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First leg of Toronto FC vs Montreal Impact tie breaks TV ratings records

TFC’s 3-2 defeat at the Olympic Stadium is the new most-watched MLS game in Canada.

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MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Toronto FC at Montreal Impact Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Now we have statistics to back up the billing of last night’s match as the biggest in Canadian club soccer history.

An average audience of over one million viewers made the Montreal Impact’s 3-2 victory over Toronto FC the most-watched MLS game ever in Canada, per a release from TSN, with the total number of unique viewers exceeding 3.6 million.

That’s a huge step forward. During the regular season, match broadcasts involving any of the three Canadian teams rarely cracked an 100,000 average. Things picked up for Toronto’s tie against New York City, with the first leg averaging 238,000 viewers, but even that figure only ranked 19th among sports events on the weekend, below figure skating and curling tournaments.

Seven figures, then, is something to shout about - though with the disclaimer that it is a combination of the 595,000 average on TSN and 429,000 via RDS. Even if you just take the TSN figure, however, it would have bumped the game up to eighth on the weekend of the New York City tie - behind two NHL games, three World Series games, an NFL Sunday double-header and a CFL matchup.

The CFL comparison is one to look at because it is with that league that MLS is battling to be best of the rest after Canada’s ‘big three’ of hockey, baseball and basketball (though NBA ratings are not huge either). While game attendances for Toronto, Montreal and the Vancouver Whitecaps are now in line with CFL numbers (and TFC, of course, have easily outperformed the Argonauts), MLS still trails a long way behind when it comes to TV.

The Grey Cup, which reached an average viewership of 4.3 million last year, is still likely comfortably outstrip anything else MLS can offer. But the division semi-finals both hit around the one million mark, too, which highlights how positive these numbers from the Olympic Stadium are.

It will be interesting to see how the second, decisive leg at a sold-out BMO Field measures up (having it kick-off on time might help). Then there is the MLS Cup final, which is an even bigger game but will only involve one Canadian team.