Fans wanting to watch the last two US men’s soccer team World Cup qualifiers had to deal with two different networks with two different distributions. And because of this difference between the two networks, it left fans confused and wondering how they can watch one game but not the other.

Last Friday, the United States faced Honduras in San Jose. Because that was a home game, fans were able to watch on FS1. Under the current MLS contract, which is divided between ESPN and FS1, the two networks also share the US men’s and women’s matches. It’s was FS1’s turn to air the USA-Honduras match and fans for the most part were able to watch without a hitch.

On Tuesday with the US playing in Panama, beIN Sports had the rights to the game. beIN has signed an agreement for all CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers except for those games played in the U.S. and Mexico. And this is where it got dicey for fans to watch. Compared to FS1, which is widely distributed, beIN Sports is available in just one-fourth of the homes as FS1.

It’s amazing to think that there’s such a wide discrepancy, but there is. Fans weren’t totally shut out of the Panama-USA game. Some viewers were able to watch in Spanish via Telemundo or NBC Universo, as both networks simulcast the match. Both are available in more homes than beIN. However, there are some fans who were hoping to hear the English-language call and could not.

There were methods to watch online, for instance through beIN Sports Connect and or via Verizon’s go90 app. Still, for those who wanted to view the match on traditional TV, they had to do some work.

beIN has been hoping that the US men’s road games would be a lure to get more cable companies on board, but so far, it hasn’t worked. DirecTV is one major provider that carries beIN, but it does so on a sports tier. Comcast also carries beIN, but not in HD. And before you really start to complain about beIN, just know that it was opportunistic in obtaining the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers, while ESPN and Fox were not.

In the past, networks had to deal with each country’s individual soccer federation. And some would try to sell their rights at exorbitant prices. Sometimes, it left only a Spanish feed, or in some rare instances, a closed-circuit feed where fans had to go either to a sports bar or a theater to watch.

However, in 2014, beIN and Telemundo were able to buy rights to the CONCACAF qualifiers outside the U.S. and Mexico through a third party (over which Telemundo got into a dispute after one country recently tried to back out of the deal).

But since that deal was struck, it’s caused some major heartache for fans who have had to find ways to watch the U.S. road matches except for those in Mexico where ESPN or FS1 had the rights.

Yet, this current CONCACAF deal remains in place, and as long as beIN fights for distribution, fans will either have to watch the games in Spanish on either Telemundo or NBC Universo or look for alternative methods.

It’s annoying for sure, but until a network with wide distribution steps up in the next contract bidding, we’re stuck with the present situation for the foreseeable future.

About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the three Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.

  • Raymond Chuang

    Actually, BeIN HD is available on many Comcast systems, but they require an extra subscription fee to get that channel.

  • Real Talk

    Nobody watching soccer on TV in this country

    • JmThms

      Well, evidently you’re not. But who cares if you aren’t. A lot of us are. And by looking at your little picture there you’re a tall ball enthusiast. Any “sport” where the average player is 6’8″ tall is stupid by definition.

  • Karl

    CONCACAF/US Soccer sure don’t do themselves any favors by having that late night Friday window. While 2.2 million viewers across FS1 & Unvision properties is nice, I can’t help but wonder what Saturday afternoon could’ve pulled in while not going against two different Sweet 16 broadcasts.

    Also, while beIN has distribution issues and the go90 app saw the feed cut for the last 20 minutes of the US-Panama broadcast, let’s not pretend FS1 does any favors in terms of promoting the product or being able to draw casual viewers for anything other than MLB Playoffs.

  • Waquoit

    I love BeIN. They show many great games and don’t have Alexi Lalas.