Soccer on US TV, 10/10-10/12

Friday, October 10th

2:45 p.m.: Netherlands vs. Kazakhstan, Fox Sports 1

2:45 p.m.: Wales vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Fox Sports 2

2:45 p.m: Bulgaria vs. Croatia, Fox Soccer Plus

2:45 p.m: Italy vs. Azerbaijan, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

7 p.m.: United States vs. Ecuador, ESPN

Landon Donovan is expected to play about half an hour in his final game for the USMNT, in front of more than 30,000 fans at Rentschler Field in Connecticut. Donovan aside, the U.S. squad features relatively few MLS players, and a bevy of young talent. The surprise inclusion of Miguel Ibarra, from the NASL’s Minnesota United, may give him his first serious national exposure. Their opponents aren’t to be overlooked; Ecuador qualified for this summer’s World Cup, though they finished third in their group.

8 p.m.: Chile vs. Peru, BeIn Sport

10 p.m.: Seattle Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

The Cascadia Cup is on the line tonight in Seattle, with more than 54,000 tickets already sold. Seattle needs just a draw to claim the silverware, but will be looking for all three points in their quest for the Supporters’ Shield. The Sounders are 11-0-3 all-time when more than 40,000 fans attend, but they’ll be without right back DeAndre Yedlin, who was called into the USMNT. Vancouver needs a win both to retain the Cascadia Cup and to leapfrog Portland for the final playoff spot in the West.

Saturday, October 11th

8 a.m.: Argentina vs. Brazil, BeIn Sports

If you accidentally wake up early expecting to find the Premier League, you won’t be totally out of luck. Argentina and Brazil are playing a friendly in China.

12 p.m.: Scotland vs. Georgia, Fox Sports 2

12 p.m.: Armenia vs. Serbia, Fox Soccer Plus

12 p.m.: Romania vs. Hungary, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

2:45 p.m.: Finland vs. Greece, Fox Sports 2

2:45 p.m.: Northern Ireland vs. Faroe Islands, Fox Soccer Plus

2:45 p.m.: France vs. Portugal, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

4 p.m.: Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution, Univision Deportes (Spanish)

7 p.m.: New York Red Bulls vs. Toronto FC, and Univision Deportes

If you don’t mind watching on your computer, this should be a good game. The Red Bulls haven’t lost at home since May, but TFC’s loss at home to Houston on Wednesday leaves the Reds in a position where they all but need three points from this game. If things work out for New York elsewhere, they could clinch a playoff spot with a win.

Sunday, October 12th

12 p.m.: Ukraine vs. Macedonia, Fox Soccer Plus

12 p.m.: Estonia vs. England, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

2:45 p.m.: Luxembourg vs. Spain, Fox Sports 1

2:45 p.m.: Sweden vs. Lichtenstein, Fox Sports 2

2:45 p.m.: Belarus vs. Slovakia, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

3 p.m.: Houston Dynamo vs. DC United, UniMas (Spanish)

5 p.m.: Mexico vs. Panama, ESPN2

7 p.m.: FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy, ESPN2

The Galaxy will have Landon Donovan available to them, but not Omar Gonzalez, as they seek to keep pace with Seattle in the Supporters’ Shield race.



The Soccer TV Marketplace

Yesterday, the NBA announced a new nine-year contract with ESPN and Turner worth $2.66 billion per year, a massive increase over the current deal. That’s a lot of money, and surely inflated by the fact that sports programming will be scarce over the next few years. The NFL, that juggernaut of juggernauts, is under contract through 2022. The NHL has a contract with NBC for $200 million a year (a figure that now looks paltry) through the 2021-22 season. Even MLS went long, and won’t be done with the ESPN and Fox contract until 2021. Add those to baseball, NASCAR, the college football playoff, and March Madness, and you realize that the major American sports competitions are all locked down into the next decade.

But cable sports networks can’t just sit still from now until 2021. Both NBC and Fox have created alternatives (if not yet competitors) to ESPN. Live sports have resisted the erosion of viewership that seemingly all other television has suffered in recent years, and so they’ve become very valuable with the new cable competition. Fox in particular wanted a piece of the NBA pie, while NBCSN still often appears bare in the summer months. In a world where sports are increasingly valuable for television networks, and in a country where soccer is increasingly popular, we have a market where the largest available properties are soccer competitions.

Continue reading

Fox’s Premier League Piggyback

If you watched the LA Galaxy-New York Red Bulls game Sunday night on ESPN2, you may have been caught off-guard during halftime by the familiar sounds of the Champions League anthem. ESPN, as you surely know, hasn’t shown the Champions League since John Terry’s famous missed penalty against Manchester United in the 2009 final. And yet, there was the anthem, silently accompanied by the news that Atletico Madrid’s match against Juventus will be on ESPN2 this Wednesday.

As it turns out, when ESPN sublicensed the Champions League from Fox to show games on, they also nabbed the ability to show certain games on television. This is good news, because it means more soccer on your TVs. But I got to wondering: wouldn’t Fox want to keep a game featuring the reigning champions of both Spain and Italy?

