Hartford as Soccer Hotbed: Surprisingly, Yes

If you are wondering why there is optimism for the success of the Hartford Athletic, the city’s new professional soccer team planning to begin its inaugural season later this month, a peek back at ratings for televised international soccer in the U.S. provides some hints. In March 2016, the Washington Post reported on the U.S. cities with the highest viewership for the Manchester derby between City and United in the English Premier League the previous week.  Topping the ratings was Baltimore, followed by Kansas City, Hartford, Seattle, Columbus, the San Francisco Bay area, West Palm Beach, and Philadelphia.  Yes, Hartford ranked third that week.  The match was the highest-rated Manchester Derby telecast in U.S. history at that time, attracting 1.17 million TV viewers.

Two years later, when NBC Sports reported on the cities with the highest average season-long ratings on Premier League telecast for the 2017-18 season, Hartford was ranked in the top 10.  Connecticut’s Capitol region was outranked only by Baltimore, Washington, Richmond, Providence, Austin, Norfolk and Dallas.

This past Sunday, the top rated U.S. television markets for Manchester United vs. Liverpool, broadcast on NBC Sports Network, once again included the Hartford/New Haven market, at number six.  Leading the way once again was Baltimore, followed by Norfolk, Washington D.C., Milwaukee and Jacksonville.  Boston was seventh, just behind Hartford/New Haven.

Coincidentally, the telecasts are coordinated not in the U.K., but in Stamford, Connecticut, at the massive NBC facility there, which also serves as the command center for NBC’s Olympic coverage.  Approximately 60 work on each match day at NBC Sports’ headquarters, located at 1 Blachley Road on the city’s East Side, the Stamford Advocate reported last summer, just prior to the current season. On NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, a record 4 million unique viewers watched during the past season, the Advocate reported.

Hartford Athletic, a USL expansion franchise, will kick off its inaugural season with a game in Atlanta on March 9.  The team's home opener is set for May 4. The club announced this week that Trinity Health of New England will be Title Partner and Official Healthcare Provider of Hartford Athletic and featured on both Hartford Athletic’s home and away jerseys.  Dillon Stadium, currently undergoing renovation in Hartford, is slated to be the club’s home turf.