The U.S. Soccer Federation today will announce its most significant television package.
The agreement with ABC, ESPN and Prime Sports calls for a minimum of 84 games to be shown over the next four years, including men's and women's national team games and youth games.
Included will be all the American games at the Second FIFA Women's World Championship in Sweden in June, as well as American qualifying games for the 1998 World Cup in France.
It wasn't really a hard sell, said Kevin Payne, president and chief executive officer of Soccer USA Partners, U.S. Soccer's marketing arm. He said 10 games will be carried by ABC, at least 28 by ESPN, and the rest by ESPN2 and Prime.
Also to be televised are games by both the men's and women's U.S. Olympic teams before the Summer Games in Atlanta next year, as well as all games in the annual U.S. Cup tournament.
"We also expect to have two or three away matches per year," Payne said. "We want to do that because we want the American audience to get an appreciation for what the away matches are like (in terms of atmosphere and intensity)."
The package represents the biggest commitment yet by non-Spanish-language television networks to soccer in the United States, or at least to the American national teams.
"I think it's an unprecedented show of ongoing support from ABC and ESPN," Payne said. "It certainly stacks up against any package that any other (sport's) national governing body might have, in terms of longevity and the number of games that they're committing to.
"A lot of years, I think that we will probably end up doing more than 21 matches (a year)."
The other half of today's USSF news conference in New York will be to announce details of the U.S. Cup '95 tournament in June.
The Times has learned that the four competing teams will be the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Nigeria and that the tournament will be played June 11-25 in Boston, Washington, New York and Dallas.
Although Southern California is not included in the U.S. Cup '95 tournament, local fans have a larger and even more prestigious tournament to look forward to.
The third CONCACAF Gold Cup, the continental championship for North and Central American and Caribbean nations, will be played next January in Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego.
The 1996 Gold Cup will be expanded to 12 teams and will include three from South America.
Chuck Blazer, CONCACAF general secretary, said Monday that the decision to return to Southern California was based on the good experience of the 1991 tournament in Los Angeles.
Then, the Gold Cup was played at the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl, with the United States becoming the surprise winner by defeating Honduras on penalty kicks in the final after earlier upsetting Mexico.
The second edition of the Gold Cup was played in Dallas and Mexico City in 1993, when Mexico easily beat the United States in the final at Azteca Stadium. Both nations went on to play in the Copa America in Ecuador that year, as they will in Uruguay later this year.
The 1996 Gold Cup will be played at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Anaheim Stadium and the Coliseum in Los Angeles Jan. 10-27.
The 12 teams, to be divided into groups of four, will include three from North America, two from the Caribbean, four from Central America and three from South America. It is unlikely that either world champion Brazil or Argentina will play but Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay and Peru are possibilities.
Two of international soccer's more controversial figures, Argentina's Diego Maradona and Brazil's Romario, have said they want to play in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. . . . The U.S. women's national team under Coach Tony DiCicco will play in the Algarve Cup, beginning today in Portugal. The Americans, who finished second to Norway in last year's tournament, are grouped with Finland, Portugal and Denmark in the first round. Eight of the players on the U.S. roster played on the world championship-winning team in China in 1991.
U.S. national team Coach Bora Milutinovic, contrary to reports elsewhere, has not signed a new contract but is in Argentina, checking on the progress of the U.S. Pan American Games team, coached by his former World Cup assistant, Timo Liekoski. The United States, beaten, 3-0, by Argentina in its first game Sunday, lost key midfielder Brian Maisonneuve, a recent Major League Soccer signee who tore ligaments and cartilage in his right knee during a scrimmage Friday. He is expected to be sidelined for six to nine months. The U.S. team plays Paraguay tonight and Honduras on Thursday night, both in Mar del Plata.