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Reports: New MLS TV deal worth $90 million per season

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The future for Major League Soccer looks a lot brighter — and greener, thanks to a deal that will see the league’s revenue from television increase fivefold.

The league will announce Monday a national television deal that will include a massive financial boost with ESPN, Fox and Univision paying a combined $90 million per year, according to Sports Business Daily. That is an astonishing leap in revenue from the mere $18 million MLS averages per season now in their current deals with NBC, ESPN and Univision.

ESPN and Fox will share the English-language rights for MLS and U.S. Soccer matches for the next eight years through 2022 for a combined cost of $75 million per season. Spanish-language Univision will pay $15 million.

The new contract will also reportedly set windows for a featured “game of the week,” with ESPN and Fox Sports 1 broadcasting a doubleheader every Sunday at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., according to The New York Times. Univision will air a regular Friday night game.

That schedule would be a departure from MLS’ current deal that has games airing almost any day at any time.

The deal will reportedly see ESPN and Fox split the English-language rights and team up with Univision to put about 125 MLS games on the air each season. Local broadcasters will still retain rights to air the rest of the league’s matches in their markets.

MLS Live is expected to end and out-of-market coverage may move to ESPN3, ESPN’s online streaming channel, according to Sports Business Daily.


What do you think of this deal? Think this represents a turning point for MLS? What do you think of Fox going big to expand its soccer programming? What do you think of the coverage leaving NBC? Think Fox will do a good job?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. Let me whine a bit now…..if the money starts rolling in does that mean I am going to have to sit next to the whining trolls who have constantly tried to put down American soccer and MLS through the years ?

    Good Lord, I hope not. Just stay away, the league still isn’t worth your time. Leave it to us lesser inferior fans….we will pick up some soccer moms and some young kids who have grown up.

  2. Did anyone else get the Don Garber reference to GI Joe with a Kung Fu Grip? Very funny Trading Places reference with the mention of Pork Bellies .

  3. Am i reading this correctly? A 400% jump in revenue?!

    If they increase the cap by this same rate we will have a $15M salary cap!

  4. Does anyone know how or why MLS and US national team games gets packaged together. It seems strange, isn’t the US Soccer Federation a non-profit or something and MLS is a business. How much money is going to MLS and how much is going to the Federation. Seems like a conflict of interests as shouldn’t the USSF be regulating professional soccer in this country, ie determine pyramid structure, etc.

    • It’s a way to ensure the MLS is successful which the USSF definitely have an interest in. The non-profit nature of USSF isn’t really a problem here as even non-profits have budgets, expense and goals. The Goal of the USSF is the betterment of soccer in the USA. Money can get them there but so can making sure the MLS grows.

      A profit entity would never agree to a package deal like this where they arguably make less money than they would if they sold the rights alone. So in many ways, it’s only happening because they are a nonprofit and don’t need the money.

      • Even though USSF is a non-profit they still need money and should try to maximize the value of of the US soccer games. I would say at this point MLS used te US soccer package as leverage. I

  5. It is good that they are back in bed fully with ESPN. Having espn involved means SC coverage which helps drive visibility.

      • ESPN isnt perfect but they are the best (most accessable and quality) by far from anyone else.

        BeIn is high quality but not accessible
        NBC might be slightly higher quality but less accessible
        FS1 is lower quality and less accessible but hope that to be changing.

        Just my opinion.

  6. Bottom line is it is a win. No sense in worrying about the details. Issues such as salary cap, controlled growth, etc., will ultimately determine if this was a successful venture, but the fact is this gives the league a great opportunity.

  7. Seems like USMNT/USWNT are part of this deal. 10 USMNT games on ESPN/Fox. Wonder how much of the 90 mill the national teams are getting?

