Major League Soccer has signed a broadcast deal with NBC, spelling the end of the league's relationship with Fox Soccer. The new deal, which will be officially announced on Thursday, calls for 45 league matches and four United States National Team matches to be played on NBC and on the newly renamed NBC Sports Network, the channel that is currently called Versus. Games will continue to be broadcast on ESPN and Univision, with all three deals scheduled to run out in 2014.
Many followers of MLS have long been frustrated with FSC's coverage, which ironically took a positive step forward this year after the channel signed a one-year deal. FSC is now broadcasting all games in HD (although some cable providers still don't carry that channel) and had just started "Soccer Night in America," which was used as their MLS showcase. But the channel remains extremely focused on European soccer and the English Premier League in particular, an issue with many MLS fans, as well as the league office.
The New York Times is reporting that NBC will actually broadcast two regular-season games, as well two MLS playoff games and two USMNT games on the network each year, with the rest of the games being shown on cable:
"Everyone at the NBC Sports Group is thrilled to begin this partnership with Major League Soccer," Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group, said in a statement released by the league. "M.L.S. is a perfect fit for our new group, and we are uniquely positioned to help grow soccer in the United States with extensive coverage on NBC Sports Network, significant programming on the broadcast network and our growing digital platforms."
The move has generally been greeted with excitement in MLS circles. Many have seen what Versus did with their NHL coverage once the cable channel acquired those broadcast rights, and are hopeful a similar focus will be paid to MLS.