U.S. hopes of advancing to the 2018 World Cup rest with Tuesday night’s match against Trinidad and Tobago, the first time since 1989 that the Americans have had to go the distance in the regional qualifying competition to clinch a berth.
With all that is at stake — a victory would secure passage, a draw almost surely would be enough, but defeat could prove catastrophic — fans should expect the match to appear on mainstream TV, such as ESPN or Fox Sports.
But in the confusing world of international soccer TV rights, the U.S. match will instead appear on a niche outlet, beIN Sports, and a Spanish channel owned by NBC, Universo. BeIN Sports Connect, a digital platform; go90, a free steaming app; and the online subscription service fuboTV will also carry the game. (FuboTV is offering a seven-day free trial.)
[A previous version of this article incorrectly listed go90 as a subscription service. The app is free and doesn’t require a subscription.]
Telemundo Deportes en Vivo, a Spanish app owned by NBCUniversal, and telemundodeportes.com are the other options.
How can this be?
The rights to World Cup qualifiers around the globe are owned by the home team’s federation, which may do with them as it wishes. Often, federations enlist a sports marketing agency to maximize revenue on rights fees.
The U.S. Soccer Federation has a contract with ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision for the U.S. home qualifiers. Comprehensive pregame and postgame shows bookend the matches, with several on-air personalities put to work.
All but one of the away matches, however, were purchased by beIN Sports and NBCUniversal’s Spanish arm. BeIN Sports also controls U.S. rights to most other matches in the CONCACAF region, plus the entire South American competition, which concludes Tuesday with three of the four automatic berths up for grabs.
The exception on the U.S. away schedule was the Mexico showdown at Estadio Azteca in June, which appeared on FS1. Fox Sports owns Mexico’s home games and, using its relationship with the Mexican federation, was able to land the U.S.-Mexico game.
Fox has also replaced ESPN as the carrier for the World Cup, beginning next summer in Russia and stretching through the 2026 tournament (which the United States, Mexico and Canada are likely to host). Telemundo is the U.S. rights holder for Spanish coverage.
BeIN Sports announcers will call Tuesday’s match from U.S. studios, with a sideline reporter on site.
For additional details, the USSF addressed the TV situation on its website.
Many bars and restaurants around the country are planning to show the U.S. match and the final set of South American qualifiers.
Complete list of matches available for viewing Tuesday …
All times are Eastern
5 a.m.: Asian playoff, second leg: Australia vs. Syria WatchESPN, ESPN3 (first leg: 1-1)
2:45 p.m.: Portugal vs. Switzerland FS1, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, fuboTV
2:45 p.m.: France vs. Belarus FS2, Fox Sports Go, Fox Soccer Match Pass, fuboTV
2:45 p.m.: Netherlands vs. Sweden ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN, ESPN3
2:45 p.m.: Estonia vs. Bosnia WatchESPN, ESPN3
2:45 p.m.: Latvia vs. Andorra WatchESPN, ESPN3
2:45 p.m.: Luxembourg vs. Bulgaria WatchESPN, ESPN3
2:45 p.m.: Belgium vs. Cyprus Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Soccer Match Pass, fuboTV
2:45 p.m.: Greece vs. Gibraltar Fox Soccer Match Pass
2:45 p.m.: Hungary vs. Faroe Islands Fox Soccer Match Pass
7:30 p.m.: Ecuador vs. Argentina beIN Sports Espanol, beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV (tape at 11 p.m. on beIN Sports)
7:30 p.m.: Brazil vs. Chile beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV (tape at 11 a.m. Wednesday on beIN Sports Espanol, tape at 2 p.m. Wednesday on beIN Sports)
7:30 p.m.: Paraguay vs. Venezuela beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV (tape at 3 p.m. Wednesday on beIN Sports Espanol)
7:30 p.m.: Peru vs. Colombia beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV (tape at 11 p.m. on beIN Sports Espanol, tape at 10 a.m. Wednesday on beIN Sports)
7:30 p.m.: Uruguay vs. Bolivia beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV (tape at 1 p.m. Wednesday on beIN Sports Espanol)
8 p.m.: Trinidad and Tobago vs. United States beIN Sports, Universo, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo app, telemundodeportes.com, beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV, go90
8 p.m.: Honduras vs. Mexico Telemundo, Telemundo Deportes en Vivo app, telemundodeportes.com, beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV
8 p.m.: Panama vs. Costa Rica Telemundo Deportes en Vivo app, telemundodeportes.com, beIN Sports Connect, fuboTV