Last month, SoccerNation.com chatted with former United States defender and current bilingual television broadcaster Marcelo Balboa. Within the conversation, Balboa dropped an interesting piece of news, one that proceeded to hover around the soccer media landscape.
That piece of news has been solidified this week, as Univision Deportes publicly announced that they will be broadcasting Liga MX matches in English via Facebook, starting with this Saturday’s Clasico Nacional between Chivas and Club America.
This announcement represents a major shift in coverage of the most watched soccer league in America. In the past, networks that broadcast Liga MX matches have paid little to no mind to the English speaking audience. This changes drastically with what Univision is doing, especially by utilizing the ever growing popularity and accessibility of social media, specifically in this case Facebook.
Univision announced that 46 matches will be streamed in English via Facebook in 2017, the broadcasts only available to Facebook users in the United States. The success level of this project remains to be seen, but its potential is infinite, as it could force other networks to launch similar projects, as well as pushing Liga MX and the individual clubs to create English language content.
Currently, there are only two clubs in Liga MX with English language social media departments, the Xolos of Club Tijuana and Santos Laguna of Torreon. Bilingual and solely English speaking fans have pondered the idea of what a club like Chivas, America, Tigres, or Monterrey launching an English language media department could do for the entire movement towards increased English language coverage of Mexican soccer, maybe even seeing the league itself provide the impetus.
Perhaps an even loftier goal would be El Tri adopting English coverage, the Mexican National Team that routinely packs American football stadiums for friendlies and tournament games and possesses an American based following as abundant and passionate as any sporting entity in the country.
Before we get carried away with the potential, there is a big broadcast to get to this Saturday. The match between Chivas and America, the Guadalajara and Mexico City based giants of the Mexican game, has for years been one of the most watched soccer fixtures in the United States. Last year’s second leg playoff tie between the two sides, which was broadcast over the air on Univision, saw an audience of 2.7 million. For weeks one through eleven of the Barclays Premier League in the 2016/17 season, average viewership for a match on NBC Sports was 381,418
Obviously, every Liga MX game isn’t gonna be on par with a superclasico in terms of prestige and intrigue. But what better way for Univision Deportes to start this Facebook project than with the two most popular teams in Mexico?
On the call on Saturday will be two of Univision’s bilingual soccer specialists, Ramses Sandoval and Nico Cantor. The latter was nice enough to chat this morning with SoccerNation.com, and give his thoughts on what this broadcast means for the movement of not only Liga MX in English, but live soccer on new technological platforms. The son of one of the most recognizable names and voices in the world of soccer broadcasting, the great Andres Cantor, Nico Cantor is excited to get this project off the ground and help the continuous growth of the Mexican game in the United States.
Here is the full conversation.
Nate Abaurrea: Nico, thanks for joining us. Congratulations on the new gig. What does it mean to you to bring Liga MX to an English speaking audience?
Nico Cantor: Thanks for having me. We are breaking boundaries with Liga MX and tearing down barriers between the United States and Mexico when it comes to soccer.
Liga MX is the most watched league in the United States, so why shouldn’t we be able to enjoy it in English? This is a huge step for soccer broadcasting and soccer coverage. This project is a start in expanding the reach of untapped markets for Liga MX in the U.S.
Nate Abaurrea: What does it mean for the first of these Univision Deportes Facebook broadcasts to be a match of this magnitude, a Clasico Nacional between Chivas and America?
Nico Cantor: Of course, we are starting off with a bang! What other way is there to kickoff this new era than with the biggest game in Mexican soccer? It’s going to be exciting.
Nate Abaurrea: How do you feel about LIVE futbol coming to Facebook and social media? Do you think this is the beginning of a new age in terms of how people take in LIVE soccer?
Nico Cantor: Definitely. I feel this is where LIVE soccer is destined to progress toward. I’m a millennial, so I love this new and innovative idea of broadcasting. You don’t have to be at home on your couch to live the passion of Liga MX. Feel free to take el superclásico wherever you are!
Nate Abaurrea: What will it be like working with Ramses Sandoval on these broadcasts?
Nico Cantor: Ramses and I come from similar upbringings. We’re both second generation Hispanics that have learned to broadcast soccer from a Latin American perspective. We both try to bring the Hispanic flair to the English-language broadcast which is new, fun and insightful for an American audience. You do some of this too, Nate! I’m sure our styles don’t fall too far from the same tree.
As for the match itself, it seems as if most of the pressure will be on the visitors in Guadalajara. Club America currently sit in 12th place in the 18 team league, coming off an end to 2016 filled with ample heartbreak and penalty shootout misery from Japan to Nuevo Leon. Scoring goals is proving to be a difficult task for las Aguilas’ sputtering attack, their last league match being a 0-0 home draw at Estadio Azteca against Puebla, a team with one of the worst defensive records in all of Mexico. Manager Ricardo La Volpe is on the hot seat, and a loss in the clasico could very well see La Volpe get the sack.
After a modest start to the campaign, Chivas are feeling mighty fine after an emotional 2-1 win over Atlas last Saturday in the Clasico Tapatio, renewing a historic rivalry with their Jalisco neighbors by going back to their old home stadium and walking out with all three points.
This Saturday at the state of the art Estadio Omnilife in Guadalajara, it will be 4th place versus 12th place in the Liga MX table, with Chivas trending upwards, and America in desperate need of a tide turner.
Be sure to tune into Univision Deportes’ Facebook feed, which will begin at 7 PM PT, with kickoff scheduled for 7:06.