ESPN Kicks Soccer Into Overdrive

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ESPN2’s HDTV presentation of the Aug. 17 U.S. World Cup qualifier win over Trinidad & Tobago was just the start of its enhanced soccer coverage.

ESPN HD, ESPN2 HD and ABC HD will present all 64 matches of the 2006 FIFA World Cup from 12 German cities live from June 9 through July 9.

The HD telecasts will be offered as a simulcast of the aforementioned networks’ coverage of the globe’s largest sporting event. This will mark the first time that all 64 FIFA World Cup matches will be available in the format in the U.S.

MORE U.S. IN HD

A network spokeswoman said that other U.S. national team matches — whether World Cup qualifiers or international “friendlies” next year — could be presented in HD.

In Germany, The Walt Disney Co. services will pick up the HD feed furnished by a minimum of 20 cameras from Host Broadcast Services AG, the host broadcast outlet for the upcoming quadrennial competition.

ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC will also show the 2006 World Cup studio programs, including the pre-, halftime and post-match segments, in HD.

The networks acquired the U.S. TV rights to the 2006 World Cup from Soccer United Marketing as part of a deal that also encompasses coverage of Major League Soccer.

Elsewhere in the world of TV futbol, Fox Soccer Channel is adding match coverage from Italy’s premiere soccer circuit and the sub-17 FIFA world championships.

Fox Soccer general manager David Sternberg said the network and Fox Sports en Español have reached a multiyear arrangement for the home matches of a four Series A squads: Lazio, Lecci, Treviso and Cagliari.

The contract will yield a pair of exclusive matches per week over 34 rounds from Italy’s top circuit, kicking off Aug. 28. “The good thing is that Series A is back with us after a several-year hiatus (2000 with Fox Sports World),” he said. “There will be plenty of matches for our viewers who will also get to see Juventus, A.C. Milan, Inter Milan and [A.S.] Roma, all of which will be featured.”

A Gol TV spokeswoman points out that the soccer-centric network, which offers matches in both English and Spanish, has the home rights to 16 of Series A sides, including the four named immediately above by Sternberg.

“Inter, A.C. Milan, Juventus and Roma are historically regarded as the most important teams in the country and have the highest fan base in the U.S.,” she said.

FOX IN PERU

Also next month, Fox Soccer will begin its coverage of FIFA’s sub-17 competition from Peru. Sternberg said the network will cover all three of the U.S. team’s opening round matches, as well as quarterfinal, semifinal and final (Oct. 2) contests . All but the U.S. opener versus Korea on Sept. 17 will be live.

Sternberg also noted that Fox Soccer, which presented FIFA’s under-20 tourney this summer, expects to wrap up negotiations with the National Collegiate Athletic Association for a weekly primetime men’s soccer match, starting in mid-September.

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