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ESPN acquires rights to Major League Soccer

August 6, 2006 - Major League Soccer (MLS) News Release

ESPN Inc. has reached a comprehensive multimedia agreement with Soccer United Marketing (SUM) for the rights to Major League Soccer through 2014, it was announced today by John Skipper, executive vice president, content, ESPN, and Don Garber, commissioner, Major League Soccer, and CEO, Soccer United Marketing.

As part of the eight-year agreement, ESPN2, the leading soccer network in the U.S, will televise 26 regular-season and three playoff MLS matches each year - all in primetime on Thursdays. ABC will present the league's three marquee events - season-opening match, All-Star game and the MLS Cup.

The MLS deal follows another recent marquee soccer rights acquisitions by ESPN, Inc. for FIFA events through 2014 - World Cup, Women's World Cup, Confederations Cup, U-20 World Cup, U-17 World Cup, U-20 Women's World Cup, U-17 Women's World Cup, and Futsal World Championship, including the UEFA Champions League through 2008-'09 season.

Like other recent ESPN rights acquisitions, the agreement provides access to extensive content that will fuel ESPN's multimedia assets including ESPN International. Some of these include ESPN360, Mobile ESPN, ESPN Deportes and other ESPN distribution platforms. Additionally, in-progress and post-match highlights can be featured across all ESPN outlets.

"This agreement underscores our long-term commitment to soccer and embraces Major League Soccer's multimedia future," said Skipper. "Following the remarkable success of the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the growing diverse audience, this is an opportune time for a multiyear commitment to the League."

Garber said: "We are thrilled to continue our existing partnership with ESPN and ABC Sports for the next eight years. The move to Thursday evenings provides our fans with an ideal primetime destination for MLS matches on ESPN2. We believe this historic agreement is a quantum leap forward for Major League Soccer."

Having signed its first MLS agreement in 1994 - two years before the league's debut in 1996 - ESPN has been the primary national television network for Major League Soccer. ABC became the league's broadcast network in 1997 with live presentation of the MLS Cup.

Highlights of the agreement:


- ESPN2 will televise 26 regular-season MLS matches, primarily on Thursday nights

- ESPN2 will televise three MLS playoff matches on Thursday nights

- ABC will broadcast three marquee MLS matches - the season-opening match, MLS All-Star Game and The MLS Cup

- Televised coverage of the first round of the MLS Draft

- ESPN2 and ABC's MLS telecasts can be re-aired in full or abbreviated versions on any ESPN media platforms

- Extensive footage rights for all ESPN media platforms such as SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, ESPN Motion, Mobile ESPN, ESPN360, ESPN Mobile Publishing, etc.


- ESPN will produce all MLS programming and will be solely responsible for the content.


ESPN and ABC are the U.S. English-language homes of the Men's and Women's FIFA World Cup events through 2014 - having acquired the rights for exclusive English-language telecasts of the FIFA World Cup™ and the FIFA Women's World Cup for another eight years in the United States in 2005. ESPN also acquired the rights to the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009 and 2013 and other events. In addition, ESPN provides extensive coverage of the UEFA Champions League and the NCAA Men's and Women's soccer championships.


With the acquisition of MLS, ESPN now offers U.S. sports fans the most comprehensive collection of soccer properties ever by a network in the United States. Highlights:

n FIFA World Cup (2010 and '14)

n FIFA Women's World Cup (2007 and '11)

n FIFA Confederations Cup (2009 and '13)

n FIFA U-20 World Cup (2007, '09, '11 and '13)

n FIFA U-17 World Cup (2007, '09, '11 and '13)

n FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup (2008, '10, '12 and '14)

n FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup (2008, ‘10, '12 and '14)

n FIFA Futsal World Championship (2008 and '12)

n FIFA Beach Soccer World Championship (2007, '08, '09, '10, '11, '12, '13 and '14)

n UEFA Champions League (through 2008-09)

n NCAA Men's and Women's Soccer Championships (through 2013)


Founded in 2002, Soccer United Marketing (SUM) is the preeminent commercial soccer company in the United States. SUM holds the exclusive rights to the most important soccer properties in the nation, including: all commercial rights to Major League Soccer; the United States Soccer Federation and all men's and women's national teams; promotional and marketing rights to Mexican National Team games on U.S. soil; and marketing, promotional and broadcast rights to the prestigious eight-team Mexican club tournament - InterLiga™. In addition, SUM SUM manages the marketing and promotion of the CONCACAF Gold Cup™, the region's premier soccer tournament for national teams, and the FC Barcelona Tour which commences August 6. This extensive list of holdings is represented by SUM's slogan: One Sport. One Company.

Media Contact: ESPN Communications at 860-766-2000

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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