Covering the Coverage: The Business of Covering American Soccer

soccertvWith the Summer winding down, we thought we would take a look at the coverage of American soccer in the United States.  Tonight, we will start by looking at “mainstream” national media, with a focus on ESPN, Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News and other outlets.

Not surprisingly, ESPN is at the head of the class, with a wealth of online content, regular soccer broadcasts and fairly regular content on its various television and radio platforms.  Despite regular criticism from soccer fans, ESPN does an outstanding job covering the game.  This is especially so with respect to the US National Team.  In the lead-up to big qualifiers, ESPN has devoted substantial time across all platforms to discussing the match and even went live from Mexico City despite not carrying the broadcast. ESPN.com has a number of columnists devoted to MLS and US soccer and its US soccer pages are updated daily with new content.

On the flip side, one valid and longstanding criticism of ESPN coverage is the lack of attention paid to MLS.  These criticisms have risen in the wake of ESPN’s recent commmitment to EPL and La Liga.  Many fans also take issue with the online focus on leagues outside MLS; it is far easier to find coverage of English soccer than Major League Soccer on ESPN.com.   Nevertheless, American soccer fans have been heartened by the recent exposure through an unlikely source; Bill Simmons.  Simmons’ is a lead ESPN writer and he followed up his long column about the Mexico match with an hour long podcast with Alexi Lalas. Yet, even Simmons has largely ignored American professional soccer.

Sports Illustrated has Grant Wahl, possibly the most renowned American soccer writer (thank you David Beckham), and a fairly regular turnover of soccer columns during the MLS and European seasons.  SI also has an ongoing relationship with Soccer America that provides access to the content of that publication.  The magazine does cover soccer to an extent, however that coverage is typically limited to the National Team, with only occasional references to MLS.  Nevertheless, CNNSI is part of the regular rotation for most American soccer fans.

The same cannot be said for The Sporting News. It is tough to find soccer coverage in the magazine or website for TSN.  Long ago, I had an e-mail exchange with a representative for TSN indicated that demand simply didn’t warrant coverage of soccer (be it European or American).  The same can be said for CBS Sportsline.com and many of the other “national” sports websites. Soccer coverage is tough to find and usually dependent on AP stories or other pool reporting.

One final outlet: USA Today has always done an adequate job covering soccer both for the National Team and MLS.  The website is regularly updated and they feature the regular comments of Beau Dure.  The paper also regularly covers the games.

We will continue to look at the coverage of soccer over the next few weeks, including blogs, sports radio and other outlets.  In the interim, tell us what you think. What national outlets do you rely upon for soccer coverage? Do you ignore mainstream media all together?  What other outlets should we discuss.