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FREE | Soccer in the United States report, 2020

In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the media-rights landscape for soccer in the United States.

Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.

Growth of soccer in the US market

According to the 2019 SportBusiness Consulting Global Report, the United States is by far the most expensive media-rights market in the world, generating just under $22.4bn (€20.4bn) last year. The market is home to four of the world’s top 10 most-valuable sports media rights: NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL.

In the last five years, soccer properties, both domestic and international, have seen their media-rights values grow in the country.

In 2019, the top 100 soccer properties worldwide generated a total of about $20.7bn in media-rights revenue, of which SportBusiness Media estimates that about $760m was generated in the United States. This represents a 36-per-cent increase from the $555m generated by soccer properties in the US in 2015.

A change in consumers’ interests has supported the growth of soccer media-rights in the market. According to a Gallup survey released in 2017, about seven per cent of Americans named soccer as their favourite sport to watch, registering a three-percentage-point gain from four years before. Soccer is the only sport to register such a significant increase, while all other sports showed declining numbers.

Given the long-term nature of top-tier Major League Soccer’s domestic media-rights deal, the market value growth in the US has been mainly driven by international properties.

Several international club competitions have recently renewed their media-rights deals in the market and have been able to boost values.

In recent years, pay-television broadcaster ESPN has consolidated its position as the go-to platform for soccer rights in the US. It currently holds rights to four out the top ten soccer properties in the market, in a push for content for its OTT service ESPN+, which launched in 2018.

Domestic soccer properties in the US

Major League Soccer (MLS) is the most valuable domestic soccer property in the United States,  thanks to three eight-season deals, from 2015 to 2022 with ESPN, US media group Fox and Spanish-language network Univision Deportes. The deals also include home games of the USA men’s and women’s national teams.

At the beginning of 2020, the National Women’s Soccer League announced a ground-breaking three-year deal with CBS Sports for domestic rights and streaming service Twitch for international rights.

Earlier in 2020, the United Soccer League, the second-tier men’s domestic league, also renewed its domestic agreement with ESPN until 2022.

 

International soccer club competitions in the US

The English Premier League is the international soccer club competition that generates the most revenue for its media rights in the United States, with about a 26-per-cent market share. Its current six-season deal with NBC Sports lasts from 2019-20 to 2021-22. The deal started in 2016-17, with the broadcaster paying about 50 per-cent less per season in the first three seasons. The average annual value of the six-season deal represents a 100-per-cent increase on the previous deal in the market.

Uefa club competitions are the second-most valuable international soccer club property in the market. In Uefa’s current deals, Turner holds English-language rights, while Univision holds Spanish-language rights, to all competitions from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

Last year, Uefa was able to obtain 57.9-per-cent increase on the total value of the properties for the next cycle, from 2021-22 to 2023-24. CBS will hold English-language rights and Univision will retain Spanish-language rights, to all competitions.

Spain’s LaLiga and Germany’s Bundesliga are also extremely valuable in the US. Last year, both leagues agreed new deals. LaLiga renewed with pay-television broadcaster beIN Sport, from 2020-21 to 2023-24. Germany’s Bundesliga agreed to a new deal with ESPN, from 2020-21 to 2025-26.

The Mexican Liga MX also generates substantial revenue from deals in the United States. Each club negotiates individual deals with local broadcasters, in several deals that range from $2m per season for smaller teams to $15m per season for one of the most popular teams like Club America.

Click on each property logo to filter historical media-rights value information.

National-team competitions in the US

National-team soccer properties are also extremely valuable in the United States, the most valuable being the Fifa World Cup. Since the 2026 edition will be hosted in North America, the value of media rights for the competition in the market has spiked in the latest negotiation.

The 2018 World Cup marked the beginning of Fifa’s agreements with Fox and NBCUniversal-owned Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo. The two replaced Fifa’s previous long-term partners in the country, ESPN and Univision.

Both deals cover the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and are worth a combined $1.1bn. Telemundo holds exclusive Spanish-language rights while Fox holds exclusive English-language rights.

Initially, both broadcasters assumed these tournaments would be played in the summer and Fifa’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar created tension between the parties. Fifa offered Fox and Telemundo the chance to acquire rights to the 2026 World Cup in direct talks.

Telemundo will retain Spanish-language rights to the 2026 tournament while Fox will hold English-language rights to the 2026 edition. Both broadcasters paid significant bonuses after the United States was selected as a host for the event.

Uefa national-team competitions are also extremely valuable. In 2015, Uefa struck deals with ESPN for English-language rights and Univision for Spanish-language rights. The deals included the Euro 2020 national-team tournament, European Qualifiers from 2018-19 to 2021-22, and the Nations League tournament in 2018-19 and 2020-21, as well as international friendly matches.

The deal was triple the value of the same rights in the previous cycle.

Events for Concacaf, the regional governing body for soccer in North and Central America, are also covered in the United States by several deals.

Univision agreed to a ten-year deal until 2022 that covers Spanish- and Portuguese-language rights to all Concacaf events. OTT service FloSports has English-language rights to the Concacaf Nations League in a four-year deal, from 2019 to 2022.

At the beginning of 2020, Fox Sports renewed a multi-year deal for English-language rights to the 2021 and 2023 Gold Cups and the Concacaf Champions League, as well as other international matches.

Most recent

Tech giant Amazon’s acquisition of UK rights to the Autumn Nations Cup competition has triggered a debate over whether the company will now embark upon a concerted push into rugby.

The surprise emergence of free-to-air broadcaster KBS as a bidder for German Bundesliga rights in South Korea generated some competition during the 2020-22 sales process, but not enough to stave off a dip in value.

Chinese internet giant Tencent picked up the English Premier League rights for the 2020-21 season at a massive discount compared to the value of the terminated deal with previous rights-holder PPTV.

European Handball Federation club competition rights have decreased in value in several key markets, with incumbents dropping out to leave tough market conditions for seller Infront.