  8. not having MLS Live is an interesting development. i honestly thought they were working towards building that platform and would have it on Xbox next season or something. using ESPN3 (WatchESPN) for this is pretty cool though. mostly because i’ll be able to stream more than one MLS game at a time now. MLS Live was lame about that. wouldn’t let me stream a game on my laptop and another on my iPad. i’ll also be able to stream via my Xbox now.

    however, how does this work for people without cable? the great thing about MLS Live for people without cable was they could still catch all the local broadcasts. but with WatchESPN, you must have a cable subscription to watch anything. so now those users will have to get cable anyway just so they can watch the non-nationally televised games. or is WatchESPN going to just have those streams available to the public (doubtful)?

    as for Fox, U-Verse in San Diego offers both FS1 and FS2 in HD in the same package as NBC Sports. so i’m good there. and of course Fox finally has the Fox Sports Go streaming service now. FoxSoccer2Go is no longer needed for those with cable subscriptions.

    either way, sounds like a good amount of money. does this price include Canadian rights? i had read a few months back (when it was rumored to be $70M) that an additional amount will come from the Canadian TV rights.

    • IPTV is the future. Huge own goal by MLS here. They should have been looking to improve MLS Live instead of dumping it into the ESPN dungeon.

      • truly a mistake on their part. they have a deal with Microsoft and i find it hard to believe it wasn’t in their best interest to develop the MLS Live platform and expand to Xbox. very strange decision.

        also, i’m curious about ESPN3. it is a different service than WatchESPN. WatchESPN is the subscription one. so is ESPN3 free for the public? does the ESPN app on Xbox stream ESPN3 content or just WatchESPN?

      • WatchESPN is a streaming service of on-air ESPN broadcasts (anything on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, etc.). Cable/Satellite providers have to pay Disney to offer this to their customers (access to the streams on the website require a cable/sat login). DirecTV may get this after the fall contract negotiation, I think most other big providers offer it now.

        ESPN3 is a streaming service of non-broadcast events. Internet Service Providers have to pay Disney to offer this to their customers (access to these streams require an ISP login or sometimes an “authorized” ISP IP address.) Some ISP’s offer this (comcast), but many don’t. Any small ISP will probably never have it as it costs too much, and even larger ISP’s like CenturyLink are still missing it.

      • To answer your other question:
        Some WatchESPN apps do both WatchESPN and ESPN3, but I believe some are restricted to just WatchESPN.

      • well, crossing my fingers then. much easier to use Xbox ESPN app then plugging my PC into the TV.

      • ok makes sense. good thing U-Verse offers it. i know Cox and Verizon do too. i think even Comcast. but yeah, that could be a pain for a lot of people.

      • Hardly any top tier live product is on ESPN3 anymore. And you need cable/sat to get watchespn.

    • If that hand off from MLS Live is confirmed then it will only be the local games (Saturday ones) the Fri Univision, and Sun games on FS1 and ESPN will likely be blacked out (as they are now with MLS Live) from ESPN3 to drive viewers to the cable channel.

      No one seems to know if they’ll just be local feeds as MLS Live is now or if ESPN will be producing their own stream.

      • Also it depends on the cable and internet provider, they determine if they want to pay for the right to provide ESPN3 and watchESPN to their customers.

      • correct. WatchESPN would show any ESPN broadcast live with a cable subscription. ESPN3 would be the non-nationally televised games. and like you said, we are not sure if they will just use local feeds or something else. and of course, ESPN3 is available to use to ISP subscribers…assuming your ISP offers ESPN3. it appears the biggest ISPs who do not are Verizon, DirectTV, and Dish.

      • interesting. Verizon is not listed on ESPN3’s participating providers. sure you aren’t confusing it with WatchESPN? Verizon is listed as one of their participating providers. also, do not forget that access to WatchESPN also gives you access to ESPN3.

        in other words, if you pay for cable TV, anything on ESPN3 will also be available on WatchESPN. if you only pay for cable internet, and if your ISP is Verizon, you cannot access WatchESPN and according to ESPN3’s website, you also can’t access ESPN3 because Verizon is not a participating ISP.

