By Paul Kennedy
ESPN is pulling out all the stops for its coverage of the USA's World Cup qualifiers Friday against Costa Rica (ESPN, WatchESPN, 10 p.m. ET) and Tuesday at Mexico (ESPN, WatchESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET).
The Mexico-USA telecast will feature a one-hour pre-game show originating live from Mexico City, marking the first time ESPN is airing a one-hour pre-game preceding a World Cup qualifying match.
ESPN will use 10 on-air commentators during the six-day window it will preview and cover the matches.
USA vs. Costa Rica:
Commentators: Ian Darke, Taylor Twellman.
Sideline reporter Monica Gonzalez;
Studio team: Host Bob Ley, analysts Kasey Keller, Alexi Lalas.
Mexico vs. USA:
Commentators: Darke, Twellman, Alejandro Moreno;
Sideline reporters: Gonzalez (USA) and John Sutcliffe (Mexico);
Studio: Ley, Keller, Lalas and ESPN Deportes’ Jorge Ramos.
Among the features to air will be Jeremy Schaap's report on Mexican-Americans who choose to play for either country and an essay on the depth and intensity of the Mexico-USA soccer rivalry featuring former Mexico star Jared Borgetti and Lalas (USA).
-- Web site ESPN FC will feature video reports and chats in addition to previews and match reports.
UNEQUAL COVERAGE. The French web site sportbusiness360.com reports that FIFA's Club Protection Program, an insurance scheme introduced in 2012 to compensate clubs when their players suffer long-term injuries while away on international duty, only covers men's national team players, not women's national team players.
In response to a request from leading European women's clubs asking for equal coverage, FIFA promised to "analyze the situation with the appropriate parties" before a "possible extension" of the coverage to women.
"We think that female international players should equally be covered under this insurance plan," said Jerome Valcke, FIFA's general secretary. "Men or women, players have the same importance."
FIFA recently paid out approximately $2 million to Real Madrid after Brazilian star Marcelo was injured on national team duty.
BEHIND THE SCENES. MLS Insider spent the day with the NBC announcing crew during its marathon coverage of Saturday's Rivalry Day: New York-D.C. United live from Red Bull Arena and then the "MLS Breakaway" show from the NBC studios in Stamford, Conn.
7UP GOLD CUP DEAL. Concacaf has named 7UP the official soft drink of the 2013 Gold Cup. 7UP will work with Traffic Sports, Concacaf's commercial agency, to develop marketing programs around the tournament, which will take place July 7-16 in nine U.S. cities.
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