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ESPN, ABC ink soccer deal

Name a sports league that has no schedule of games, no teams, no players and no stadiums — but does have a cable and network television contract. Try Major League Soccer.

Execs from ESPN, ABC and MLS gathered in New York Tuesday to announce a multiyear, joint-venture broadcast agreement that will see ESPN and ESPN2 broadcasting the league’s regular games, and ABC televising its championship battle.

According to ESPN, it will air 10 Major League Soccer games in 1995, most likely on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons. ESPN2, which was launched late last year, will also present 25 MLS games. Both cable nets are owned by ABC, which also announced its part in the scheme.

ESPN and ESPN2 said they will not interrupt the games with advertising, and will employ “non-traditional advertising techniques,” similar to the format used by ESPN and ABC Sports in their 1994 World Cup telecasts.

The league plans to be up and running in April 1995, with franchises in 12 “major U.S. media markets.”

But that’s where most of the specifics stop.

For now, the league has not announced any franchise cities.

At the deal’s unveiling at New York’s 21 Club, ESPN, ABC, and MLS refused to offer any contract specifics about revenue sharing, number of years, ad costs, or rights payments. They did place current start-up costs at $ 1 million.

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