[U.S. SOCCER]Move over, college basketball. The USA-Mexico qualifier Feb. 11 in Columbus, Ohio, is to be televised live on ESPN2 during its annual "Rivalry Week."
The cable network announced Tuesday that the opening Hexagonal qualifier between the border foes, which conflicts with a slate of college hoops action that same day, will be shown live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m ET, rather than on another channel, perhaps ESPN Classic.
Programming schedules list a Dayton-Xavier men's game for that time slot. The network has not announced if that game will be shown delayed and/or shifted to another channel, either ESPN Classic or ESPNU.
Television conflicts with basketball prompted discussions of the game being played in either the Pacific (Seattle) or Mountain (Salt Lake City) time zone so it could be shown live on ESPN2 later in the evening.
Showing a USA Hexagonal qualifier in prime time, even one as storied as against Mexico, will probably cost the network heavily in the ratings. Average ratings for college basketball games generally hover in the 1.0 range, as compared to 0.2 and 0.3 ratings for most USA matches. That same night, the main channel - ESPN - will televise one of the bitterest rivalries in men's college hoops, Duke-North Carolina. (That game tips off at 9 p.m. ET, giving at least one segment of fans - including SA editor-in-chief Paul Kennedy -- the best of both worlds.)
On hand to call the action for ESPN2 will be JP Dellacamera (play-by-play), former U.S. international John Harkes (analyst) and Pedro Gomez (sideline reporter). Bundle up, gentlemen. When the teams played in Columbus eight years ago, the temperature at kickoff was 28 degrees.
Should heavy snows and/or a frozen field force a postponement, there might be end-to-end college basketball anyway. The sports network takes a lot of criticism from soccer fans for its coverage of soccer; in this case, it is taking a calculated risk to give a prominent match some exposure.
And if Clint Dempsey plays, "Deuce" will get major play on "the deuce."
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