Soccer Business Bits: More Soccer on TV, Spanish TV & More

Hurting for live programming with because of the ongoing labor issues in the National Hockey League, the NBC Sports Network announced that it will pick up two additional MLS matches in coming days.  According to the official press release, “NBC Sports Group will add two regular season MLS games this month to its soccer schedule beginning this Wednesday with coverage of Seattle Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake at 10 p.m. ET from CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Wash. Additionally, NBC Sports Network will air the match between Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City live from Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City.”   The extensive coverage will continue with three games on the various NBC Networks on Saturday, including one match on the broadcast version.

On the Spanish broadcast side, Telemundo announced that the Soccer World Cup Qualifier between Guyana and Mexico (Friday, October 12 at 8:50 PM ET) delivered 2.1 million total viewers and became the #1 program on Spanish-language TV on Friday night among men 18-49 (826,000) and men 18-34 (375,000), according to Nielsen. The game delivered a cumulative audience of more than 4.4 million total viewers.

Finally, in a non-American soccer note, it has been impressive to note the significant level of coverage of the Canadian National Team in Canadian media.  Soccer has struggled to gain a foothold in Canadian sports culture, but as the Canadian men improve and the Women pulled off an exciting run in the Olympic games.  Now the Canadian team has a great opportunity to advance to the Hex by winning or tying in Honduras.  Local media has responded with extensive coverage of the team, game and qualifying.

Monday After

Major League Soccer took the week off because of the international FIFA fixture dates.  On Friday, the United States played its penultimate match of the semi-final round.  As was true with the last away match during qualifying, the game was only televised on betIN Sports, the new network from Al JAzeera.  The English language version of the channel is only available on limited cable and satellite systems.  The network did telecast the game live, while the Spanish language version of the network showed the match in tape delay because of qualification games in South America.

The final game of the round will be broadcast from LiveStrong Sporting Park on ESPN2 on Tuesday.  The match is set for 7:00 Eastern and the game is an anticipated sellout.  A win or draw by the US will ensure that the American advance to the final Hexagonal round.   On Wednesday, MLS will return with a nationally televised game on the NBSCN.  The match will feature Seattle and RSL from Lincoln Financial Field.

As part of the qualifying process, 5 more Cuban players defected, a process that has brought players like Galindo and Alonso to MLS.

While there are visa rules and procedures for athletes seeking to ply their trade in the U.S., Cuba presents an interesting exception.  The “Wet feet, dry feet” policy, established by the Clinton Administration, is unique to Cuba and permits any Cuban who makes it to U.S. shores to remain in the U.S. (See Cuban Adjustment Act).  Thus, players who walk away from international competitions in the U.S. are afforded the opportunity to immediately seek work in the United States.  In addition to an escape from Castro, these asylum seekers have an opportunity to earn huge wage increases by coming to the U.S.  In this case, the players actually escaped in Canada.

The Cuban exception has long been a point of contention for immigration activists, but from a soccer perspective Cuba is unique for other reasons.  Soccer players in Central and South America countries typically play in well-funded leagues and earn ample salaries.  Soccer is a “first choice” sport for many in these countries and provides an avenue for financial success.  Talented players in these regions are actively scouted by MLS and European leagues and often transfer to well-known teams around the world.  Thus, there is little reason for a soccer player in, say Mexico, to emigrate to the U.S. (legally or illegally), as Mexican soccer salaries are typically higher than MLS salaries.  Conversely, Cuba is a baseball country and soccer salaries compare to those of other Cuban professions.  Cuban leagues are not particularly well-scouted.  Accordingly, an escape to the U.S. may be a Cuban player’s best opportunity to to pursue a career in professional soccer.

Soccer Goes Radio

The big soccer business announcement of the day came from an unusual medium, the world of radio.  Mainstream sports talk radio has long ignored soccer in many markets, while the internet has giving rise to many quality podcasts focusing on the beautiful game.  Today SirriusXM revealed that starting on Monday, the satellite radio provider will offer a 24 hour, 365 soccer channel, with talk shows, matches and more.

I have long commented on the lack of forum for soccer fans to banter about their favorite sport. Now, for those with access to satellite radio, that forum exists.  In speaking to the New York Times, Scott Greenstein, the SiriusXM president and chief content officer said “People like talking to true experts, and the call-ins are integral to getting into the lifestyle and flavor of sports, especially soccer,” Greenstein said. “Any time you want to talk soccer, this is it. Imagine calling the FAN”  — all sports radio WFAN in New York — “and wanting to talk Red Bulls. That’s just not happening. Now those people have a channel.”

In addition to talk, the station will carry radio broadcasts of the EPL, MLS Matches and broadcasts of MLS Extra Time.  I have always been skeptical of the appeal of actual soccer matches on the radio.  Soccer is a great sport in stadium and it translates reasonably well to television.  However, soccer is extremely difficult to broadcast without the visual backdrop of the match.

