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What a U.S. Open Cup final! … Too bad a few more people could not see it

Oct 2, 2013, 3:02 PM EDT

DC United v Real Salt Lake - 2013 U.S. Open Cup Final Getty Images

Who doesn’t love a huge upset in tournament play? (Well, who outside of Utah this morning, in this case.)

D.C. United holding out heroically against heavily favored Real Salt Lake on Tuesday at Rio Tinto was brilliant theater, a real memory maker and a fitting end for the 100th edition of a storied tournament built on the possibility of these very upsets.

The question on the day after Tuesday’s soccer version of a D.C. Shutdown is this: If such a thing happens again next year, will more people be able to see it? Because for all the brilliance of last night’s underdog triumph, the storybook finish was diminished by a lack of viewers and the attached lack of a big, national event feel.

(HT to the Salt Lake Tribune; I stole the “D.C. Shutdown” line from the paper’s headline this morning.)

Worse, Tuesday’s big moment was turned into a punch line, with the clevers of Twitter cracking on about how they were planning to watch:

source:

I know it’s easy to blame U.S. Soccer here, but that’s an overly simplified explanation.

The game was broadcast on GolTV, which is in the second year of its three-year agreement with U.S. Soccer to televise the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final. Two things to know:

All the other potential TV partners (larger ones, that is) said “pass” on the opportunity to show the final. Hardcore soccer supporters here love the U.S. Open Cup, and rightly so.  (I certainly do, by the way; it’s an absolute gem.) But supporter regard and actual brand value are not attached in any meaningful way. In other words, the dollar value of the tournament is, let’s just say, something less than staggering.

This ain’t no NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Second, when U.S. Soccer signed the agreement with GolTV, no one in the industry knew that BeIN Sport, backed with stacks of cash through its attachment to Al Jazeera Media Networks, was going to absolutely cut the legs from beneath GolTV. When BeIN gobbled up GolTV’s most valuable properties (U.S. television rights for La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Copa del Rey and South American World Cup qualifiers, for instance), GolTV’s market share and its very relevancy fell off the table.

Long story short, BeIN Sport has practically killed off GolTV, and the U.S. Open Cup final became collateral damage.

GolTV had no pre- or post-game show Tuesday – thanks, by the way, to MLSSoccer.com for providing one – and did not even have its broadcasters on site. Nothing says “mailing it in” like calling a final from a studio.

So … will it get better next year?

Short answer: possibly, but nothing is likely.

source: Getty Images

Precious few TV viewers watched D.C. United lift its third Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup trophy Tuesday night in Sandy, Utah.

“We are always looking for ways to get  as many people as possible watching our matches,” U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe told me this morning, “whether that is U.S. men’s or women’s national team matches or the Open Cup final or other matches in the national team program.”

When I asked about streaming and why last night’s match was not available via internet, Buethe could only say that it was discussed but was ultimately GolTV’s choice.

Marketing U.S. Soccer’s Open Cup is always tricky business. MLS clubs and U.S. Soccer could potentially enhance the brand by adding big marketing dollars, but there are no guarantees for a tournament that simply does not have a substantial, national footprint. In all honesty, it’s a tournament where continued organic growth probably remains the best course; throwing money willy-nilly seems unwise, especially considering MLS and its clubs mostly remain awash in red ink.

The one possible escape hatch would be U.S. Soccer and Soccer United Marketing (Major League Soccer’s marketing arm) bundling the tournament final along with other properties. That’s how MLS has enhanced the value of its TV contracts, by bundling national team rights with MLS rights.

Until then, hope for better days for GolTV, I suppose.

(MORE: D.C. United revels in victory; celebration video)

(MORE: D.C. United stuns Real Salt Lake in U.S. Open Cup final)

  1. hildezero - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    I watched this game on t.v. And I can tell you that it was terribly covered. GolTV is a cheap version of Fox Soccer based out of Florida (obviously, you know it’s gonna be terribly produced if it’s based there). The commentators weren’t at the game. They didn’t have an on-field reporter like they did last year. Also, they didn’t have a pre-game show. When the game started airing, the players were already on the field and the national anthem started. It was very “UniMas-ish” like coverage. Hence Univision also based in Florida. :/

    • Michael - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:47 PM

      Seriously, you thought last year it was better quality that they cut to an on-field talking head during the run of play?

      GolTV couldn’t even afford anyone who can call a match – both the guys “in the booth” were doing analysis almost the entire time.

      If I worked for GolTV, I’d be looking for another employer before the checks stop clearing.

  2. mdac1012 - Oct 2, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Steve, the game was streamed over the internet, that’s how I watched it. Not through GolTV but through one of the many pirated websites out there that broadcast games from all over the world. For a long time it was the only what to get my soccer fix. I am sure many of the long time soccer fans on here know the sites I am talking about.

    • Steve Davis - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      Well, honestly, I’m happy for you. Me? I fear the ill gotten stream! Nasty viruses are among us!!

      • nussdorferac - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:43 PM

        Those are from all the online poker you play.

    • Michael - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:47 PM

      I think the streams got higher viewership than the channel.

  3. rphillish - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:03 PM

    Of course the dedicated found the streams, but it’s not good for the sport to have one of the most prestigious titles in US Soccer decided on a channel most people haven’t even heard of, let alone subscribe to.

  4. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Why couldn’t GolTV also streamed it on their own site? How hard would that be and how cost effective while raising ratings to raise advertising rates?

    Most Soccer fans stream the games they watch. They have no choice but to use the sites we all know exists to show the games we have no other place to watch. They’re already there, why not just use your own site and get the money?

    Btw, that was a really good feed.

    • SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Oct 2, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      This could apply to NBCsports as well.

  5. braxtonrob - Oct 2, 2013 at 6:54 PM

    JP should do standup, LMAO!

    • bear06 - Oct 5, 2013 at 2:36 AM

      You mean the guy who runs the fake JP Twitter account?

  6. Michael - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    If only US Soccer didn’t fear the internet.

    Rather than stream the final last year, they made a last-minute deal with GolTV for whatever they could get. And from what it looks like, GolTV’s plan was to destroy the US Open Cup. And now GolTV just refuses a stream. Simple as that.

    No streamed draws either – and oh, have they gone to almost ridiculous lengths to not stream the draws. (I say “almost” because it cost them nothing to have a random Chicago Fire fan show up, then blog about it — which is about $75 less than it would have cost to stream it.)

    And even posting simple Web articles has to be done by a third party (TheCup.us) because USSoccer devotes all of their resources to pimping the cash cows on the national team. “U. S. Open Cup” is the FOURTH item on their “Tournaments” menu.

    I think it’s time for US Soccer to relinquish the Cup to someone who cares about it. Plenty of folks do – it’s just that none of them seem to work for Sunil Gulati.

  7. fakejpd - Oct 2, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    Ironically, GolTV is more readily available for me than beIN Sport – and cheaper. It’s not that I couldn’t watch the game, I chose not to. It’s 2013 and I’m done propping up nickle and dime networks under the guise of supporting soccer. Contracts are made to broken. If US Soccer wanted the Open Cup to be readily available they could have spent the money to buy out GolTV or litigated their way out. As a certified Soccer Nerd we constantly hear about the magic of the Lamar Hunt Open Cup – I’ll start taking it seriously just as soon as the Fed does.

  8. hildezero - Oct 3, 2013 at 12:10 AM

    @Michael,

    Dawg, I never said it was better quality.

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