US Soccer fans looking to watch USMNT World Cup qualifiers may have to either change the way they watch TV at home or begin complaining loudly to their television service providers.
beIN Sport, the new soccer station that is taking the United States by storm, announced on Wednesday that the channel will show all US Men's National Team 2014 World Cup qualifiers that are played outside of the United States. The TV takeover is immediate, meaning that beIN Sport and not ESPN/ESPN2, NBC Sports or FOX Soccer will be showing the Jamaica vs. USA match that takes place in Kingston on September 7.
Broadcast rights to such international games are controlled by host federations, meaning US Soccer can do nothing about the new arrangement.
The away US World Cup qualifiers are the latest games that have had their TV rights scooped up by beIN Sport. The channel currently has La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1 and all 2014 South American World Cup qualifiers. La Liga contests used to be shown on GolTV, and Ligue 1 and Serie A games were aired on FOX Soccer/FOX Soccer Plus. In a somewhat-but-not-really related note, it was also announced on Wednesday that beIN Sport France will be the exclusive broadcaster of NFL games in that country.
A new station coming in, somewhat from out of nowhere unless you're a diehard fan who has been paying close attention to the situation, and grabbing TV rights to specific programming isn't all that new or shocking of a story. The problem in this case is that beIN Sport is only available on Dish Network and DirecTV as of the posting of this piece. One "in the know" individual told me on Wednesday afternoon that Comcast was close to reaching a deal with the network, and a post that appeared on the beIN Sport Twitter account later on in the day hinted the same.
Even if Xfinity/Comcast customers are able to watch beIN Sport before the upcoming weekend, that will, as things stand as of August 22, still leave millions of soccer fans in this country in the dark whenever the USMNT are playing meaningful away games over the next couple of years. Those unable to watch beIN Sport at home are being asked to contact television service providers regarding the station. A supporter who wishes to be more social when watching games can locate an official US Soccer bar in his/her area.
"The way we watch soccer in this country is quickly changing," a different knowledgeable source said to me during a conversation about beIN Sport a couple of weeks ago. Wednesday's announcement was yet further proof that he was spot on when making that comment. It's still very early in the game, of course, but it's easy to see that there could soon be a new "soccer on TV" king in the United States.
Perhaps the new king is already settling in on the throne.