  9. Besides the money, the most groundbreaking aspect of the deal are the consistent game times. That will take the guesswork out of MLS-viewing. Some consistent scheduling ought to lead to greater viewership over time. Sundays @ 2 PM & 4 PM (West Coast bias for you East Coasters) will be MLS time, just like Sunday @ 10 AM is NFL time (so I’ve heard).

  10. I think the best part of the deal is that the teams still have rights to sell their local broadcasts. Soccer is similar to baseball in that people tend to follow their local / favorite team more than the league as a whole and if a team strikes a chord with its fan base I can see them making a good deal of cash from local Cable TV providers. I really like the fact that Time Warner Cable airs a bunch of Galaxy games locally and produces a bunch of Galaxy related programming as well.

    • And TWC payed a boatload of cash for the Galaxy rights. Yes, the content is great for fans, but the cash was also great for the club and league.

  11. Groan. As a CenturyLink / DirecTV subscriber, this sucks on the streaming side of things. Disney’s refusal to renegotiate contracts has left both providers stranded, and while I’m guessing the fall 2014 DTV contract will eventually end up with the WatchESPN part of things, I have no faith in CenturyLink ever getting ESPN3. Guess I’m ponying up for MLS Direct Kick assuming it’ll still be available. Fox and ESPN… seriously awful.

      • ESPN3 is a streaming service that requires you to have a participating (ie, paying) ISP in order to use it. Anyone can access the website. Not everyone has access to the streams.

      • In some cases it’s TV provider-based instead of ISP-based. I had FIOS-internet and DTV, which didn’t grant me access to ESPN360. After dropping DTV and migrating to all-FIOS, I got 360 back.

        TL;DR: You’re kidding. It was two sentences.

  12. I think the 5pm/7pm games on Sunday nights is the biggest news. Having a fixed time where fans know they can watch a game week over week is big. Right now, it’s all over the place.

  13. Hope the average player gets a raise but nothing crazy no reason playrs who can’t cross or pass should make a million dollars. Theres still too many of those players especially with constant expansion continuously watering down the takent.

    • Don’t really agree with you on that, each MLS team is allowed 8 foreigners. Many teams have more than that because players get Green Cards. If MLS teams only had American players then I would agree more teams would dilute the talent.

  14. I would rather have maximum increase about 600k than DPs. I do agree Wondo and Alonso deserve their salaries but not DP status.

    • Kick a large % of current players to the curb and get better ones. Increasing the cap doesn’t improve the product if you don’t upgrade the talent.

      • Some Besler & Beckham deserve more money without becoming DPs. I am for increase of salary cap and change in DPs status because the’re great players could come to MLS without DPs (save DP salary someone like Keane or Henry) for 500k=600k. That’s basically average salary for a good(not amazing) players MX, Brazil, Argentina, C level leagues in Europe.

  15. Awesome news. Minor concerns: I will miss MLS Live, and not crazy about Sunday afternoons, since attendance seems to lag for Sunday games. Love getting Friday night games back!

    As for adding another do-maybe. I’d rather see a big bump to the cap and a minimum spending level. I would like to see teams faced with the choice of a few big signings or finding quality top to bottom.

    I’ve never been a Don basher, but I got to think even his detractors have to admit the league is on the right track

    • What MLS Live is going to end???? NOOOO!!!! I have been watching most of my DC United games from MLS Live, as I live most of the year outside of DC. MLS Live has been a great forward thinking component that I believe has been the best way to deliver a relatively new technology. I had hoped all pro sports would get a clue and adopt the MLS Live idea and give us a cheaper way to watch all sporting games online…

      • They are going to use ESPN 3, apparently. So the games will be available. With luck, it will just be a rebranding of the service.

      • Not clear what they are doing. ESPN3 and watchespn are different products. You have to get cable tv to get watchespn. ESPN involvement is real bad news for cable cutters.

