- Jason Davis

My apologies for a dead, dead, dead-dead-dead Friday, but I'm pretty spent today. This always happens, my burning the candle at both ends and then melting into the weekend with nary a bit of energy left. It makes for really lazy Fridays where the closest I come to posting is considering a topic, thinking about what I would write, then forgetting about it altogether and staring out of my office window for an hour or three.

There's news though, which I feel no obligation to pass on as news since you've seen it in 63 places by now, but which deserves comment and might reveal something about the space MLS currently occupies into world of sports television.

MLS has signed what is being called - and I don't think this is a small detail - a one year "extension" with Fox Soccer Channel. FSC will broadcast 31 games, including 15 Saturday night affairs. The Galaxy appear on the list seven times. Fox Soccer gets 20 of the 31 games exclusively. Essentially, everything goes back to the way things were before the FSC deal expired. All of the wondering if MLS would move on or move up was mental energy wasted.

Turns out they didn't move on or move up. If Versus was ever involved in talks with MLS, it probably didn't go very far. There wasn't one substantial rumor on such a conversation, no numbers leak, not even a statement of interest from a Comcast/Versus executive. Speculation about a MLS/Versus relationship was idle (unfortunately).

It was always FSC. This implies a few things, none of them good for MLS. Demand clearly wasn't high enough to drive a bidding war (stop laughing), and the league remaining in the forced marriage that is their relationship with a specialty, niche network like FSC - a channel that puts so little effort into their MLS broadcasts that the inherit value of additional TV exposure for the league is muted - shows it might be awhile before soccer is attractive enough to attract a network with broader programming, therefore creating an actual market. Based on the ratings alone, it's hard to imagine MLS has any leverage when they're sitting across the table from TV execs. Most of what the league can offer is promises and best case scenarios.

Even when the Sports Business Journal reported that MLS had set the price for a new FSC deal at $20 million (way, way more than the expiring deal), there was an air of inevitability to the league and Fox Soccer coming to some agreement. We dealt with a schedule delay due to the negotiations, leading to widespread pandemonium across the soccer nation - by that I mean some people on the Internet complained a lot.

And naturally, there's some schedule-related fallout now as the original version gets shuffled to accommodated FSC dates. Fans looking to travel to a few away matchs in their particular regions (i.e., the Independence Road* crowd) are straight up annoyed. They have a right to be. Unfortunately, the concerns of   fans willing to spend a few hours on I-95 isn't paramount to MLS. Money comes first. Frankly, it should.

Stop throwing things, please.

There's a rumor out there that MLS is getting $8 million for this one year deal with FSC, which, if true, is coup of fairly epic proportions. I'll reserve serious comment until that number is confirmed (it's possible it has been confirmed by now, but as I said, it's Friday and I'm lazy - UPDATE - hey, wouldja look at that, the new number, courtesy of @Ourand_SBJ is a reported $6.25 million. Take that "coup" thing down by nearly $2 million notch if that's accurate), but needless to say a one year payday in that range would represent a serious victory for the league even though it's less than half their asking price (which I never took for a drop dead number, the only kind that counts, anyway). The previous contract paid $3 million/year.

So there's some good here. Surely MLS would have liked a longer commitment, but they might have traded that for the $8 million $6.25 million payday. The silver lining is that the league has the flexibility to go out and find another partner next year should there be a unexpected jump in ratings. Maybe Versus actually does take an interest in 2012.

FSC makes sense as a home for MLS matches. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a good home.

Which is why we get quotes like this, which ooze with so much enthusiasm.

“FOX Soccer has been a tremendous partner for MLS for many years and we are very happy that we have been able to extend the relationship,” said MLS President Mark Abbott. “Through both its news coverage and its extensive schedule of MLS games, Fox Soccer allows MLS fans across the country to follow their club as well as their rivals.”

And this.

“We’re extremely pleased to be home to MLS – the gold standard for soccer in the US - for our ninth straight season,” said FOX Soccer Executive Vice President and General Manager David Nathanson. “FOX Soccer is committed to providing soccer fans in America the best coverage possible, and this extension helps us keep that commitment.”

Lovely stuff. Smacks of total resignation that they know they're stuck with each other, at least for now.

Here, have a schedule.

*This is one of the names that came out of a Twitter discussion about creating a better moniker for the "I-95 Corridor" rivalries. What do you think?
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