tigres win against Pumas would mean the 3rd Club América-Tigres final since 2014.

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