Major League Soccer and the U.S. Soccer Federation on Monday announced a new television rights deal with ESPN, Fox and Univision, with the new deal set to run through 2022.
When the agreement takes effect each of the three channels will have a weekly exclusive spot for MLS matches, with a Friday game typically on UniMas and ESPN2 and Fox Sports 1 generally splitting a Sunday night doubleheader.
Those networks will also split coverage of all U.S. men's national team matches in English while Univision Deportes will be the exclusive home of these matches in Spanish and will broadcast at least four U.S. women's matches.
ESPN and MLS have been television partners since the league's inception in 1996 while Fox broadcasted the league's matches from 2003 to 2011.
“We are honored to partner with ESPN, FOX and Univision to form the most comprehensive U.S. media rights partnership in the history of soccer in our country,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a news release. “The commitment from our television partners in terms of structure, length and magnitude is unprecedented, and these new partnerships are another strong indicator of the League’s continued growth and the overall fan interest in our sport.”
The MLS Live digital service will be replaced by ESPN's streaming platforms ESPN3 and WatchESPN. One fan complaint about the league's current TV deal is that the regular UniMas slot provides only a Spanish-language broadcast, but the release indicates viewers will be able to get an English broadcast using the SAP button.
While the league has grown in number of teams and seen attendence numbers rise rapidly, television ratings haven't kept pace. Garber said at a news conference Monday he hopes this agreement will assist in growing those numbers.