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Aug 22, 2012

U.S. road qualifiers on new network

NEW YORK -- Add U.S. road World Cup qualifiers to the soccer games many American television viewers may not be able to see.

The new beIN Sport network said Wednesday it had acquired rights to U.S. road qualifiers this year and next along with all other qualifiers in the North and Central American and Caribbean region for the 2014 tournament, except for matches involving Mexico.

The network, launched last week by the Al-Jazeera Sport Media Network, is available to only about 7 percent of U.S. television households. It can be received in the eight million homes that subscribe to its tier on DirecTV and DISH, which are available in 34 million households in all.

While the U.S. Soccer Federation owns rights to its home qualifiers, Traffic Sports USA bought rights to the road games from the CONCACAF nations that owned them, and Traffic resold them to beIN.

"We don't control the rights for our away matches but have talked with beIN Sport and know that they have an aggressive plan to expand distribution over the weeks and months to come," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in an email. "Obviously, we'd like as wide a distribution in the US as possible for our WCQ matches."

The U.S. has remaining road qualifiers this year in the semifinal round at Jamaica on Sept. 7 and at Antigua and Barbuda on Oct. 12.

Rights to home U.S. qualifiers are held by ESPN. In qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, eight matches on ESPN2 averaged 787,000 viewers and two matches on ESPN averaged 734,000.

The opening U.S. qualifier this year against Antigua in June was seen by 899,000 viewers on ESPN2. The U.S. qualifier at Guatemala four days later was sold from Traffic to Integrated Sports Media and available only on pay-per-view. Integrated would not say how many households bought the match.

The new network also has rights to Spain's La Liga, Italy's Serie A, France's Ligue 1 and England's second-tier League Championship. In addition, it has rights to South American World Cup qualifiers and the 2015 Copa America.

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