If the US Men's National Team play in a 2014 World Cup qualifier but millions of potential American viewers are unable to watch, does the game really happen?
Of course it does, unfortunately, and that's exactly the situation USMNT fans around the United States will be in Friday night when Team USA take on Jamaica. The reason, as diehard soccer fans and US Soccer supporters already know, is that new soccer station beIN Sport snatched up the TV rights for all USMNT away World Cup qualifiers last month. As of the typing of this piece, only Dish Network, DirecTV and Comcast have struck deals with beIN Sport.
As was explained in a piece located on the Philly Soccer Page website, Comcast customers will only have access to beIN Sport en Espanyol on September 7. That station will be showing the Jamaica vs. USA match via tape delay starting at 11:45 pm ET. Even more frustrating, according to the PSP story, is that the game will air in SD and not HD.
I had a lengthy conversation about beIN Sport with one of the smartest "in the know" soccer individuals I know a few weeks ago, and I waited to post this piece because that person was, after talking with other knowledgeable people, certain that those running the network were doing all they could to get the station in as many homes as possible by September 7. The final hour before kickoff is fast approaching, and I still have no legal way of watching the Jamaica-US match while in my house.
Every time I have spoken with somebody in the soccer world about beIN Sport since the station bought exclusive TV rights for Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1, I've been told a similar message: Somebody goofed somewhere along the line, because the amount of people who should know about beIN Sport but don't is alarmingly high. I was provided with a clear example of this Wednesday night when I went out to a local pub to watch the Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants game.
The bar/pub I visited offers NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, NHL Center Ice and MLB Extra Innings, not to mention both FOX Soccer stations, NBC Sports Network, GolTV and the Univision family of networks that routinely has live matches throughout the week. I spoke with the owner, an English Premier League follower, about the possibility of the bar having beIN Sport as soon as this weekend. His response?
"This is the first I've ever even heard of the station. What's it called again? beIN? I'll have to check it out."
This conversation was not a one-off. Numerous casual soccer fans I know, people who would watch Juventus, Barcelona or Real Madrid if they were featured on a station such as FOX Soccer or ESPN2, had also never heard of beIN Sport before I mentioned the channel to them. Outside of Facebook, Twitter and while at a pub that does carry the station, I've never once seen an advertisement for beIN Sport on TV or in print. I didn't actively search for one before typing this piece because, quite frankly, I shouldn't have to do so.
I truly believe that it's nothing but a good thing that any entity is willing to dump so much money into showcasing the beautiful game in this country. That fact doesn't do me much good regarding Friday night's match, though. I'm lucky in that I live close enough to multiple US Soccer pubs that will be showing the Jamaica-US game, but dozens of friends and family members of mine aren't so fortunate for a variety of reasons.
Somebody somewhere is going to read my piece and respond with the tired "I remember when there was no option of watching the US Men's National Team outside of a fuzzy feed that featured Spanish commentators" argument. It's 2012, everybody, and it shouldn't be an ask to be able to watch any meaningful US Soccer game in HD. For those wondering, I have contacted my television service provider via email, Facebook and Twitter about beIN Sport. No response has come as of the posting of this piece.
The next USMNT World Cup qualifier, a home game against Jamaica, takes place on September 11. Fans in the US will be able to watch that match via ESPN2 and Galavision. The next beIN Sport game will be on October 12, when the US travel to take on Antigua & Barbuda.