By Barry Janoff
March 30, 2016: On the heels of signing a major deal with Under Armour, and on the eve of starting its 2016 season, the North American Soccer League has unveiled an alliance with beIN Sports to have a minimum of 34 games broadcast nationally on the sports network.
The NASL becomes the first pro North American league to air on beIN, which also broadcasts soccer matches from UEFA Champions League, Premier League, CONCACAF World Cup qualifying games and La Liga; in addition to tennis, motor sports and other events.
The alliance begins with a game between the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and Miami FC on April 2.
The league also has a broadcast deal with ONE World Sports and ESPN where, for the second year, more than 100 matches will be streamed live on ESPN3.
"We're obviously very excited to announce our new partnership with beIN Sports," Bill Peterson, NASL commissioner said in a statement. "Like the NASL, beIN Sports has quickly grown in importance and stature across North America. Our savvy pro soccer fans here in North America are watching beIN Sports on a regular basis, and now they'll be able to watch exciting and competitive NASL action every week."
(Editor's Note: On March 31, the NASL signed a deal with CBS Sports to air 12 games in the Fall Season beginning in July. CBS had broadcast NASL games during the original incarnation of the league in the 1970's. "The NASL returning to the CBS family is an incredible story for everyone who enjoys the great game of soccer in North America," said Peterson. "The great soccer history and legacy of the NASL was first captured on CBS, and now decades later, we have partnered with CBS Sports Network to write a new chapter together.")
Over the course of the 2016 NASL split season, a minimum of 34 matches will air on beIN Sports in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Every weekend of the 2016 season will feature one match live on beIN Sports: 11 in the Spring Season and 18 in the Fall Season. Five weekday encounters will also air live on the network.
In addition to the TV presence that comes with the partnership, each NASL match will be available online to authenticated viewers via beIN Sports Connect, the network's live streaming platform.
"It's been a very pleasant surprise to have broadcasters approaching us, understanding the type of competition we have inn the NASL, wanting to put our matches on the air, working with us in developing partnerships that would be fruitful for both sides," said Peterson, entering his fifth year as commissioner for the NASL, during a media call last week.
beIN, which launched in 2012 and is available on nine cable/satellite providers, said that over the last three years its subscriber base has grown to more than 45 million.
According to Yousef Al-Obaidly, managing director forf beIN Sports, "We are thrilled to amplify our global soccer coverage with the addition of the NASL, a league with a growing fan base in North America and some of the country's most promising professional prospects. This acquisition marks our commitment to providing viewers with access to the best sports leagues and events, both in the U.S. and abroad."
Under Armour earlier this year signed a multi-year deal to become the official ball provider for the NASL and the official kit provider for defending champion New York Cosmos, the company's first such soccer alliances in the U.S. as part of its plan to deepen its ties to the sport here.
"The business side of the league and for our teams continues to grow," Peterson said during the media call. "In almost everything we measure, be it ticket sales, sponsorship, licensing sales, all continue to grow at double-digit rates. And that will continue throughout the season."
The NASL's marketing moves are in keeping with the sport's growth in the U.S., with sponsorship spend on soccer expected to set a record, reaching upward of $333 million in 2016. That is up nearly 10% from 2015 and is outpacing both the 5% growth in overall sports spending and the 4.5% increase in North American sports sponsorship spending this year, according to research and consulting firm IEG, Chicago.
The NASL member clubs are Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada FC, Miami FC, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, Ottawa Fury FC, Puerto Rico FC, Rayo OKC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The expansion Miami FC and Rayo OKC clubs will begin play in the Spring Season and Puerto Rico FC will start in the Fall Season. The league also is talking about future expansion, potentially first in Chicago and then cities including Atlanta, to reach its stated goal to become "a 20-team league in the near future."
The league also unveiled its first presence on the West Coast, the San Francisco Deltas, scheduled to begin play in 2017 in Kezar Stadium, which was home to the NFL's 49ers from 1946-1970.
beIN Sports full NASL and TV schedule can be found here.
With Under Armour, One World Sports, NASL Plans To Have Solid Footing In 2016
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