FOX has won the English-language TV rights in the United States for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments, says several sources.

UPDATE: FOX and Telemundo, combined, paid more than a staggering $1 billion for rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, according to Reuters. FOX paid $425 million for English-language rights for the U.S. market, while Telemundo paid $600 million for Spanish-language rights. ESPN reportedly bid $400 million for the English-language rights. The $425 million paid by Fox compares to $100 million paid by ESPN for the rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cup tournaments, while Univision paid $325 million.

“FIFA has informed the bidders and is planning to announce the winners at some point today or early next week,” says SBD. “The decision to award the rights to FOX is a shocking development, since incumbent ESPN was widely believed to be the front-runner to retain the World Cup rights.”

This is indeed a shocking acquisition by FOX since ESPN was favored after the impressive job they did with the coverage of the 2010 World Cup.

UPDATE: ESPN has issued the following statement:

“[ESPN has] made a disciplined bid that would have been both valuable to FIFA and profitable for our company, while continuing to grow our unprecedented coverage of the World Cup and Women’s World Cup events. We were aggressive while remaining prudent from a business perspective.

“ESPN remains committed to presenting the sport of soccer at the highest level across our platforms with coverage of the UEFA European Football Championship, English Premier League, La Liga, MLS and other top leagues and tournaments, including the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.”

UPDATE: FOX Sports says they have no comment regarding World Cup negotiations at this time.

According to Sports Business Daily, ESPN paid $100M in 2005 for an English-language package that included rights to the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. FOX picked up rights to all FIFA events from 2015-22, including the men’s World Cup in 2018 and 2022; the women’s World Cup in 2015 and 2019; and all U-20 and U-17 games.

If the reports are true, then this is a major blow for ESPN but a massive coup for FOX. The 2018 World Cup will be hosted in Russia, while the 2022 tournament will be in Qatar. Both tournaments won’t feature kick-off times as convenient as the 2014 World Cup, but this is still a huge opportunity for FOX to continue to grow its soccer empire in the United States across FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus, FOX Broadcasting Company, FX and

In the past 12 months, FOX has shown Champions League Final matches and Premier League games on FOX, the free-to-air network. If the World Cup reports are true, then we can expect to see more soccer coverage on FOX Broadcasting Company.

As for ESPN, this is a devastating blow. Considering that ESPN has now lost their TV rights in recent years to FOX for the Champions League and World Cup, it’ll be fascinating to see if this will force the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” to bid more aggressively to win other future TV rights deals such as when the rights for the English Premier League open up for bidding again. Or ESPN could throttle back on their coverage of soccer and continue its focus on other sports instead. With the TV rights for MLS set to expire at the end of 2014, this could be worrying news for America’s top soccer league.

In other news, EPL Talk is hearing reports that Telemundo has won the Spanish-language rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments on US TV. That means that ESPN’s legacy of covering the World Cup tournaments from 1994-2014 will be coming to an end, while the end is near for Univision’s coverage of the World Cup, which it has been broadcasting from 1978-2014.

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