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Pierce: RSL-D.C. will be almost impossible to see on TV

Published September 24, 2013 3:46 pm

U.S. Open Cup • GolTV has the rights, but channel has very little distribution.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Real Salt Lake has a chance to do something Oct. 1 it never before has done in Utah — win a major trophy in front of the hometown fans.

But unless you have tickets to the U.S. Open Cup final against D.C. United, you're probably not going to see it happen because your TV options are extremely limited. And if you don't speak Spanish, they're more limited still.

This is, in no small part, because of Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and the rest of La Liga.

Really.

About 14 months ago, the U.S. Soccer Federation, which controls the U.S. Open Cup, signed a three-year deal with GolTV for the rights to the tournament final. And then GolTV proceeded to pretty much collapse.

Since then, GolTV has been dropped by Comcast. It's been dropped by Dish Network. It's been dropped by DirecTV — with the exception of a standard definition, Spanish-language channel that's included in some of the satellite TV provider's Spanish-language programming packages. And that is the only way you'll see the RSL-D.C. United match in most of TV in Utah.

GolTV may be available on some smaller cable systems, but none that RSL is aware of.

"U.S. Soccer owns this tournament," said Trey Fitz-Gerald, RSL's vice president of media and communications. "It's theirs to sell, and that's what they did."

RSL has no options. The game is in their stadium, but they do not own the TV rights.

And while the Open Cup final features two MLS teams, the league has no rights, either.

The timing of USSF's deal with GolTV could not have been worse. Within a matter of months, GolTV lost much of its programming to beIN Sport, a sister channel to Al Jazeera. That included La Liga, the top-level Spanish league. And without La Liga, GolTV was dropped by Comcast, DirecTV, Dish and a lot of other cable providers across the country in favor of beIN.

With 20-20 hindsight, U.S. Soccer should have included a clause in its contract that the deal was off if GolTV's distribution fell below some reasonable number of homes. But that didn't happen, and GolTV has no incentive to allow local broadcasts.

This is frustrating to U.S. Soccer. This is frustrating to fans. This is beyond frustrating to Real Salt Lake.

"With us having so few national TV games, we've looked at this whole tournament as a way of showcasing our fans, our team, our stadium, our quality of play — all that," Fitz-Gerald said. "And it's disappointing that more people aren't going to be able to see this."

RSL is exploring the possibility of airing the game on tape-delay either late Tuesday night or sometime Wednesday on Channel 30, but that's a long shot. Indications are that GolTV will deny that request.

Although RSL lost 1-0 to D.C. United on March 9, the home team clearly will be favored in the Open Cup final. Real Salt Lake (14-10-6, 48 points) is in second place in the MLS Western Conference; D.C. (3-20-6, 15 points) is in last place in the Eastern Conference and has the worst record and fewest points in the league.

"We've got an opportunity to win a trophy at home and clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League," Fitz-Gerald said. "They're [GolTV] not going to allow any online streaming or really any way for people to see this on TV. You have to get in the stadium to see this game."

There are still tickets available as of midweek.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce. —