USA: “Can We Watch USA-Mexico?” NBC: “Que?”

With the USMNT’s highly improbable run in last month’s Confederations Cup in South Africa, interest has ramped up in America for the 2010 World Cup. Now all of a sudden, people know of more players on the team than just Landon Donovan - even if it’s just to yell “WHERE THE HELL WAS DEMPSEY?” at the television in order to give the (false) impression that you have a clue what’s going on.

Clint Dempsey Landon Donovan
(Success for the national team? Who the hell would want to watch that?)

So with a critical World Cup qualifier with rivals Mexico coming up next month, it stands to reason that rights-holders NBC would want to put the game on as many television sets in the US as possible. But, um, about that… hope you like Telemundo!

The NBC-owned Telemundo, famous for the iconic “GOOOOOOOOAAAAL!!!” call and that Sabado Gigante program where the ladies wear barely anything atop their obviously fake breasts, owns the broadcast rights to all of the Mexican national team’s matches, be they in Mexico or abroad.

Normally, this poses no problem to American soccer fans, since the vast majority of Americans who care enough about Mexico soccer to watch it live A) already have Telemundo and B) probably speak Spanish as a first language anyway. When it’s Mexico-USA, however, we have a bit of an issue. So the August soccer match will be televised on that channel, it’ll just be called by those guys who sound like the Micro Machines guy’s Mexican cousins.

So no English-speaking broadcast of what should be an exciting, consequential soccer match? Well, yes and no. It will be televised in English, but odds are pretty good that you don’t get the channel. The WASHINGTON POST’s SOCCER INSIDER blog explains:

Telemundo senior vice president for sports Jorge Hidalgo told the Insider today that his company will keep the English rights and show the match on mun2, an eight-year-old cable outlet geared toward a younger Latino audience that regularly shows programming with audio in English. The identity of the announcers, who will call the game in English, will be unveiled soon, Hidalgo said.

What’s that? You’ve never even heard of “mun2″? There’s a reason:

NBC owns both Telemundo (available in most markets) and mun2 (30 million U.S. households).

30 million’s not the worst in the world, but still, the odds are pretty sour that the match is going to be on the average television set. Now, we’re talking about a Wednesday, so there’s no way NBC is going to preempt its crappy programs - oh, like you care about America’s Got Talent, come on - but it’s also not like they don’t own a wealth of other cable channels with far superior reach than 30 million households.

We’re not suggesting the network be a slave to sport for the sake of sport, of course, but they can probably drastically improve on weeknight cable ratings by airing US soccer instead of whatever the hell they usually put on CNBC. Hell, the match time hasn’t even been set yet; any notion that NBC/Universal can’t adjust programming on any of their slew of widely-carried channels for a popular two-hour event is a farce at best.