      • See, the thing about cable cutters, is thery’e trying to save money. Who has any interest, beyond the cable cutters, in providing them free content that the rest of us have to pay for?

  16. what does this mean?

    does it mean the salary cap will expand? does it mean more SOCCER games airing during primetime? will this change MLS or america?

    90 million. that’s like the amount that each PL club gets for just remaining in the PL each year

  17. Finally the doe is rolling in. It’s almost perfect timing too the epl is locking out players now and some of the other euro leagues are getting weaker (scandananvia and Dutch) it’s the perfect time to sneak in. Does anyone know if they can renegotiate before the deal is over? Because 4 years into this espn might have the upper had in this deal.

  18. Man, the only drawback to this is that I love the product NBC has done with soccer both for the MLS and EPL. Now they have just about no soccer.

    Hopefully ESPN updates their coverage to be more in line to what NBC Sports was able to produce.

  19. Good news. Wasn’t so long ago MLS was paying networks for air time just to have games on TV. Hopefully this leads to a higher salary cap and minimum salary.

  20. The single most important part of this announcement for building viewership is the sunday night doubleheader. One of the biggest issues I’ve had with NBC’s schedule is there is no set time I know a game will be on every week. If I know a game will be on at 5 and 7 every Sunday there is a fairly good chance I will be watching. Seeing Fox involved has be a bit concerned naturally but if they take it seriously i’m willing to give them another shot. Also if the Friday night univision slot has a set timeframe that’d be a big deal as well.

    • NBCSN finally setup a fixed slot to begint his season. It’s not until post-WC, but it will be a weekly Friday night game. Would have been nice if they had been doing it for years, but it’s coming (I wish the Friday night slot in this new deal wasn’t the Univision game).

  21. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how this affects the current CBA negotiations. Personally, I am in favor of increasing the salary cap (by at least ~2M more per year) rather than adding more DPs in order to better increase the quality of the league. I’m sure the player’s association will be using this argument in the coming months.

    Also, keep in mind that this deal does not include local television or radio contracts (which are admittedly smaller), but I would imagine that we can expect a similar rise in that revenue as well.

    Overall, great for the league – but I’m eager to see what they do with it.

  22. I’ve been enjoying MLS Live, but the local commentators are hilariously uninformed and biased. Case in point is the SJ commentator that doesn’t know the difference between PDL and USL. Ives even called him out on twitter. I’m interested to see what changes ESPN will make.

  23. Good news.

    Two things:

    1) Additional revenue should pave the way towards gradual raising of the salary cap, which should allow MLS to become better competitors with lower tier leagues in Europe. (No more USMNT fringe players going to Nordic countries because the pay is so much better.) Also should allow continued mining of Central and South America for good talent.

    2) Game of the week! Finally. Now “are you ready for some football…it’s a Friday night party!” Time to get that theme song cranked out.

  24. Absolute bargain. Not in the beginning– the networks will almost definitely lose money. But advertising rates for live sports is growing exponentially, so by the second half of this deal they’ll be raking in the cash.

    • Given the exponential growth of soccer and ad rates in sports its curious that MLS agreed to such a long term deal. Obviously I have 0 knowledge of the negotiations but seems like, as you said, the tail end of the deal won’t really be in their favor.

      • Seems like we’ve found the balance in negotiations, but I still think it favors MLS. Short term, this deal is much better for MLS due to the immediate, guaranteed cash it brings – it’s up to the networks to do the work to make their investment worthwhile, provided MLS makes good with the money by investing it in a way that will up the quality of play (attracting/developing better players, presumably). The deal needed to be longer to provide time for the benefit to set in for the networks, while MLS gets the cash infusion they desire now to implement changes.

        But, it’s not just a matter of better play = more viewers. Like some commenters are saying, there are some distinct advantages to having dedicated time slots – that alone should impact viewership (how much remains to be seen, but as fan, I love it). It’s actually a best-case scenario if the deal favors the networks long term, because it will only mean a bigger deal when it’s done and represent continued growth of the league. If the deal ends up being good only for MLS, then the long-term health of the league will need to be questioned.

