In 2015, a record breaking 23 million Americans watched the FIFA Women’s World Cup game, making it the most viewed soccer match in U.S. history. In fact, more people watched the World Cup match between the United States and Japan than the NBA final or the Stanley Cup last year. This is just one of many signs that the popularity of soccer is rising steadily in America. In an ESPN poll in 2012, 12-17 year- olds in the United States indicated soccer was their second favorite sport, lagging behind football but out ranking basketball and baseball. Soccer has double the participants nationwide of any other youth sports league in America, and game attendance at professional soccer matches has risen forty percent in the last decade. By 2050, Hispanics are estimated to make up nearly a third of the population in the United States. Fifty-three percent of that group indicate they are soccer fans, with over twenty-five percent categorizing themselves as seriously obsessed with the sport. Those kinds of sheer numbers indicate that soccer has already moved from being a niche sport to becoming the future of sports programming in the United States. Which providers are poised to score big as the “Beautiful Game” moves mainstream? Let’s take a look at the contenders.
To determine which providers offer the best soccer line-up, we’ll need to identify which leagues around the world are the ones to watch. Barclay’s Premier League is the most popular worldwide with over 5 billion fans tuning in, but in the United States, all eyes are on MLS (Major League Soccer). With over 20 clubs, 17 stateside and 3 in Canada, the MLS will offer 96 televised games in the 2016 soccer season. If you want to catch the best from every pitch in the United States, there are a couple of key channels you’ll want to tune into.
- ESPN: The traditional network favorite for sports will offer 33 MLS games during the 2016 soccer season. However, there has been some debate about whether or not ESPN will be able to maintain the upper hand in soccer sports programming as competitors like Fox invest heavily in MLS coverage.
- Fox Sports: Fox has grabbed up the opportunity to televise 34 MLS matches and appear to be poised to invest heavily in soccer programming in the coming years.
- BeIN: The undisputed leader in worldwide soccer coverage, BeIN, has begun broadcasting MLS soccer matches in Asia and South America.
- NBC / Telemundo: From 2012-2014, NBC had a contract with MLS to televise 40 matches per season. They edged out Fox Sports, who had previously held the agreement with the MLS. In 2015, the MLS went back to Fox Sports. However, NBC’s Spanish network is delivering impressive coverage of FIFA league matches. In 2015 they televised over 560 hours of soccer programming. They’ve expressed a continued commitment to “be the first media company to offer such comprehensive coverage of FIFA World Cup™ events in the United States in Spanish.”
- GolTV: Previously, this channel had been a primetime player in soccer coverage. These days, it’s hold on sports programming is slipping. They used to offer coverage of German Bundesliga and the Uruguayan and Brazilian leagues but recently lost rights to Bundesliga matches to Fox Sports.
The Consensus: You’ll want to have ESPN, Fox Sports, BeIN and Telemundo to get well rounded coverage from both America’s MLS and FIFA leagues abroad.
Many of the channels, like ESPN and Telemundo, offer basic soccer coverage and come standard in cable TV packages. However, getting comprehensive coverage of matches from pitches around the world as well as in depth analysis is a trickier endeavor and requires a robust sports package. Look for cable TV providers that offer both Fox Soccer plus and MLS DirectKick, which enables you to catch an impressive 221 MLS matches. First, find the coverage you need in the table below and then let us help you find the provider you want using our handy zip code tool. We take the work out of finding the right provider so you can focus on covering the pitch. Ole!
The Consensus: Providers who get a red card for lackluster soccer programming include CenturyLink and Charter. Cox and Verizon FiOS score winning points for soccer fans looking to get the best coverage of pitches both home and around the world. To find providers who offer soccer coverage in your area, utilize our handy zip code tool.
|Provider||ESPN||Fox Sports||BeIN||Telemundo||GolTV||MLS DirectKick||Fox Soccer plus||Comments|
|AT &T U-Verse||X||X||X||X||No specific soccer packages.|
|CenturyLink||X||X||X||No specific sports packages.|
|Charter||X||X||X||No specific sports packages.|
|Cox||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||Cox offers both a Sports Pak and a Latino Pak.|
|Dish||X||X||X||X||X||Dish offers a Multi-Sport Pack.|
|DirecTV||X||X||X||X||X||X||DirecTV also offers a World Soccer Ticket.|
|Frontier||X||X||X||X||No sports packages.|
|Mediacom||X||X||X||Mediacom does offer a Sports & Info Digital Pak.|
|Optimum||X||X||X||X||X||X||Offers a Sports Pak.|
|RCN||X||X||X||X||RCN does offer a Premier Sports Package.|
|Time Warner Cable||X||X||X||X||X||X||TWC offers a Sports Pass.|
|Verizon FiOS||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||Verizon does offer a Sports Pass.|
|XFINITY by Comcast||X||X||X||X||X||XFINITY offers a Sports Entertainment Package.|