Aug 22, 2012

USMNT Away Matches for World Cup Qualifying

Steven Goff, the Washington Post's Soccer Insider, has been burning up Twitter this morning with the news that the fledgling outfit BeIn Sport has the U.S. TV rights to CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying matches including all of the U.S. MNT's away matches during World Cup Qualifying, beginning with the Jamaica--US match.

The sports channel, owned by Qatar based Al Jazeera (an tidbit that has been left out of press releases for some pretty obvious political reasons), has been buying up the rights to the worlds top leagues, including La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, and others.  In fact, the network has been splashing the cash like crazy like a Las Vegas whale on a bender.

What does this mean for the U.S. MNT?

All of their away matches in World Cup Qualifying, including this round and the hexagonal, will be carried by BeIn Sport.  BeIn sport is currently carried in the U.S. on DirectTV and Dish Network.  While they are actively seeking space on other cable carriers, currently there are only satellite feeds.  As Goff has pointed out, the home teams own the rights to broadcasts.  So while ESPN and/or NBC will show the home games, U.S. Soccer has no control over the away matches and cannot sell the rights.

With so much cash to spend around, other CONCACAF Members will snap up the generous payment for rights being offered, something that CONCACAF has a particular reputation for doing.  Not that I blame the other national federations, so many countries are seeking additional funds to keep up.  All BeIn has to do is come in with a bid that is 10-15% higher than anyone's bid and watch the rights flow in like so much water.  While it is clear that no federation has to do business with Al Jazeera/BeIn Sport, the kind of money flowing from Qatar is hard to ignore.

So what will happen?  In theory BeIn could sell a transmission to ESPN or NBC or Fox for transmission in the U.S. (a good short term but expensive idea given that a U.S. Jamaica match which is the biggest draw in the group won't come anywhere close to the viewership that U.S.-Mexico will pull in).  Of course, BeIn Sport is making a big push to contact cable providers and get on systems (which you can do here) through out the U.S.  That probably won't help for the Jamaica game, but might be plausible by the time the Hex rolls around.

Also, Goff notes that his information does not indicate that BeIn Sport will be streaming the games on their website.


Update:  8/22 1:21p.m.  Comcast states that they are currently working with BeIn Sports to provide service Xfinity customers.

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