CHICAGO (Wednesday, January 2, 2002) - Major League Soccer today announced a five-year broadcast arrangement that includes the television rights for MLS and the men's and women's FIFA World Cup tournaments through 2006 on the ABC and ESPN networks. Included in the package are the FIFA World Cups for 2002 and 2006, the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup and the 2002-2006 MLS seasons.
All 2002 World Cup matches will be televised with 17 matches live on ESPN, 46 live on ESPN2 and a minimum of nine on ABC Sports, including the live telecast of the title match from Yokohama, Japan, Sunday, June 30 at 7 a.m. ESPN and ESPN2 will re-air at least nine of the live telecasts later in the day. ESPN/ESPN2 will also feature all U.S. Men's National Team first round matches from Korea beginning with U.S. versus Portugal (Wednesday, June 5 at 5 a.m. ET); against host Korea (Monday, June 10 at 2:30 a.m. ET); and against Poland (Friday, June 14 at 7:30 a.m. ET).
In addition to World Cup Korea/Japan 2002, ABC and ESPN will televise the Women's World Cup China 2003, featuring the defending champion U.S. Women's National Team, and the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Women's World Cup 2003 will feature the championship match live on ABC and additional games on the ESPN networks. World Cup Germany 2006 will feature a minimum of 12 matches live on ABC and additional games broadcast live on the ESPN networks.
Major League Soccer's network broadcast schedule will feature an increase in games shown on ABC, with a minimum of three matches per season during the five-year agreement. The 2002 MLS season will include the MLS Cup, the MLS All-Star Game and an opening weekend match televised live on ABC. In addition, 26 MLS matches will be televised on ESPN2 during the 2002 season. The popular "Soccer Saturday" theme returns with 22 Saturday afternoon matches at 4 p.m. ET, enabling ESPN2's 82 million homes to watch their favorite MLS team and players in action in a consistent weekly time slot. The additional four MLS games will be broadcast on Thursday evenings in primetime on ESPN2.
ABC and the ESPN networks provided unprecedented coverage of the U.S. Men's National Team's World Cup Qualifying campaign in 2000 and 2001, broadcasting 15 of the 16 total U.S. qualifying matches, the most in U.S. Soccer history, while the remaining match was available to fans live on pay-per-view. ABC and the ESPN networks televised the 1994 and 1998 Men's World Cups and the 1995 and 1999 Women's World Cups. The combined networks - ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports - present the most comprehensive soccer coverage in the United States, including the Men's and Women's World Cup, Major League Soccer, U.S. National Team matches and the NCAA Men's and Women's soccer championships.