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Soccer: Fox retains Champions League rights in U.S.

SHARE Soccer: Fox retains Champions League rights in U.S.

NEW YORK — Fox renewed its U.S. and Caribbean broadcast rights to the European Champions League for three years through the 2014-15 season and is considering whether to bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Fox took over Champions League telecasts in 2009-10 from ESPN, which had broadcast soccer's most popular club event since the 1994-95 season. The renewal was announced Tuesday by the Union of European Football Associations.

In May, Fox switched the Champions League final to its main network for the event's first U.S. network telecast, which reaches 115 million homes. Under the new agreement, two of the four semifinals will be shown on the FX network, which is available in 98 million households, up from 38 million that receive Fox Soccer Channel.

"Hopefully this leads to continuous growth in our distribution," FSC general manager David Nathanson said.

Nathanson said the semifinal switch to FX likely would be made for the current season and this year's final again will be televised on the Fox network.

Fox may bid for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar. ESPN has televised the World Cup since 1994 and shares U.S. rights to the 2014 tournament in Brazil with Univision, which holds the Spanish-language TV contract. Nathanson said his understanding is FIFA will conduct an open bidding platform.

"There's no question in our mind that the World Cup in obviously one of the greatest sporting events in the world, and regardless of the destination, it's something we're going to look at very seriously," he said.

Fox Sports Media Group has rights to 146 Champions League matches per season, starting with the playoff round in August. The agreement also includes rights for Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Deportes, Fox Sports Net and foxsoccer.tv.

FSN, which reaches about 85 million home,s will broadcast 28 games on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, up from its current Tuesday-only coverage.

"Ever since the first deal for the current 2009-2012 rights cycle, Fox Sports have impressed us with their commitment to prioritize the UEFA Champions League in their scheduling," UEFA media rights head Guy Laurent Epstein said in a statement. "Showing the final on Fox's over-the-air affiliates marks a huge turning point in the American psyche toward football."