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NASL games now more accessible online than MLS

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The North American Soccer League (NASL) today announced a global partnership with ESPN whereby a minimum of a 120 NASL matches each season will be carried across 75 nations on various ESPN online platforms including ESPN3.com in the United States.

While MLS secured a 7-year TV deal starting this season, the top-flight league was unable to launch a promised partnership with ESPN where they raised expectations that all games would be available online. With MLS and ESPN unable to launch for the 2015 MLS season, MLS decided to stick with MLS Live instead as the main option to watch games online.

With MLS focusing its TV deals on regular timeslots on Fridays (UniMas) and Sundays (ESPN2 and FOX Sports 1), that leaves a huge hole on Saturday nights that NASL can fill given that Saturday night games on MLS are only available nationally via MLS Live.

Now, the second-tier NASL has suddenly become more accessible online to soccer fans in the United States than MLS. The ESPN3 deal could prove a boon to the nascent NASL in their efforts to provide “a highly competitive alternative,” as the league claimed yesterday in an official release related to Minnesota United’s impending move from NASL to MLS.

As part of the NASL-ESPN deal, eight NASL clubs — Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada FC, Minnesota United FC, San Antonio Scorpions, and Tampa Bay Rowdies — will deliver all 15 regular season home matches live on ESPN3 in the US, ESPN Play in Latin America, and ESPN Player in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

SEE ALSO — Ask Simon Evans questions about MLS Miami, US soccer or other soccer-related topics on your mind in Thursday’s Reddit AMA with him at 6pm ET / 3pm PT

Each participating NASL team will upgrade its video and online capabilities. For example, this season the Tampa Bay Rowdies will have at least ten different camera angles available and a high-caliber broadcast team to deliver the club’s home matches.

Meanwhile, New York Cosmos home games will air on One World Sports and the home games from the league’s two Canadian clubs who have separate media deals were not included in the ESPN package.

The NASL package will be free for ESPN subscribers, while the MLS charges $74.99 for season access to online games.

NASL and USL games have been accessible in the past, but never in mass on a mainstream platform like ESPN3. While today’s announcement does not impact MLS directly, it could push new fans outside MLS markets towards the second division NASL. Some can argue that would be a healthy development for the sport in North America as the stronger the entire soccer pyramid is, the better for the long-term growth of the game.

“Working with ESPN, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, is going to be of great benefit to our fans, who will be able to watch the vast majority of our matches on ESPN3, ESPN Play, and ESPN Player this year,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “We have quickly developed a great relationship with ESPN, and we’re glad to be a part of their live coverage.”

 

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Lame Alert

    March 27, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Who actually sits down to watch this junk? I get going to a match…like minor league baseball or hockey…more about the ambience, beers, and hot dogs. But I have a hard time sitting through an entire MLS match on tv…

    I’ll put this right above ‘crossfit games’ in my ‘too hungover to do anything else but lay on the couch’ garbage tv queue.

    • some guy

      October 4, 2015 at 11:25 am

      I watch it. I actually know a ton of people who do. Co-workers etc. Personally, I enjoy watching MLS more than EPL even though the level of play is not as high for 2 reasons:
      1) The games are in the evening instead of first thing in the morning
      2) EPL just isn’t that relevant to me as an American. It’s hard for me to be a die hard Man U fan when I’ve never been to Manchester.

  2. yespage

    March 27, 2015 at 9:28 am

    Of course it is free. How much could NASL charge and expect to get paid? The exposure is nice, but who’ll notice? Will ESPN advertise its availability or just offer it unnoticed on ESPN3?

  3. Jason

    March 27, 2015 at 4:54 am

    Depends on how you define “more accessible”. Sure, it’s free, unlike MLS Live.

    But your ISP needs to be an ESPN3 affiliate in order for you to have access. So if, like me, you’re on CenturyLink (not Prism) you’re out of luck.

    $75 for something I can actually receive is “more accessible” to me than something that’s free but which I’m blacked out of.

    • CTBlues

      March 27, 2015 at 1:33 pm

      I remember when Optimum didn’t offer ESPN3.com, but I guess enough people complained that they finally made a deal with ESPN. I believe DirecTV just made a deal with ESPN for ESPN3.

  4. EPLNFL

    March 26, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    Great news. We can only hope this makes NASL a more solid contender for America’s second division and more important a stepping stone to promotion relegation in the US soccer system.

    While Espn3 is wonderful to those who have it,I do sign up for MLS LIVE and it is still a great value.

    • bill

      March 26, 2015 at 7:48 pm

      how much does the MLS Live cost?

      • Christopher Harris

        March 26, 2015 at 8:28 pm

        $74.99/season

    • GallipoliVC

      March 27, 2015 at 10:35 am

      I hope MLS Live is better viewing than Direct Kick is. The first three weeks have been horrible with the picture freezing, pixelating and the audio cutting off. Its almost like the channels are being scrambled somewhere.

  5. Kevin

    March 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Why does every single NASL article written on this site sound like it could easily be a press release written directly by the NASL head office?

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