The latest MLS media rights news finds ESPN notably on the outside looking in for the first time in the soccer league’s 27-year history.
In addition to the 10-year, $2.5 billion TV deal forged by Major League Soccer and Apple earlier this year headlined by the new MLS Season Pass subscription service, MLS inked four-year linear deals with Fox, TelevisaUnivision, TSN, and RDS, the league announced Tuesday.
Fox’s side of this latest MLS TV rights agreement grants Fox, FS1, and Fox Deportes 34 exclusive English and Spanish regular season matches, eight playoff matches, and the MLS Cup final. The deal was specifically designed to run through 2026, the year the United States, Mexico, and Canada will jointly host the men’s FIFA World Cup.
“We are proud to continue our partnerships with Fox Sports, Univision, and TSN, and we are pleased to have MLS matches on RDS in Canada,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said on the occasion. “These broadcast industry leaders continue to demonstrate their deep commitment to MLS and soccer. Our linear agreements, along with our partnership with Apple, are the culmination of a series of collaborative discussions to provide our fans with the most expansive and accessible lineup of programming MLS and our sport in the U.S. and Canada have ever seen – and by a significant margin.”
ESPN, which has been an MLS TV rights partner throughout the league’s 27-year history, will not be an MLS linear partner for the first time.
The four networks will also be the linear home of the Leagues Cup, the annual tournament featuring every MLS and Liga MX team; both leagues will pause their seasons to compete. FS1 will broadcast 10 group stage matches, four in the round of 32, and two in the round of 16 each year, while TelevisaUnivision will broadcast 12 group stage and eight knockout stage games, plus the Leagues Cup final.
“We’re proud to extend our longstanding partnership with Major League Soccer at a truly exciting time for the sport here in the United States,” Eric Shanks, Fox Sports’ CEO and executive producer, said in a release. “There is no soccer league in the world better positioned for growth and with Fox’s unrivaled reach we are fired up to be a part of it.”
In Canada, TSN and RDS will televise at least one regular season match per week featuring a Canadian team, along with eight playoff matches and MLS Cup each year. Each network will also receive extensive highlight rights to increase year-round MLS coverage and marketing and promotional support from all four networks.
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