Continuing to add to its futbol roster, ESPN Deportes will be the home for a series of qualifying matches for the men’s soccer competition at the Summer Olympics.
The Spanish-language cable network’s presentation of the eight-team, 16-game tournament -- kicking off next month and opening the door for two national sides to compete in Beijing -- will mark the first time the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying matches run on TV in the United States.
Coverage of the qualification round for the 2004 Olympics in Athens was limited to closed-circuit venues, according to U.S. Soccer Federation officials.
Under the agreement between ESPN and CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), ESPN Deportes will be the U.S. exclusive Spanish-language carrier of the tourney, which kicks off March 11 and concludes March 23.
The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, also gives U.S. broadband rights to ESPN360, and game plays to ESPN Deportes Radio.
CONCACAF officials, at press time, said they were negotiating for the English-language TV rights here in the States.
The tournament -- featuring the U.S., Cuba, Honduras and Panama in group A and defending champion Mexico, Canada, Haiti and Guatemala in group B -- will play out in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
LP Stadium in Nashville, Tenn. will host the semifinal matches on March 20 and the third-place game and championship games at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.(ET), respectively, on March 23.
In addition to airing all of the matches live, ESPN Deportes will present preview shows for each round and provide extensive coverage on SportsCenter, Fuera de Juego and Cronómetro.
Fans will also be able to see all 16 matches live, and via replay, on ESPN360.com, with all of the matches accessible on-demand for 48 hours, following their completion.
“This agreement clearly underscores ESPN’s leadership and commitment to offering first-class sporting events to the Latino sports fans and advertisers across multiple media in the U.S.,” said ESPN Deportes general manager Lino Garcia in a statement. “The CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying tournament represents national pride, honor, and glory and we’re thrilled to showcase these national soccer teams on television, broadband and radio, as they compete to represent their home countries at Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.”
The 2008 CONCACAF Olympic qualification pact bolsters ESPN Deportes soccer lineup that includes UEFA Champions League, Euro 2008, South American World Cup Qualifiers, Major League Soccer, and a number of international “friendlies.”
Similarly, the Olympic tourney fortifies ESPN360.com’s futbol roster that not only features the aforementioned properties, but the men’s and women’s FIFA World Cups, the FIFA U-20 and Beach Soccer World Cups, the UEFA Cup, Italian SerieA and Italian Cup.