As we've documented on this blog recently, soccer in the United States is a growing force on television. Despite some minor technical glitches, FOX did nothing to embarrass themselves this year in broadcasting the Champions League final between Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Honestly, the fact that FOX's coverage wasn't a major story coming out of the game has to be a definite victory for the network as it seeks to make itself the current and future destination for soccer in this country. And while ratings were down from last year's titanic clash between Man U and Barcelona, they were up from 2010 and still quite respectable.
With FOX stabilizing their coverage of the Champions League and promoting the EPL to new heights, they have shown the commitment necessary to be taken seriously by U.S. Soccer fans. Of course, ESPN has proven themselves as a major destination as well with their award-winning World Cup coverage and EPL action. And even MLS has an opportunity to grow in its new home with NBC Sports Network. At no time has the sport of soccer ever been in a more favorable place for the present and future than it is right now. But, what if I told you much of the work put in to growing the game on these channels might be at risk? That a new television force may be laying in wait to turn the entire landscape of soccer on American TV upside down. And what if I told you that force that could change soccer as we know it was... Al Jazeera.
That's right. All credit is due to The Gaffer at EPL Talk for being all over this story from the very beginning. But even the most hardcore of soccer fans might find themselves asking why an Arab news network would care about televising international soccer in America? Well, the Qatari-based network has already been making news in Europe with its expansion into starting up sports networks. In France, Al Jazeera has bought rights to televising the Champions League and Ligue 1, France's top domestic league, for their new beIN Sports networks. Here in the States, Al Jazeera is making plans to create a noticeable footprint with an American sports channel, and it's looking at basing its new network on as much soccer as it can get its hands on, including possibly the English Premier League. In fact, it's already started.