CBS has landed English-language broadcast rights to Concacaf’s men’s World Cup qualifying final-round games played outside of the U.S. and Mexico leading up to the 2022 tournament in Qatar, as well as Concacaf’s women’s qualifying tournament that will send the region’s teams to the 2023 showcase in Australia.
The deal was confirmed to The Inquirer by multiple sources ahead of an official announcement Thursday at a ViacomCBS presentation to the company’s investors.
It’s the first time ever that CBS has done a deal with Concacaf, the regional governing body for soccer in North America, Central America and the Caribbean. And it’s a major expansion of the network’s soccer portfolio, which already includes the National Women’s Soccer League and the UEFA men’s Champions League and Europa League.
The eight-team final round of men’s World Cup qualifying begins in September. Five teams are already in the round: the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras. The three remaining teams will come out of a field of 30 teams split over six groups, with games to be played in March and June. Those early-round games are not in the CBS deal.
All of the games CBS got the rights to will be carried on Paramount+, CBS’ subscription streaming platform that is currently called CBS All Access. The rebrand is coming March 4. In addition to every UEFA Champions League and Europa League game and most NWSL games, the platform has a vast array of content from Nickelodeon, BET, MTV, Comedy Central and the Smithsonian; and an archive of TV shows and movies including Star Trek, Indiana Jones and The Godfather.
There will probably be some U.S. games on regular television too, but those details have not been settled yet.
Broadcast rights for Concacaf’s men’s World Cup qualifying games are held by the home team for each game, which has long been a headache for U.S. national team fans. ESPN (with ABC) and Fox have televised the United States’ home games for many years, but the road games have been all over the place. Many over the years have been on pay-per-view or closed-circuit TV because operators wrote big checks to national federations when mainstream networks wouldn’t.
In the last two World Cup cycles, beIN Sports obtained rights to almost all final-round games played outside the U.S. and Mexico. The Mexican federation has dealt with Fox and ESPN in recent years, which has ensured high-profile broadcasts for El Tri’s games — including the always-big U.S. visit to Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca.
Specific details of how CBS got this deal done aren’t known yet.
On the women’s side, Concacaf’s 2023 World Cup qualifying campaign will kick off in November with a new format. There will be a 30-team group stage (divided into six groups of five), and the U.S. and Canada will go directly into the eight-team final-round tournament in July 2022. They have that status by being the top two teams in the region. (That said, Concacaf knows the teams are better served by playing the world’s elite teams during most FIFA windows, instead of a full qualifying campaign against overmatched regional opponents.)
More rights deals announced
ViacomCBS has also acquired English-language rights to Concacaf’s men’s and women’s Nations League tournaments for national teams, starting with the men’s Nations League semifinals and final this summer. The U.S., Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica are the four teams that will face off this summer at a single site still to be determined. Those games were meant to take place last summer, but were delayed twice by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The inaugural women’s Nations League will begin in September 2023, after the World Cup. Similar to the World Cup qualifying tournament, the two Concacaf teams that qualify for the 2024 Olympics won’t take part in the Nations League until the final round, which as of now is scheduled for June 2024.
As the Olympics are scheduled to start at the end of that month, the teams that qualify for the Olympics might end up sending split squads to the Nations League finals. That would give the U.S. a rare opportunity to truly showcase how deep its squad is, and call up players who don’t normally get a big shot at the national team state.
In addition, Paramount+ is set to become the new English-language home of the men’s club leagues in Argentina and Brazil. It’s the first time ever that those leagues have had such high-profile platforms in the United States, and it will increase the spotlight on some of South America’s most famous teams, such as Argentina’s Boca Juniors and River Plate and Brazil’s Flamengo, Fluminense, Santos and Vasco da Gama. The exact start date of the deals will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We are making soccer a core pillar of sports on Paramount+,” CBS Entertainment Group president and CEO George Cheeks said. He noted that UEFA’s tournaments have driven more subscriptions to CBS All Access than any sports property the company has except the NFL.
U.S. men’s 2022 World Cup qualifying schedule
A full explanation of Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying process is available here.
September 2021: Sept. 2 away at team TBD, Sept. 5 home vs. team TBD, Sept. 8 away at Honduras
October 2021: Oct. 7 home vs. Jamaica, Oct. 10 away at team TBD, Oct. 13 home vs. Costa Rica
November 2021: Nov. 12 home vs. Mexico, Nov. 16 road at Jamaica
January-February 2022: Jan. 27 home vs. team TBD, Jan. 30 at team TBD, Feb 2. home vs. Honduras
March 2022: March 24 road game at Mexico, March 27 home game vs. team TBD, March 30 road game at Costa Rica