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NWSL and ESPN announce TV broadcast deal for remainder of 2019 season

Reign regular season home finale will be on ESPN2!

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The National Women’s Soccer League announced today an agreement with ESPN to broadcast 14 matches for the remainder of the 2019 regular season.

The agreement also includes the two NWSL playoff semifinals and NWSL Championship game, which will be held on October 27 at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC, home of the North Carolina Courage.

The good news for Reign FC and their fans is they will be in three of those televised matches! One of those will be at home, the first tine the Reign have hosted a nationally televised game since the 2014 NWSL Final.

NWSL telecasts begin on Sunday, July 14 with Portland Thorns FC hosting Orlando Pride on ESPNEWS at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST.

The three televised matches that Reign FC will be a part of are:

Friday, August 2 – Houston Dash vs. Reign FC – 4:00 p.m. PT – ESPNEWS

Sunday, August 18 – Sky Blue FC vs. Reign FC – 10:00 a.m. PT – ESPNEWS

Sunday, September 29 – Reign FC vs. Portland Thorns FC – 11:00 a.m. PT – ESPN2

It should be noted that the September 29 match is Reign FC’s regular season home finale (and also Fan Appreciation Day) and was originally scheduled for a 1 PM PST kickoff, but kickoff had to be moved up to make the telecast possible.

That in of itself is a big deal for the club, as while Reign FC have been involved in matches that got the Game of the Week spot on Lifetime Network the past two seasons, they were always the road team. A Game of the Week telecast never emanated from Memorial Stadium in Seattle when that was their home. While no clear reason was ever given as to why, surely the aesthetics (or lack thereof) with the aged Memorial Stadium was a factor. With Cheney Stadium now Reign FC’s home, the aesthetics — and more importantly, the infrastructure to be broadcast-ready — mean that the team is now able to showcase not only their amazing talent on their home field, but also the home support that the Puget Sound region knows it is capable of displaying for their top-flight women’s team.

The decision to place many NWSL matches on ESPNEWS might be a head scratcher for some, especially with a general question of, “Where can I find ESPNEWS? What is ESPNEWS?”

On face value, the channel serves as the hub for replays of the network's news programs like SportsCenter and video simulcasts of ESPN Radio shows. It also serves as overflow for when there are programming conflicts because one live event is running long/late on the primary ESPN or secondary ESPN2 channel. We have to remember that networks plan out their broadcast schedules months in advance and with ESPN very much in an arms race with other networks to collect all the sports, there are existing deals with other sports leagues that they just cannot modify. From a logistical standpoint, these 14 NWSL matches going to ESPNEWS makes the most sense.

As for how does one find ESPNEWS on their television, if you subscribe to cable, satellite, or cord-cutting services like Hulu, YouTube TV, there’s a good chance your package has ESPNEWS and you’d just need to refer to your channel guide to find it with relative ease.

ESPNEWS is also available for online streaming through the ESPN app on your mobile device of choice, and via the WatchESPN website. This is subject to you having either an ESPN+ subscription or the now-standard TV authentication.

The announcement of this broadcast deal does bring on the bigger question — what about the future of the league’s ability to have a more robust TV deal? The simple answer is, we don’t know.

We can only be hopeful that this is the foundation of the league working out a bigger, better, and long overdue TV deal. Yes, 14 showcase-esque matches this season is nice. The majority of this season’s matches will still be streamed through Yahoo!, and how fans feel about the quality of those streams has been a “your mileage may vary” situation. Imagine a 2020 NWSL season where there are at least 24 showcase/Game of the Weeks on the over-the-air ESPN networks that you can easily find on TV at home or at your favorite sports bar, and the rest of the matches are streamed on the ESPN+ online platform. You wouldn't find many NWSL fans unhappy about that. Time will tell if today’s news is the first step into making the above scenario a reality.

For now, Reign FC fans can start marking their calendars, setting their DVR, and telling their friends to tune in, because their favorite NWSL team will soon be back on television.

Here’s the full telecast schedule of the 14 matches, including the two playoff semifinals and NWSL Championship game.

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