ESPN issued a press release on Wednesday to hype their coverage of the NYCFC-New York Red Bulls match on Sunday as part of MLS’s Rivalry Week. ESPN is moving the match from ESPN2 to ESPN and beginning their TV coverage at 4:30 PM with a half hour pregame show.
But buried in the release is another nugget regarding the future of MLS on ESPN this year – in addition to this Sunday’s match, ESPN is moving six other matches from ESPN2 to ESPN over the remainder of the 2015 MLS season. In addition to the New York Derby, the Sounders-Timbers match on August 30th will be getting the same pregame show treatment as this weekend’s clash at Yankee Stadium.
Here’s the list of the games moving from the deuce to the mothership.
July 12th: NYCFC vs Toronto FC
August 23rd: LA Galaxy vs NYCFC
August 30th: Seattle Sounders vs Portland Timbers
September 20th: Portland Timbers vs NY Red Bulls
September 27th: Sporting KC vs Seattle Sounders
October 18th: TBA Flex Schedule
Moving the matches is a logical move for ESPN, because they’re likely not displacing significant content. For instance, this Sunday’s match is only shifting SportsCenter to ESPN2 – not exactly a live event that will bring in viewers by the truckload. It should also have the effect of giving something of a boost to the MLS audience, just how much remains to be seen. The commitment to MLS is encouraging to see, and hopefully we see more matches move over to ESPN next season when they’re not going head to head with other live events.