Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Expansion of Soccer Coverage

With the introduction of Fox Soccer Channel Plus (FSC+) on March 1st, Americans will have 3 soccer-only channels to choose from, FSC, FSC+ and GolTV. In addition, there are several channels that show soccer on a regular basis: ESPN , ESPN Deportes, Telemundo, Galavision and Univision. With these channels, American footy fans can get a taste of what several leagues from around the world have to offer.

Currently, the EPL, La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga have the soccer market on lock here in the U.S., and with good reason. Most would place these 4 leagues in the top 4 in the entire world in any particular order, and there are several games in each league on TV here each week. There are also several Mexican League games on TV as well here, mostly on Spanish-speaking channels like Telemundo, Galavision and Univision. However, MLS only gets 2 national games of the week, one on ESPN or ESPN2 (simulcast in Spanish on ESPN Deportes) and on FSC. There is only one game a week with the USSF 2nd Division soccer a week and one WPS game each week. In other leagues, it’s possible right now to see games in the English Coca-Cola Championship (with premium subscription), A-League, Brasiliero, the Argentine League, the Columbian League as well as the Uruguayan League. Yet, it would be great to see more of other leagues on TV here in the United States.

While U.S. leagues are hard to find on TV if you don’t live in a MLS market, there are other great leagues from around the world, along with leagues that are usually compared in terms talent and quality of play to MLS, that are not broadcast on TV here or are not viewable by a mass audience. Maybe we can start to see more of the following leagues on our television screens as opposed to our internet streams:

Scottish Premier League – The Old Firm (Rangers v. Celtic) is one of the biggest rivalries in all of sport, and it’s a very competitive league among the other teams as well. Rangers has a couple American players, and there are lots of great players that hone their craft in this league.

Ligue 1 (France) – The French league is probably the 5th best league in the world, in my opinion. Lots of excellent teams from the French league routinely make noise on the European stage, including Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, and Paris Saint-Germain. Ligue 1 also has a few American players, including the USMNT captain Carlos Bocanegra and rising star Charlie Davies.

Eredivisie (Netherlands) – This league has a lot of great teams, including traditional powerhouses PSV Eindhoven and Ajax. The Dutch have a great style of play that is very popular, and a lot of their great talent is playing on teams within this excellent Top-10 league.

Coca-Cola Championship (England) – A lot of people have problems with supporting the EPL powerhouses like Chelsea or Manchester United or Liverpool. The Championship has a combination of the Premiership teams of yesterday as well as the Premiership teams of tomorrow. Lots of passion in this league, with each team playing with aspirations to join the big boys.

Portuguese Liga – Teams like Porto and Benfica are teams that most European footy lovers know and appreciate. It would be great to see teams like Sporting Lisbon and Nacional also on a weekly basis.

Turkcell Super Lig – I love the passion in this league. The teams are good, the fans are excellent, and the atmosphere at each game is like they’re playing for the championship. Teams like Besiktas, Fenerbache and Galatasaray are teams that have done very well on the European stage.

Russian Premier League – This league is probably one of the fastest growing in terms of quality of play and talent level, with tons of money being poured into the resident teams by local oil tycoons and other billionaires. We’ve already seen Zenit St. Petersburg win the UEFA Cup a couple years ago, and other teams like CSKA Moscow and Dynamo Moscow routinely make noise in football circles.

J-League (Japan) – This is a league that has been compared to MLS. Has a weekly review show currently, but would be great to actually see a game each week to see how teams in this league compare. Easy to play it in the middle of the night due to the time difference.

K-League (Korea) – Another league that has been compared to MLS, and very similar to the J-League. They have had teams that have proven they can play on the international stage, and would be good to see a different style of football. Again, with the time difference, it would be easy to show a live game each week along with the J-League and A-League (Australia)

MLS – It’s the top tier domestic league here, we absolutely should have more MLS games made available…and I’m not talking about through a subscription service like Direct Kick. There will be, at most, 8 games a weekend played in MLS. More games can be shown on national channels like FSC or ESPN or GolTV. More TV means more exposure means more money, money that they can use to invest in talent upgrade that will bring more fans out and, overall, grow the popularity of the league.

USL/NASL – Over the next year, as this league forms, hopefully they will be able to expand from one game a week to multiple.

There are obviously many more leagues out there that are either broadcast on TV here in the United States or maybe should be. But, expanding to more coverage of these leagues will really help bring some new faces into American homes, and it will help feed the growing appetite the American public is starting to have for soccer.