With the Women’s World Cup starting this Saturday in Canada, the shadow of several issues in the soccer world loom overhead. Not only is media coverage being saturated with the FIFA corruption scandal, it’s also failing to provide some sports entertainment products that many fans enjoy.
The Women’s World Cup is a hugely popular event, with the 2011 tournament breaking world records for television viewers. The final match drew more than 13 million viewers — more than twice the number of viewers of the U.S. men’s national team versus Algeria game, which previously held the record for most-watched soccer match on cable.
FOX will televise all 52 games, and ESPN will cover all of the matches with news and analysis. There’s high demand for continuous coverage of the Women’s World Cup. Television viewership is expected to be even higher this year and the tournament is poised to break attendance records, as well.
But fans are missing out on some tournament traditions. Sports websites like ESPN, CBS Sports, and Fox Sports, that regularly create bracket pools for major sporting tournaments like the Super Bowl and the men’s World Cup, do not have bracket pools for the Women’s World Cup on their websites this year. Some fans think this makes it difficult to follow and support — one in particular, Kate Goldwater, took to Twitter to get the attention of the sports companies.
— Kate Goldwater (@kategoldwater) June 4, 2015
“[Brackets] would just encourage people to pay attention to the game and drum up more support,” Goldwater told ThinkProgress. “It would be so easy — they’ve done it for the men’s World Cup, they already have the infrastructure.”
ESPN public relations representative Tara Chozet told ThinkProgress that the company is focusing its resources on what it believes fans want most, which she says is news and insightful analysis. “It comes down to resources,” Chozet said. “We don’t have television rights, so we have to work with a smaller team than we would normally work with, and we have to concentrate that workforce on news and information.”
FOX Sports has television rights to broadcast the tournament, but does not have a bracket pool online. One popular sports blog noted that FOX — not ESPN — would be providing most of the broadcast coverage, calling the less popular FOX Sports the Pepsi to ESPN’s Coke.
A representative from FOX Sports said its focus would be live streams and on-the-ground video coverage. CBS Sports and Yahoo Sports did not immediately respond to request for comment.
“The Women’s Cup in 2011 took the country by storm,” Goldwater said. “Everybody was everywhere in magazines and papers, and everyone was talking about it all the time. I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to start off the momentum early with a bracket.”
She continued, “We have a really good team, and we have a shot. The U.S. men’s team has never won, but there are brackets for them all over the place.”