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Volume 26 No. 109
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USL, ESPN Extend Media-Rights Agreement Through '22 Season

The USL has extended its media-rights agreement with ESPN by three years, keeping its Championship and League One matches on ESPN’s platforms through the ’22 season. ESPN’s linear networks will now televise three times as many USL games as they did under the previous deal and will add Spanish-language telecasts on ESPN Deportes. The USL Championship Final, as well as a minimum of 18 regular-season games, will air on ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPNU or ESPN Deportes annually, while all other matches will be streamed on ESPN+. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but The Athletic is reporting ESPN will pay a rights fee in the low seven-figure range. The outlet notes the previous deal is believed to have contained a smaller rights fee, if one at all. “We’re going to work with ESPN to make sure we … find our 18 best matchups that sell the league and give us the exposure and the fandom that they’re looking for,” USL Exec VP Court Jeske said. All League One matches will air on ESPN+. All games will continue to be produced by USL Productions. 

INSIDE THE DEAL: The USL had nearly a dozen other suitors for its media rights, according to Jeske, but ended up sticking with its existing partner in ESPN; the ’20 season will mark the fifth full year of their relationship. Jeske said the league felt that ESPN offered the best opportunity to continue sustained growth. The addition of ESPN Deportes was important for the USL, which is hoping to build on the prevalence it already has in Spanish-speaking markets. The USL also had the ’26 FIFA World Cup in mind when negotiating the length of the deal, Jeske said, as the league wants to be in the best position it can to capitalize on North America hosting the tournament.