Fox jumped into a bidding war with ESPN to win the English language broadcast rights for the 2018 World Cup, but now that Team U.S.A. was knocked out in the early stages of the tournament, that $400 million price tag now looks like a disastrous decision.
Fox topped ESPN in the bidding war by $200 million bringing its final costs to a whopping $400 million for the rights. The cost may have seemed like a good deal since the U.S. soccer team hadn’t missed a World Cup since 1986, Business Insider reported.
However, the U.S. team is already out of contention after its 2-1 loss at Trinidad on Wednesday night, ending its record of seven straight American World Cup appearances.
“Shocked American players slumped on the bench, and Matt Besler sat on the field after the final whistle as Panama’s game ended and then Costa Rica’s,” the AP reported Tuesday. “At the end, dejected U.S. players filed into their locker rooms with blank looks.”
With soccer still in the developing stages of popularity in the U.S., this loss deals a big blow to the sport. It also comes at a bad time for American soccer as many of today’s male soccer stars are set to begin retiring. Sadly, some of them will now be leaving the sport on a low note with the U.S. team on the outside looking in at the sport’s biggest tournament.
It also remains to be seen if broadcasters end up feeling “once bitten” and may scale back interest in the sport, at least where it comes to spending the big dollars to attain broadcast rights.
Soccer isn’t going anywhere, of course. With well over 4 million players in schools and youth leagues across the nation, the sport has a solid foundation. According to Science Daily, a recent survey found that fifty percent of American homes exhibit interest in the sport. The influx of immigrants from Central and South America as well as the African nations into the U.S. also brings soccer fans ready to invest time and money in the sport.
Major League Soccer teams are also worth an average of $185 million, which is up 80 percent from 2012, CNN Money reported.
So, the possibilities are there. Though, if Fox doesn’t get a reasonable return on its $400 million World Cup investment, it may be a while before networks spend that kind of money again.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.