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US soccer calendar needs to change: World Soccer Talk Podcast

In the NEW episode, number 246, Christopher Harris is joined by co-host Kartik Krishnaiyer to discuss several stories:

• Why the US Soccer calendar needs to change,
• MLS drops more details about their next TV deal,
• Der Klassiker, Champions League and Philly-NYCFC suffer from technical problems,
• Who has the best marketing machine between ABC/ESPN, NBC and CBS,
• The success of F1 on ESPN and what ideas that may create for broadcasters wanting to grow soccer stateside.
• Our recommended matches to watch this weekend,
• And we answer your questions in the Listener Mailbag segment.

Listen to the show via the player above or via this link.

Launched in 2006, the World Soccer Talk Podcast is the longest running podcast on the planet. Every week, we share the latest news about watching soccer on television and streaming, in addition to discussing what we like and dislike, and featuring your questions and feedback in our Listener Mailbag segment.

HEAR MORE: Listen to our archive featuring hundreds of soccer interviews

Send in your questions, comments and feedback via e-mail web@worldsoccertalk.com, via Twitter (@worldsoccertalk) or Facebook. We’ll read them out on-air in the next episode.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. locofooty

    December 15, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    MLS released the schedules for the 2022 season. Very unbalanced with teams playing each other early in the year and that’s it. Teams don’t even play twice vs. each other within their own conference. Disappointing to say the least.

  2. Leo

    December 11, 2021 at 11:09 am

    Eric T. I watch mainly Bundesliga. I remember they had a similar problem once in the season 2019-20. This is the second time I remember a crash like this. Anyway, I don’t personally care. There are tons of “links” out there with high quality that can be found quickly and nowadays with pause/rewind so I can watch the goals that I lost due to ESPN+. I won’t renew ESPN+ after the end of this season for sure.

  3. Eric T

    December 11, 2021 at 11:04 am

    ESPN+ having massive issues with Bundesliga games today…and people thought ESPN+ was faultless?

  4. Ra

    December 11, 2021 at 10:08 am

    ESPN+ with serious technical difficulties in the Bundesliga. Freiburg game is down and the others have issues in their stream…

  5. Roberto

    December 11, 2021 at 9:07 am

    A real exciting MLS cup game will help the above. This game could provide that and hopefully will not be a 0-0 or 1-0 game. The scene at Providence Park will be fantastic, Portland has some of the best supporters in the league (they have 1,000s on the season ticket waiting list!). It would be great if logger Bob (not sure about his name) gets to cut some serious wood!

  6. Edwin

    December 10, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    Will note I was on a Twitter Spaces with the Sportico crew and they pretty much all believe like WST has reported its going to be a wide range of folks interested in the MLS rights they all mentioned the new Turner Warner Media folks as the Wild Card even a mention of maybe NBC might have interest as a play on Peacock though I can’t see that as they seem to be all in o EPL.
    However will say don’t be shocked if the MLS media rights numbers shocks some folks, pretty much how their last deal did when at the time the 90m yr deal was way more than the conventional thinking was at the time. The main driver of broadcast fees will continue to be according to Sportico Anthony Crupi live sports he said he strongly believes there’s going to be a shift in years that traditional TV will be mainly a outlet for news and Sports and networks will move away from scripted TV and putting those shows on streaming citing folks are not watching ads for that stuff anymore. They will sit through ads for live sports.

  7. Edwin

    December 10, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    @Mercator to your answer to how many people would pay $15-23 dollars a mnth to watch MLS quite a few apparently maybe you forgot about Direct Kick and MLS Live MLS old cable subscription services. I know its been a few years but back when MLS signed its old/current TV deal ESPN was impressed with the subscription numbers MLS had and put a provision in the deal back in 2014 that they would one day get to package those games into a one day launched streaming service. That service would become known in 2018 as ESPN+. I know I myself and many others used to be subscribed to Direct Kick it was *90 bucks for the 8-9 mnth season and MLS Live another service was 80 bucks. IIRC years ago Don Garber said the packages together had a subscriber count in the six figures. To my shock I just looked and it seem MLS Direct Kick is still a thing. Had figured ESPN+ had taken everything but it looks like as of this season you could still get MLS Direct Kick on Dish/Direct TV and cable providers like Charter/Cox and Frontier.

  8. jason

    December 10, 2021 at 9:46 pm

    I wonder if they will bring MLS Live back and run it themselves

  9. Mercator

    December 10, 2021 at 7:47 pm

    Sinclair’s RSNs are headed straight into bankruptcy. MLB already said they aren’t giving Sinclair the streaming rights for the teams on their RSNs, NBA is obviously the same. Buying other RSNs would only compound their problem. Sinclair’s says in public filings they will get the streaming rights to MLB and NBA, and that their $23 streaming service will get 4.4 million subscribers – so out of touch with reality their shareholders might argue its misleading. In just 2 years they have done incredible damage to interest and enthusiasm in MLB and NBA. It’s been the fans that have suffered so far from Sinclair overpaying for the RSNs.