Continue reading

Soccer on US TV 9/19-9/21

Friday, September 19th

10:00 PM: Real Salt Lake vs. Colorado Rapids, NBCSN

RSL has already won the first two matches between these two rivals, clinching the Rocky Mountain Cup for 2014. But there is a lot at stake here nonetheless. RSL currently leads FC Dallas by a single point as they hope to avoid a one-game play-in match. Colorado, meanwhile, trails the final playoff spot in the west by six points with six matches remaining. A loss here might just kill off their hopes.

10:30 PM: Tijuana vs. Santos, ESPN Deportes (Spanish)

10:30 PM: Morelia vs. Pumas, Azteca America (Spanish)

Continue reading

An ode to Illegal Streams

I watched the U.S. Open Cup final last night on a stream that had neither scoreboard graphics nor commentary. The game was televised, but only by GolTV; I’ve lamented the Open Cup’s lack of television coverage before. The Sounders beat the Union and won their fourth cup in six years, with many people watching the same illegal stream. For a lot of us, it had been a while.

Continue reading

Goodbye, Gus

gus2We hardly knew him, in truth. Gus Johnson was a part of this “soccer in America” thing for all of 19 months, during which he graced, what, maybe 20 games in total? He was criticized before, during, and after almost every one, including on this here blog. And now Johnson and Fox have agreed that this wasn’t going to work out—not because of criticism, they insist—because Gus isn’t able to give his full attention to the game with his basketball and football obligations. Johnson may well continue to call soccer for Fox, but he won’t be their lead announcer at either the Women’s World Cup next summer or the Men’s World Cup in 2018.

I happen to believe that this decision is for the best, though the family circumstances that led to Johnson’s decision are unfortunate. But the question mark of Gus Johnson as a soccer announcer is now replaced by the question mark of an unknown commentator. Someone—more than one someone, in truth—will have to replace him.

Continue reading

Soccer on US TV: 8/15-8/17

Friday, August 15

8:30 PM: Queretaro vs. Veracruz, ESPN Deportes, Azteca America (Spanish)

9: Houston Dynamo vs. Philadelphia Union, NBCSN

DaMarcus Beasley and the Dynamo currently sit near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, but only five points separate them from the Union, who hold the fifth and final playoff spot.

10:30: Tijuana vs. Jaguares, ESPN Deportes, Azteca America (Spanish)

Continue reading

American Ambassadors

Let’s never do that again.

For about 80 minutes yesterday, the USMNT made their supporters fret, sweat, and bite their nails. It is, bar none, the most anxiety I’ve ever felt during a soccer match. And the first half was tame. It wasn’t until, in the span of three minutes, Thomas Muller and Asamoah Gyan scored, that the US was in any real danger. One more goal, at that stage, would have sent the Yanks back home.When safety finally arrived, it wasn’t an American goal but a Portuguese one. Cristiano Ronaldo’s rebound goal gave Portugal a 2-1 lead and eased American fears of Ghana and tiebreakers.

Continue reading

The Gus Johnson Dilemma

gus2American soccer culture is a queer blend of habits aped from Europe and Latin America that, somehow, wants nothing more than to be considered authentic. There’s a team in Utah with a name ripped from Spain, and supporters’ groups across the country singing the same English songs. Leagues in other countries have better television ratings than our own. Little of it is uniquely American; we even borrow British grammatical practices when talking about the sport.  

In that context, enter Gus Johnson.

Continue reading

The Next Grande Thing

Liga MX is the most watched soccer league in the United States |photo credit: rapapu via photopin cc

Liga MX, not the Premier League, is the most watched soccer league in the United States | photo credit: rapapu via photopin cc

On Saturday, Atletico Madrid clinched the Spanish title with a draw in their final game against Barcelona. The next day, the Spanish relegation battle came to an end, with Real Valladoid and Osasuna going down thanks to final day results. On Sunday night, the Mexican league saw its two-legged final decided in extra time, as Leon added a spring title to their fall title.

La Liga is perhaps the best soccer league in the world. Liga MX is the most watched soccer league in the US. But neither is easily found on English-language television in this country. As the powers that be buy up rights in the growing soccer market, these two leagues represent perhaps the most significant unclaimed territory.

Continue reading

2013-14 Premier League TV Ratings on NBCSN

Chelsea didn't win the title, but they were the most watched club on American TV | photo credit: proforged via photopin cc

Chelsea didn’t win the title, but they were the most watched club on American TV | photo credit: proforged via photopin cc

In their first season covering the league, NBC Sports Network aired 160 Premier League games, with another few dozen games being shown on other NBC channels. Of the NBCSN games, the Premier League averaged 395,000 viewers per game. This is a massive increase over last season when games were on ESPN/2 and Fox Soccer. The Premier League averaged just 220,000 viewers per game in 2012-13, with similar viewership in 2011-12. For comparison, Major League Soccer’s first seven games on NBCSN this season have averaged 216,000 viewers. About half of these matches have had the benefit of being preceded by Premier League coverage.

Continue reading