In a sign of how unpopular soccer is in the United States or why it has not gained more traction, Mexico's World Cup qualifier against Jamaica reached more U.S. homes than the U.S. national team's game against Honduras on Wednesday.
The United States and Mexico played in two important 2014 World Cup qualifiers. But while Mexico's game was broadcast in primetime on ESPN, U.S. soccer fans were left scrambling in the late afternoon to find the obscure beIN sport channel to see U.S. battle Honduras.
The U.S. team lost at Honduras 2-1. Mexico, usually unbeatable when playing at the Azteca, settled for a 0-0 draw with Jamaica, ending the national team's 19-game winning streak at Azteca Stadium. But based on where the games were broadcast, it felt like Mexico was America's home team while America's team was a foreign team relegated to a channel most Americans did not know their cable providers carried - if they carried it at all.
U.S. fans were left scrambling, trying to find an online feed of the game, a soccer bar that was playing the game, or a radio station broadcasting the match. Mexico's fans in America, meanwhile, could just turn on ESPN to watch their team play.
Last week, ESPN actually announced it had "acquired the English-language rights to the Mexican National Team (El Tri) in the United States through the completion of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil via an agreement with Univision, which retains the team’s U.S. Spanish-language rights."
The network announced the deal gives "El Tri fans a consistent English-language home for the team’s matches, while also granting ESPN highlights rights for its popular studio programs."
"ESPN is committed to reaching the widest possible audience with programming that is relevant to the sports and teams that they follow," Scott Guglielmino, of ESPN, said. "As the number of English-speaking U.S. Hispanic households continues to increase, it makes sense for ESPN to carry sports events and cover sports news relevant to that audience."
The advertisement promoting Mexico's soccer games below has been running on ESPN throughout the week while the U.S. team's game against Honduras was not hyped as much because beIN sport channel had the rights to it. U.S. soccer executives are often frustrated soccer has not gained as much traction as they think it should, but allowing games to be broadcast on the beIN sport channel shows they are often as much to blame for America's lack of interest in the so-called "beautiful game."