    It’s a concerning case study for football fans. If you don’t have cable like a majority of Americans, how many people are really going to spend the $40 a month to watch the premier league? How many people will pay $15-23 a month to watch the MLS? Do these two situations sound like a Sinclair situation, or an F1 situation? In the end it’s the fans who will bear the brunt of broadcasters overpaying for rights, and then driving up the cost of access so high that even regular fans are turned off, never mind creating any new ones.

  10. JP

    December 10, 2021 at 6:50 pm

    @locofooty, that proposed Bally streaming app only makes sense if they buy out the other RSN’s like NBC Sports, MSG, Altitude, NESN, and MASN (all I can think of now) and allow subscribers to access all the out of market games along with the local. That would actually be kind of useful but not sure contractually possibly with other services currently offering out of market for the various leagues.

  11. locofooty

    December 10, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Mercator, have been reading about the mess with Sinclair and Bally getting out of all the streaming services in anticipation of launching a streaming package for $23 a month. I’m going to roll over the floor and laugh my ass off now. Hope MLS stays with ESPN+. Like you, would not pay for a package only because of MLS at $15-$23 a month.

  12. Mercator

    December 10, 2021 at 2:58 pm

    I really enjoyed Drive to Survive on Netflix and have followed much more in the last year in large part because of that. It’s really not as much about the sport as it is about personalities/drama – that gets your attention and keeps it and in the process you understand more about the sport which makes watching it live more interesting. It’s not a documentary and I think the football equivalent is obviously Ted Lasso, the sport is just the background to the story.

    ESPN is a key part of this because if F1 wasn’t accessible (on ESPN+, ESPN/ESPN2), this interest wouldn’t translate into people actually watching the races. The races are well produced and commercial free, and the ESPN app is sending daily updates to your phone. The ESPN marketing machine is in a completely different league to CBS/NBC – there is a reason F1 gave the rights to ESPN for nothing over taking NBC’s money again. If the Netflix show gets your interest, its $5 for ESPN+ to watch the races (and critically many sports fans already subscribe to ESPN+, so the additional cost is really $0). If Ted Lasso gets your interest, NBC says cough up $40 if you want to watch the EPL, which a casual or newly interested fan isn’t going to do.

    This is also the same reason I think MLS is begging for trouble if they do no go with ESPN. I’m simply not going to pay for a service only to watch MLS (certainly not $15 a month for HBO Max) and I would bet this is the case for most fans, even most football fans. So you are now limiting most of your audience to people who already subscribe to the streaming service – not only does ESPN+ have more subscribers than the competitors, their subscribers are actually sports fans much more likely to be interested than an HBO Max viewer who signed up for Sex in the City. Peacock has the same issue – most sports fans have no reason for Peacock, so you need to subscribe to a service basically just for the EPL. ESPN doesn’t make you do that because they have so much on, there is almost always a secondary reason for a sports fan to be paying the fee.

    Kartik is 100% right about the calendar and the weather. Watching a game in the snow isn’t fun and bad for attendance? Try watching a game in July in Houston or Orlando, it’s like Qatar in the summer. Europe is a COLD climate, it regularly snows and is freezing for many games – it’s not an issue. What is an issue is heat – from youth games all the way up to World Cup level, at certain temperatures, which are regularly reached in large portions of the county in summer, it becomes a risk to players and fans to have them out in that heat. MLS already plays Feb-Dec right now, so really we are talking about 8-10 match weeks, which for any MLS team means 4-5 home games max, and realistically 2-3 games northern teams with smart scheduling. Weather should be a non-issue and if we want to make it one then we should ask why they are playing a sport requiring 10km of running in the dead of summer – way more likely to kill someone that chilly weather.

  13. Fechin

    December 10, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    @Ra I have F1tv for that reason because I listen to driver radios and the on board cameras

  14. Fechin

    December 10, 2021 at 2:11 pm

    @jason I started watching IMSA, it’s pretty good. Owned by nascar, I never wonder why nascar never promotes it.

  15. Ra

    December 10, 2021 at 1:46 pm

    On F1, it is interesting to notice that they have all bases covered. Want cable? ESPN/ESPN2. Pre-post races on ESPN3. Want 100% streaming? F1TV with 19+ cameras that you can select and commentaries in 6+ languages and whole day race coverage. Low-cost option? You can get F2 and F3 on ESPN+ plus some select races, including the most important ones – not just some irrelevant. Do you want drama? You can watch it on Netflix’s suberbly produced Drive to Survive (in 4K HRD).
    The only thing missing at this point is 4k HDR on F1 TV.

    Looking forward to the race between Hamilton and Dick Dastardly on Sun!

  16. Ra

    December 10, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    @jason It all comes to personal preference. F1 is the apex of racing in terms of lap speed and technology involved. Here is an interesting article: https //flowracers.com/blog/lmp1-vs-f1-car-faster/

  17. jason

    December 10, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    Have totally turned off the Dutch Eredevsie. Reminded on how soccer in empty stadiums is unwatchable on TV. The fans makes a big part of a the TV expierences in this sport.

