(Tuesday, August 11, 2009) -- Fans who want to watch Wednesday's important CONCACAF World Cup qualifier between the United States men and Mexico at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City with the televised commentary in English will no find it in the usual places.
Where they will find it is on mun2, which is part of the Telemundo network. Telemundo itself will air the 4 p.m. (ET) game in the Spanish language with an English version available to those to have an SAP button on their television set.
Mun2 (pronounced moon-dos), is carried nationally via satellite by DirecTV as a pay channel, but the U.S.-Mexico game will be offered free. The match will also be available on some regional cable networks, such as Verizon Fios, in most or all cases free of charge.
Historically, when the U.S. has traveled to Mexico for World Cup qualifying, the matches have taken place in Mexico City's mammoth Azteca Stadium at high noon on a Sunday; as was the case four years ago when, much to the consternation of Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, the Catholic prelate of Mexico City, it was on Easter Sunday. In these matches, usually televised in the U.S. on ESPN or another major American outlet, the heat, smog and altitude, to say nothing of the 100,000-plus fans screaming for a Mexican victory, have all conspired to do in the U.S.
The Americans have never won on Mexican soil (0-22-1) and are 0-8-1 at Azteca where few visiting teams have ever won.
On Wednesday, things will be significantly different with the midweek match. To avoid totally disrupting the financial health of the city on a workday -- but to still factor in the heat and poor air quality -- the Mexicans have scheduled the match for 4 p.m. to allow the capital to get in a half day of commerce.
For U.S. soccer fans at home, it will take a bit of ingenuity to watch the game.
Television rights to Mexican national team matches on home soil are owned by Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación (FMF). The Federation sold the Spanish and English language broadcast rights in the U.S. to Telemundo, as it has in the past.
Telemundo, in turn, will broadcast the match in the U.S. on Telemundo in Spanish (with alternate audio in English) and on the little-known mun2, a mostly English-language channel which Telemundo describes as a "lifestyle cable network for bicultural Latinos 18-34."
Telemundo says it is available to 31 million U.S. households and currently its main programming is music videos.
ESPN approached Telemundo to buy the English language broadcast rights in the U.S., but insiders said the price was so high it was clear Telemundo had no intention of selling. Telemundo, instead, wanted to use the match as leverage to get more cable outlets to carry mun2 or subscribers of cable outlets to add mun2 to their packages.
Telemundo is part of NBC Universal, a division of General Electric, which paid $2.7 billion for the operation in 2002. Thus, NBC made the ultimate decision where the game would be seen.
The U.S. Soccer Federation wants it known it had no say in the matter and is dismayed. "With every game, our main objective is to provide the television broadcast to the widest audience possible in both English and Spanish," USSF spokesperson Neil Buethe said. "For the match against Mexico, neither us nor our broadcast partners (ESPN\ABC, Fox Soccer Channel, Univision) own the rights to televise the match. However, it will be on the air through other networks."
Jorge Hidalgo, a Telemundo executive and a nearly 30-year veteran of soccer production told The Washington Post: "The expertise of our soccer production team will make this a must-see event in any language for soccer fans across the country."
The mun2 coverage, to be called "Showdown at the Azteca" will be preceded by an English language pre-game show and all game announcers and graphics will be in English