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USL scores Lagardère international rights distribution deal

The Lagardère Sports agency is to distribute the international broadcast rights to the USL Championship and USL League One, the second- and third-tier US soccer leagues, respectively.

The agency and United Soccer League, the body that oversees the two divisions, have signed a three-year agreement running from 2020 to 2022.

United Soccer League today heralded the “historic first” for the two leagues that have traditionally relied on free streaming on YouTube for international exposure.

The domestic rights agreement follows on from the three-year domestic rights renewal with ESPN and long-term tie-up with Premier Partnerships, the sponsorship sales and consulting firm headed by experienced industry executive John Kristick. Both of those deals were announced in August.

Dennis Spencer, Lagardère Sports’ senior vice-president of media, said: “There is an insatiable appetite for soccer content around the world and we look forward to leveraging our experience in marketing both premier global soccer properties and top sports broadcast rights to help the USL reach more fans outside the US.”

Court Jeske, executive vice-president, USL, remarked: “We have world class cities competing in the USL and we look forward to delivering Championship and League One action to as many new fans, in as many new places as possible. This partnership with Lagardère Sports can help bring those soccer cities and brands to new fans around the world.”

The United Soccer League first offered its international YouTube streaming (outside of USA) in 2014. The service was added for the inaugural USL League One season in 2019.

The two leagues combined entail more than 750 regular-season matches.

Lagardère Sports was appointed three years ago to sell the international media rights to the 2017 and 2019 editions of the Concacaf Gold Cup, the international team tournament featuring sides from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

International rights to the top-tier Major League Soccer are sold by the rival IMG agency in an eight-year contract from 2015 to 2022.

The sports division of Lagardère is in the process of being taken over. At the end of last year, the agency announced plans to sell 75 per cent of Lagardère Sports to H.I.G. Capital, the Miami-based private equity and asset management firm. The offer would value Lagardère Sports at approximately €110m ($119.4m).

The sale, which is targeted to close before the end of the first quarter of 2020, would bring to an end Lagardère’s protracted search for a buyer for its sports division.

It has also been reported that the USL Players Association will extend to include players in USL League One.