  18. jason

    December 10, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    I am a auto racing fan but I never understood why Formula 1 is so big. I much prefer sportscar racing. Especially IMSA and SRO GT World Challenge. Get to watch real Ferraris, Audis, Corvettes, Aston Martins, etc race.

  19. Rich

    December 10, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Maybe the best way to administer the MLS calendar is to run August through May but take a winter break like Germany. I honestly don’t think that asking fans to consume MLS (in person and on TV) during the holidays and winter is good for the league but this might be a feasible compromise. I’d sooner just leave it the way it is for the foreseeable future.

  20. Turfit

    December 10, 2021 at 9:07 am

    Here in Texas, Youth soccer has a fall to spring seasons. Fall season runs Aug to Nov, Spring season runs Feb to May. High School soccer runs Jan-March. College soccer runs Aug to Nov.
    So if MLS calendar would run Aug to May it would be more inline with the “Soccer Culture” here in Texas. Also, Youth soccer has “Pro-Rel”.
    And Kartick, I would like to hear more on your thoughts about having 4 or 6 conferences in MLS and how you think that would play out. County Cricket in England had a new format this past year that I find interesting. They have 18 teams that are divided up into 3 pools, the top two teams in each pool moves up to division 1, middle two to division 2, and bottom two into division 3. The winner of division 1 is the champion and everything resets for the next season. It’s like having a pro-rel in the middle of the season. This might be a better format for USL to try, first half of season are teams in their geographical divisions (pools) which would help lower costs and build upon local rivalries. The second half of the season has more parity between teams that should offer more competitive matches that would be better to watch. And they could end the season with a “playoff” or “cup” competition of all the division winners.

  21. bill

    December 10, 2021 at 4:33 am

    hillarious how they complain about the difference in the audio quality between the 2 broadcasters on that match yet as usual today Kartick sounds like his is in an empty closet and Chris has a much much more high quality audio and volume.

    Yet we will isten and enjoy the content each week.

  22. Fechin

    December 10, 2021 at 2:20 am

    I think MLS will be split to Paramount plus,FOX,TNT/TBS HBO max. Dark horse pick is Amazon prime. No way for ESPN getting the rights this time since they put more time into their college sports. NBC is a pipe dream. I’m also an F1 fan.

    Reason why F1 is successful is because yes the Netflix series it’s a part of it and also every time you have subscribed to the espn app, don’t you guys always get notifications from F1 of things that goes on. Twitter is always trending in F1. YouTube whenever practice and qualifying ends, highlights always come immediately and most importantly the races are commercial free so we stay focused on the race.

    MLS I also read that it’s in third place when it comes to fans going to stadiums. They are behind NFL and MLB I think. But they are struggling in terms of tv viewership and I think one of the reasons for this are the RSNs, I can’t even support my New York team in my location.

  23. greg

    December 10, 2021 at 1:06 am

    Matches I’ll be watching/keeping an eye on this weekend and next week. Times are PST. Next week is a mid-week game week for EPL.

    Friday
    Noon Brentford v Watford NBCSN

    Saturday
    6:20 Leipzig v Monchengladbach ESPN+
    7:00 Liverpool v Villa, USA
    9:30 Norwich v Man U NBC
    11:30 Athletic Club v Sevilla ESPN+
    Noon MLS Cup ABC

    Sunday
    4:00am Lille v Lyon BeIn
    4:50 Villareal v Rayo ESPN+
    9:20 Real Betis v Real Sociedad ESPN+
    11:30 PSG v Monaco BeIn
    11:30 Real Madrid v Atleti ESPN+

    Tuesday
    10:00am FC Andorra v Cetla Vigo (Copa del Rey) ESPN+
    Noon Man City v Leeds NBCSN

    Wednesday
    11:40 Barrow v Ipswich (FA Cup replay) ESPN+
    Noon Arsenal v West Ham NBCSN

    Thursday
    Noon Liverpool v Newcastle Peacock

  24. greg

    December 9, 2021 at 11:59 pm

    “pronounced” geez…

  25. greg

    December 9, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    re: the Lyon v Lille match, Kartik are you aware that Lille lost their coach as well as Soumare and their keeper Maignan. They didn’t necessarily prioritize UCL, they were having a tough time adjusting to the new coach and loss of two key players. Their 1st three matches in UCL were D, L, D, then 3 straight wins. And their UCL form got better as their Ligue 1 form got better. Lyon are also adjusting to a new coach with a very different style, the loss of Memphis, new defenders…they’ve been inconsistent for sure, though oddly were undefeated in the UEFA Cup group. But yeah, that match should be a cracker. Good pick.

    Oh, and Ligue 1 is prounced like league is in English. No “uh” at the end. So “leeg uhn” 🙂

    Yes, I watch a lot of Ligue 1. It’s a fun league.

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