        Obviously, only time will tell.

    • This. The funny thing is that large sports networks (ESPN, etc) lose money on many, if not most, of the things that they show (poker, non-revenue college sports, Crossfit games, MLS, anything with Skip Bayless) because there really isn’t enough content to fill 24 hours. In the ESPN book (I can’t remember the name), one of the VPs of the network was saying that the station is made up of .1 and .2 ratings with the occassional ratings blowout due to the NFL.

      Where they make their real money, however, is advertising. Increased advertising can only help MLS!

      • Hmm… So ESPN’s strategy is basically to make a ton of money on NFL, NCAAF, NBA and NCAABB while not losing money on everything else?

  25. Ok, the league has an extra $72 million to spend in coming seasons. I am sure we’ll hear fans call for one of the following:
    1. Increase the salary cap. Seems reasonable with that much extra cash lying around. An extra $1 million per team would still leave $50 million or so available. An extra $2 million per team would still leave $30 million available for other uses. I would guess an increase is coming, but a gradual one (something like $300k/year over 5 years.

    2. More DPs. If the teams just split the money, teams would get around $3.5 million each. Add two DPs per team and the quality of the league would definitely rise.
    3. Combine the salary cap increase and a DP increase.
    4. I’d like to see a gradual increase in the salary cap, as suggested above, with a lot of the extra money going into quality marketing. I think the league product is actually pretty good now, and its just a matter of convincing folks to check it out. Portland, Seattle, RBNY, LAG, Philly, SKC, Vancouver, Toronto all look good on TV because the stands are full. Commit half of the money to marketing in cities or regions that aren’t drawing well (Colorado, Dallas, Houston come to mind). If you fill the stadiums, the games are fun, even if the quality of play isn’t EPL quality every night. I’d spend a lot more money on the league website as well. I’m not as critical as some other posters, but it’s clear they are short staffed and could use another 10 guys producing content for the league. Simon, Nick, etc… produce ridiculous amounts of content for a small staff, and it’s not surprising that the quality occasionally suffers.
    *This is huge news. If they can build on this, the league is on its way to top 6 in the world status. No reason why we couldn’t be a more viable option than France or Portugal in near future

    • I’m hearing the cap will be raised to 4.5 million, DP number will stay the same, although nothing has been finalized yet.

      • Incidentally, I would rather raise the salary cap than raise the number of DPs. DP’s make for better marketing but for some reason, I would prefer better support for those guys. I think it would raise the level of play more than adding 1 more DP.

      • Nothing is finalized because this is entirely 100% subject to negotiation with the players union.

      • A focus on raising the salary cap will effectively raise the number of DP slots, since many current DPs could be covered under the cap.

      • too high, still some teams breaking even or losing some money. Teams have already had the expense of reserve and academy teams in recent years. I don’t think they should push the cap up that high. 4.5 million seems resonable.

    • I think the league will be better off if they put most of the extra money into the salary cap and raise the minimum to a comfortable living wage. Also, instead of 3 DP slots, give 2 plus one optional, with the team allowed to allocate a certain amount of money (say $3 million or so) to the salary cap instead of another DP. I’m a big Dempsey fan, but I think the league is better off giving 5 good players $1 million each instead of investing $5 million in one player. When MLS plays League MX, what kills them most, IMO, is depth. MLS teams can put out a pretty good starting 11, but a few injuries or what not, and they struggle against top teams from other leagues.

    • Can’t hurt to have ESPN have a prolonged vested interest in MLS. Incentivises them to discuss, and show, MLS on Sportscenter, PTI, Around the Horn, and their other programming that reaches people not readily familiar/interested in MLS.