Nevertheless, the advent of this new network is a great thing for fans of the game.  Having an outlet to debate, discuss and relive matches is exciting for fans of the game.

Soccer Stadium Update

We wrote earlier in the week about developments in DC surrounding a possible new stadium within the district.  According to Steve Goff, D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said Friday that he hopes to have the framework for a D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point in place by the end of the year.  While he subsequently backed off of those statements slightly, there appears to be momentum towards a stadium in DC.  After years of flirting with Northern Virgina and Maryland, the possibility of a site within the district is very big news for the team.   A number of years ago, DC was investigating the possibility of a stadium at Poplar Point but politics, finances and the economy got in the way of that effort, yet the possibility of leaving the urban center for the suburbs upset many in the team’s core fan base.   A new stadium on the Metro will be an important step for one of the league’s flagship franchises.

There was also more news today about the possibility of a stadium in New York City.  A few weeks back we reported that Major League Soccer was  closing on a deal to construct a $300 million facility in Queens at Corona Park.   According to the article, the 25,000 seat stadium could start rising from the ground as early as next year.  As we have previously discussed on this site, MLS has made it clear that the stadium is the primary goal for a New York 2 project. Goal.com has an informative piece on the issue that includes a provocative statement from MLS VP Nelson Rodriguez indicating that all potential owners are well aware that any other franchise must wait until after 2016 when the league hopes to open NY2.  According to the article, “the project for the new stadium in Queens already has a schedule which the league hopes will be approved by the New York political establishment in six to eight months. In addition, the league also hopes to have an ownership group in place during that time-frame.”

Bitten By IKEA

No post tonight on account of an IKEA invasion.  Sat down at 8:15 to spend a few minutes to size up some new stuff from IKEA and emerged from the basement about 2.5 hours later and ready for bed.  For those who have the IKEA experience, you understand.
Back tomorrow.

 

 

Soccer Business Bits: TV Confusion, Cup Final & More

Fans and broadcasters paying attention to Major League Soccer’s newest broadcast partner have noted that NBC is offering two shows, Chicago Fire and Revolution, that can be confused with MLS franchises.  The Chicago Tribune looked at this issue in a piece that included interviews with both representatives of the team and with actors and producers involved with the show.  The Tribune story quoted Dick Wolf (of Law and Order Fame) about the issue. ” “I would hazard to guess it’s to our mutual benefit,” Wolf said during the show’s red carpet premiere Tuesday at the Chicago History Museum. “All the soccer fans will tune in, and people outside of Chicago might know the soccer team, which I don’t think is really nationally top of the mind.””  Interestingly, players from the team had intended to participate in a screening of the program.

Elsewhere, the Mercury News is reporting that Commissioner Garber has made his feelings known about the possibility of hosting the MLS Cup at BuckShaw Stadium.  The Santa Clara field only seats10k plus rather than the big crowd expected for the Cup Final.  The issue is especially important because of San Jose’s success this year and the strong possibility that the high flying Earthquakes will be in the game. The article touches on some of the issues the team faces in finding a stadium with the correct capacity because of other commitments.

One television note to close out the post today.  A reminder that that the key US World Cup Qualifier set for Friday night from Antigua will be televised live in English betIN Sport.  As was true with the away match at Jamaica, there will be limited penetration of the game on US televisions.  The Spanish version of the network will televise the game on tape delay.

Monday After

Before we get to the weekly look at attendance, a couple of quick business notes.  The big weekend stories involved movement on the stadium fronts in both Washington and New York 2.  Coming a few days after the announcement that the Revs were slowing moving towards a stadium in Revere, the possibility that two more soccer specific stadiums might rise in the Northeast Corridor are great news for the league.  We will cover the stadium issues in depth this week, but for now, Steve Goff provides some great detail on his Soccer Insider Blog here.

Moving to attendance, where the week started in Chicago with more than 16k on hand at Toyota Park to watch the Fire lose to the Union.  Also on Wednesday, almost 18k saw Vancouver drub Chivas 4-0 at BC Place.   On Saturday, the Galaxy managed a 27k sellout for their exciting loss to the RSL, while the Rapids played before an announced 15k + despite some foul weather.  The day had started with just over 15k at BMO Field to see the Reds continue to fall apart on the field and at the gate.  Later, the Red Bulls were upset before 21k at Red Bull Arena.

In a battle of already eliminated teams, the Revs and Union squared off at PPL Park before just over 17k.  Later that night, the Dynamo held off Montreal before 21k at BBVA Compass Stadium.  The team remains undefeated in its new digs and the crowds have continued to show.   Approximately 13,500 made it to Crew Stadium for a 1-1 draw between Columbus and SKC.  The big attendance story of the weekend was the more than 66k in Seattle for the latest installment in the Cascadia Cup rivalry.  The game was televised on ESPN against Sunday night football.