It’s no secret that ESPN has really pushed its stand-alone streaming service, ESPN+, towards American soccer fans. Starting this year, ESPN has acquired the American broadcast rights to the FA Cup and League Cup, and while up until now they’ve only shown select matches, they’ve put almost all of them on ESPN+ and not on any of their cable broadcast channels.
That practice may not be changing, but it has gotten a bit more intriguing. According to WorldSoccerTalk, this January ESPN will be streaming every single third round FA Cup match on ESPN+. That means not only Tottenham Hotspur’s trip to Tranmere, but also a bunch of matches featuring teams you might not otherwise get a chance to ever see play. That’s 32 games in total over three days from January 4-7.
Wanna see Accrington Stanley host Ipswich Town? How about Woking, the lowest team left in the competition, hosting Watford? Fleetwood Town vs. AFC Wimbledon? Well, now you can. Usually, there are a ton of FA Cup matches in these early rounds that just aren’t ever seen if you’re not in attendance at the stadium, but the new FA Cup contract expanded international broadcast rights to all of the third round matches, and ESPN is taking advantage. This gives an opportunity to watch a lot of football if you want to, much of it probably bad but some of it guaranteed to be fun.
I generally get cranky when broadcast rights are split between a bunch of different streaming services, all of which require payment, but ESPN+ is only $5/month, and you can watch any of the games on demand with your subscription. That’s pretty cool. It’s an opportunity to go back later, if want, and watch some of the better upsets, assuming there are any.
I’m still skeptical that, if ESPN+ grows in popularity, that it will stay at its current price point. $5/mo. is pretty darn cheap for a streaming service that shows a lot of soccer. But if you’re an FA Cup fan it’s a hell of a deal, and probably worth spending a few bucks on, even if you decide to cancel right away.