The United Soccer League, or USL, signed a multi-year broadcasting deal with ESPN just before the beginning of the 2024 campaign. The deal encompasses both the USL Championship and USL League One. It does not cover every game across the two divisions. Still, the deal allows ESPN to promote the competitions that rank as the second and third tiers in American men’s soccer.

USL’s deal with ESPN extends a long-standing broadcasting home for the United Soccer League. For example, the 2024 campaign, the first in this new multi-year deal, is the ninth season for USL on ESPN’s networks. Much of that comes from ESPN+, which made use of USL when the streaming platform launched. In 2018, when ESPN+ first came online, USL was one of the first sports available to subscribers.

This deal goes well beyond ESPN+, though. Signing on with ESPN for the 2024 season concludes the broadcast scheduling for the campaign. The deal also includes fixtures on CBS Sports channels and local linear partnerships. Whereas games on national TV were few and far between in 2023, the upcoming campaign will massively increase the number of games on TV. For reference, there were nine games in the 2023 USL season available on national TV. In 2024, the league will air 35 games on national TV via ESPN and channels on CBS Sports.

Changes coming to USL deal with ESPN

More games on traditional TV is not the only difference between the new agreement for USL on ESPN and the previous one. The 2024 USL League One season brings the debut of the League One cup competition. Although the competition does not have a name, the 12 teams in USL League One will divide into three groups of four teams. A round-robin group stage will ensure each team plays eight games. The teams with the most points in each group at the end of the group stage advance to the four-team knockout round. The best team that did not win its group will round out the top four.

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Every game in this competition, including the knockout stage and the final, will be available through ESPN+. The tournament promotes local rivalries, which should make it an interesting watch for local clubs.

There are two new teams in action for the 2024 USL Championship and League One season. In USLC, Rhode Island FC joins the action, and Spokane Velocity FC is making its debut in USL League One.

A ‘new era’ in American soccer

USL Chief Commercial Officer Court Jeske welcomes the deal with ESPN. He says it can help the league grow ahead of major soccer expansion in the United States building up to 2026.

“As we enter a new era for the USL with the 2026 World Cup approaching, our focus is to provide fans with more ways to watch than ever before and be the most widely available soccer league in our country,” said Jeske. “We have enjoyed a longstanding relationship with ESPN during which the USL has grown significantly, and we are incredibly excited to continue this relationship.”