The U.S. Soccer Federation has signed an agreement with Italy for a national team friendly Feb. 29 and is waiting for logistical issues, including the venue, to be finalized before announcing the match. Three Italian sites are under consideration.
An ESPN outlet is expected to provide live coverage. The match falls on a FIFA fixture date, allowing both sides to field their primary players.
Meantime, TV details remain unresolved for the U.S. matches this month: Jan. 21 vs. Venezuela at University of Phoenix Stadium and four days later at Panama. The most likely scenario, I’m told, is English coverage on ESPN3.com only, with the possibility of a Spanish TV outlet also picking up the feeds.
Why no standard coverage?
ESPN has first crack at men’s and women’s national team matches and is allocated a set number each year. Frankly, January friendlies featuring second-tier rosters aren’t appealing. The network’s top priorities this year are World Cup qualifiers, the Italy friendly, matches leading to the qualifiers, a November game on a FIFA fixture date and possibly a women’s friendly or two.
NBC Sports Network is also in the mix, having won the rights once held by Fox Soccer Channel. But NBC isn’t expected to begin showing soccer until after the MLS season begins, in part because it is still assembling production staff and finalizing logistics.