  26. Great news. That extra revenue will be huge for most teams and allow some much better players to be signed. MLS is already getting some non DP national team players who are 31-32 years old. Expect to get some 28-29 years old. Which makes a huge difference to get these players before they’ve lost a step. I expect better performances in the Concacaaf Champions League.

    • I don’t see an announcement by the MLS that the salaries will meaningfully go up so that better players can be signed. I expect that the owners will pocket the extra funds rather than sharing them with the players. If the MLS scraps the salary cap or increases it by $2-5 million, then you might start seeing better non-DP signings.

      • Negotians for a new collective bargaining agreement between the players and the league will begin as soon as this season has finished. The salary cap will go up, its just a matter of how much.

      • What is more important in the next CBA is getting the minimum salary up so that the overall pay structure will increase. That will attract better players and keep more players as well.

        The allocation system for USMNT players has to end as well as the teams controlling a players MLS rights if they sign somewhere else.

      • The current cap excluding stuff like DP (non-capped portion), GA, etc. is around $3.1M which has increased from around $2.2M with less non-capped exemptions and this contract adds about an $3M per team in revenues so I expect the cap to increased by a good amount TBD and maybe some more exemptions. Most recently the issue of the teams being able to run a 2nd team in USL was new and is non-capped. I expect more of this stuff while still trying to keep some level playing field among the clubs to compete financially.

      • There was a time where I think it was fair to let the owners finally start to see rewards for the commitment many of them showed to MLS. We have kept the cap low, the league has continued to grow and many owners were able to make some money. I think we are at the point where the league is ready to “take the next step” and boost the depth of the league through a cap increase. MLS is on the right track and the new expansion teams should start to generate even more revenue long term.

      • The true value to the owners is the increase in value of their clubs as the league continues to grow.

    • Focus on economic health first …. ie, self sufficiency……then worry about controlled cap increases. You might also see the DP de-emphasized if the overall cap increases. DP was always kind of a way to finesse the low cap for teams with better finances.

      • And better than MLS has done in the past.
        It says at least 125. Also, I really like the set start times. Right now it seems random and inconsistent. It could be annoying for teams in CCL to have Friday or Sunday games, but hopefully that will be adjusted somewhat for those teams. This $ will help teams draw better players though for sure.

      • Dude, you won’t want to see the Bpl when you all the players the new revenue will bring in.

    • You understand that this is national broadcasts. There will still be local coverage for most team/games (except of course DC United). Plus, the ESPN3 package might mean more games than that…

      • DCU will have a new stadium, a full season TV plan and a couple more DPs in a couple years… you just wait….

        and then keep waiting.

      • Holy sh**, I guess Orlando really is going to get Kaka. This new revenue will unleash a buying spree by all teams beginning this summer

      • Yeah I hear the team formerly known as Chivas has already signed Ronaldo and Messi to a precontract.

    • That’s a third of games airing nationally. I think that’s pretty good, especially since my understanding is all of the other games will be available on espn3/watchespn.

      • Tad confusing on the non-TV bit. I haven’t had it in several years as local and national coverage expanded, but MLS Live allowed you to watch local telecasts out of market. Is ESPN3 going to cover all these games or is it going to show feeds of local TV, which would lead to them showing Comcast or Fox SNs. MLS was neutral but can you see ESPN wanting to do that? Conversely, can you see local networks being uppity about being shown by ESPN?

        Devil is in the details there.

      • “Uppity” is a word that should never be used outside of dramatic performance and maybe comedy.

      • Yes. And if you insist on using it anyway, at least do so in a context that somehow relates to what it means.

    • I’m also a little concerned about Fox being involved, their cable coverage tends to be feed-dominated and low budget. Lots of sports I watch, racing, soccer, the quality improved when it went to NBC. I’d only take the money from Fox if they promised production values.

      • The article seemed to indicate NBCSN wasn interested at all anywhere near the $ values. Its too bad, but its also the way it is.

      • Agreed.

        I prefer watching CBS covered NFL games because the production values just seem better.

        Also… No f-ing robots.

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