ESPN expands football slate for MLS and World Cup qualifying matches
| 13 May 2014
ESPN has reached an enhanced multimedia agreement with Soccer United Marketing for the rights to Major League Soccer and US national team matches through 2022.
The eight-year agreement, beginning in 2015, includes English-language rights for the United States National Teams' World Cup football qualifying matches (men and women) – up to ten matches per year.
ESPN2 will also televise 34 regular-season matches as part of the MLS Game of the Week series on Sundays, six playoff MLS matches each year, and the MLS All Star game and the MLS Cup in alternating seasons.
ESPN Deportes meanwhile will present 34 MLS regular-season and six playoff matches with Spanish-language commentators. As part of the agreement, FOX Sports will offer additional MLS and US national team content on its networks.
Additionally, online network ESPN3 will have exclusive rights to carry Major League Soccer matches outside the home markets of participating teams. The out-of-market matches are now available only through the MLS Live and MLS Direct Kick packages. ESPN3's out-of-market telecasts will exclude matches carried by the league's other national TV partners – FOX Sports and Univision.
"ESPN remains firmly committed to world-class soccer and this agreement underscores our belief that this is an ascendant sports property," said John Skipper, ESPN president and co-chairman at Disney Media Networks. "We are proud to continue our longstanding relationship with MLS and US soccer, and the broad media rights we have acquired, including enhanced digital rights, will benefit all our platforms."
MLS commissioner Don Garber, who is also CEO of Soccer United Marketing, added, "We are honoured to partner with ESPN, FOX and Univision to form the most comprehensive US media rights partnership in the history of soccer in our country. The commitment from our television partners in terms of structure, length and magnitude is unprecedented, and these new partnerships are another strong indicator of the League's continued growth and the overall fan interest in our sport."
ESPN signed its first MLS agreement in 1994 – two years before the league's debut in 1996.