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U.S. Soccer World Cup qualifier to kick off at … 5:30 p.m. locally?

Oct 11, 2013, 11:30 AM EDT

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KANSAS CITY – Tonight’s World Cup qualifier at Sporting Park on the Kansas City outskirts starts at 5:30 p.m. locally – or as I have mockingly referred to it over the last couple of days here, “traditional starting time” for a big soccer match.

Obviously, it isn’t. A “traditional starting time,” that is.

Obviously, it’s all about TV. When it comes to scheduling in big time sports, it’s pretty much always about TV.

When I first saw the start time last week – and let’s just call that time what it is, which is “goofy” – I assumed it was about simultaneous start times for the trio of CONCACAF World Cup qualifers. But that’s only for the final match day.

Without being too specific, U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe told me his organization and ESPN talked about several different options for tonight’s match. In the end, he said, U.S. Soccer’s target is always to arrange the best possible circumstance to allow the most possible viewers.

(MORE: Low anxiety, but plenty of opportunities for U.S. against Panama)

Perhaps U.S. Soccer cannot say it, but here’s what that probably means:

U.S. Soccer could have had a better start time (say, something really wild and crazy, like 7:30 p.m.) but would have been pushed to an outlet from ESPN’s jayvee roster, ESPN News or ESPNU or whatever.

Tonight’s Mexico-Panama match, a truly meaningful contest for a lot of people in our land, will land on ESPN News, for instance. That one starts at 9:15 p.m. ET.

So why couldn’t U.S. Soccer’s World Cup qualifier get a better start time and land on ESPN? The worldwide leader in sports has a college football package on Friday nights these days.

Soccer may have come a long way in our country – but we all know that football still rules.

  1. talgrath - Oct 11, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    Why can’t the match just be on ESPN2 then? Every cable/satellite package that has ESPN has ESPN2 too and nobody cares which channel it is on. As it is I have to leave work early to catch the game, burning through paid time off; the ratings will suffer due to the terrible start time more than they would for being on ESPN2.

    • rawmustard - Oct 11, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Because the Nationwide Series race from Charlotte is slotted on ESPN2. ESPN definitely has to shuffle to meet all of its commitments.

  2. metroplexfrog - Oct 11, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Terrible job by ESPN not to give the USMNT a better start time. GoUSA

  3. jrocknstuff - Oct 11, 2013 at 3:49 PM

    If the game meant a lot to us I would commend you on using paid time off to catch it, but since we already qualified you should save that paid time off for bigger matches……like the world cup when we’re scheduled for mid-afternoon on a Tuesday.

  4. teamperkins11 - Oct 11, 2013 at 4:19 PM

    I think that it is great that they have decided to kick-off at 3:30 Pacific Time. It is awesome for us west coast folks. Clearly the ratings off of the west coast are not important to ESPN. Interestingly, San Diego and Seattle were 1-2 in market viewership for that last ESPN qualifier. Oh well, enjoy the great Temple (0-5) vs Cincinnati (3-2) American Athletic Conference football match-up this evening!

    • bishopofblunder - Oct 11, 2013 at 5:40 PM

      Temple plays football???

  5. notaretard - Oct 11, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    and this is why the games shouldn’t be on ESPN. the soccer federation needs to either get a better deal or jump ship next time tv contract negotiations come around

  6. footballer4ever - Oct 12, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Let’s give respect to ESPN for what they do and have done with the World Cup, EUFA Cup and even US national football team’s telecasts and into increasing the sports profile in this country. By the same token, ESPN can do better than having a meaningless eggball college games which most likely won’t move the tv ratings at all.

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