Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Be In Whatnow


The US Men's National Soccer Team is playing Honduras this afternoon in the first real qualifying match for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. We refer to this round as the "hexagonal" round because there are six teams competing for three spots, and because calling it the "polyhedral" round sounds like we're D&D nerds*, and calling it the "sexagonal" round sounds dirty**.  These matches will be going on throughout 2013.

It's actually a pretty big deal. 25 American journalists have traveled to Honduras for the match, which is nice. The Honduran government has declared the afternoon a holiday. Kids are going home from school early to watch the match. Parents are leaving work. It should be a rollicking day in San Pedro Sula, not to mention Tegucigalpa. 

You'd think this game would be broadcast in the USA on one of the channels of ESPN, right? No. Fox Soccer Channel? I mean, 'Soccer' is right there in the name. No. NBC Sports got the US rights to the MLS and the Premiership, didn't it, maybe they got some World Cup qualifiying matches...? No. 

The match is being broadcast on beIN SPORT, a new sports network. For comparison, about 100 million households receive ESPN. Less than 10 million households receive beIN SPORT. It's not carried by Verizon or Time Warner Cable.

I have a hard time imagining what prompted US Soccer to accept this carriage deal. After the success the US had in the 2010 World Cup and the enormous success of the US Women's National Team, why step down to this tiny network? US Soccer must know that the demand is out there.

(The answer to "why," is, of course, money.  beIN SPORT is a subsidiary of Al Jazeera, which is bankrolled by the oil barons of Qatar; they paid for the privilege of broadcasting this match. I still think it's a bad decision for US Soccer - do they need money so much more than they need quality exposure?)

* which we are
** again, guilty as charged
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