Press Release

Posted by Mac Nwulu on May 12, 2014

ESPN Extends Rights to MLS and U.S. National Teams

PRINT VERSIONFILED IN: MLS, Soccer

MLS-U.S. Soccer photos via ESPN Images

Eight-Year Agreement Includes FIFA World Cup Qualifying Matches; ESPN3 to Carry MLS Out-of-Market Matches

ESPN has reached a comprehensive multimedia agreement with Soccer United Marketing (SUM) for the rights to Major League Soccer and U.S. National Team matches through 2022, announced today by John Skipper, ESPN President and Co-chairman, Disney Media Networks, and Don Garber, Major League Soccer Commissioner and CEO of Soccer United Marketing.

The eight-year agreement, beginning in 2015, includes English-language rights for the United States National Teams’ FIFA World Cup qualifying matches (men and women) – up to 10 matches per year. ESPN2 will televise 34 regular-season matches as part of the “MLS Game of the Week” series on Sundays at 5 p.m. ET, six playoff MLS matches each year, and the MLS All Star game and the MLS Cup in alternating seasons. ESPN Deportes will also present 34 MLS regular-season and six playoff matches with Spanish-language commentators. As part of the agreement, Fox Sports will offer additional Major League Soccer and US Soccer National Teams’ content on its networks.

Additionally, ESPN3, the multiscreen sports network in more than 92 million homes, will have rights to carry Major League Soccer matches outside the home markets of participating teams. In addition to ESPN3, ESPN may explore alternative distribution models for the out-of-home package. The out-of-market matches, a popular offering among MLS fans, is currently 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 Skipper. “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.”

Commissioner Garber said: “We are honored to partner with ESPN, FOX and Univision to form the most comprehensive U.S. 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 – and has been the primary national television network for Major League Soccer ever since.

Highlights of the agreement:

MLS:

  • ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3 will televise 34 regular-season matches, up from 26
  • ESPN Deportes acquires the rights to carry all 34 ESPN/ESPN2 matches with Spanish-speaking commentators
  • ESPN acquires out-of-market rights to more than 200 MLS matches per season to be carried on ESPN3 and via alternative distribution models
  • ESPN International will have rights to carry all 34 ESPN2 “MLS Game of the Week” series
  • ESPN networks will televise six MLS playoff matches
  • ESPN will televise MLS All Star and MLS Cup in alternating years
  • Extensive media rights for all ESPN media platforms such as SportsCenter, ESPN FC on television and digital platforms, et al, including in-progress highlights
  • ESPN will partner with Soccer United Marketing to create new soccer events for fans

U.S. National Teams:

  • Up to 10 U.S. National Team matches each year featuring the men’s and women’s programs on an ESPN network, including home FIFA World Cup qualifying matches
  • International rights placing U.S. National Team matches on ESPN International networks
  • Extensive media rights for all ESPN media platforms such as SportsCenter, ESPN FC on television and digital platforms, etc.

ESPN and Soccer in the United States:

ESPN is committed to offering comprehensive coverage of the world’s premier soccer events in the United States.  ESPN is the English-language television home – and other languages, except Spanish – in the U.S. for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.  The media company is also the English- and Spanish-language home of the UEFA European Football Championship through 2016, and a collection of FIFA World Cup qualifying matches from UEFA nations – Spain, Germany, France and more.  ESPN’s multimedia platforms also provide extensive coverage of myriad top-tier international leagues and Major League Soccer in the U.S., as well as telecasts of the United States National Team and Mexican National Team matches, including the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, international friendlies, and more.

Through ESPN FC, the company’s multi-language, multi-country and multi-platform soccer brand, ESPN offers fans a comprehensive coverage of soccer across the world. The brand’s digital hub, ESPNFC.com, is the no. 1 soccer-specific site in the U.S., and has expanded to include ESPN FC on TV, a daily global soccer news and information program.

About Soccer United Marketing

Founded in 2002, Soccer United Marketing (SUM) is the preeminent soccer business company in North America. SUM holds the exclusive rights to the most important soccer properties in the region, including: all commercial rights to Major League Soccer; the United States Soccer Federation; promotional and marketing rights to Mexican National Team games played in the United States, and the CONCACAF Gold Cup™. SUM also manages promotional and marketing rights in the United States for Mexico’s most popular sports team, Club Deportivo Guadalajara (Chivas).

SUM ‘s corporate portfolio also includes MLS Digital Properties, the only soccer advertising network of its kind, covering all facets of the sport in the U.S., and which allows advertisers to reach millions of soccer fans via online advertising and sponsorships campaigns. These global properties are represented by SUM’s slogan: One Sport. One Company.™ For more information, please visit www.SUMworld.com.

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