Calling it “a sexy rivalry in a sexy city,” ESPN executives are sparing no expense for the network’s English and Spanish-language coverage of El Clasico Miami, the highly-anticipated July 29 match between Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona at Hard Rock Stadium.
Plans include weeklong content, 25 on-air commentators, SportsCenter from Bayfront Park, a one-hour pregame special, and live bilingual match telecasts on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, making it ESPN’s most comprehensive coverage ever of a single soccer match.
They will also cover the July 26 International Champions Cup match between Champions League finalist Juventus and French power Paris Saint Germain at Hard Rock Stadium.
Why so much attention for what is essentially an exhibition match?
With a combined worth of $7.2 billion, Real Madrid and Barcelona are two of the top three most valuable sports franchises in the world, behind only the Dallas Cowboys, according to Forbes. They have played each other outside Spanish soil only once in history.
Between them, their two stars – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – have won the past nine FIFA Ballon d’Or Awards given to the world’s top player. The two players have a combined 180 million followers on Instagram.
More than 80 percent of the tickets for El Clasico Miami were sold months ago, many of them going for more than $1,000. Limited seats at various price ranges are still available through TicketMaster and www.ElClasicoMiami.com
“Miami is a sexy city, and as far as sports rivalries go, it doesn’t get much sexier than Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, so you put all that together, along with PSG-Juve, and it’s quite a week of soccer,” said Scott Gugliemino, ESPN’s Senior Vice President for Programming and Production. “It’s the perfect summer event, with the backdrop of Miami, so we expect a lot of interest from soccer fans and casual fans, as well.”
Guglemino said there has been a growing appetite for soccer content in recent years, partly because of the changing demographics in the United States, and also because modern technology has allowed soccer to be more accessible to fans all over the world, down to the player level, where the big stars have millions of social media followers.
Among the ESPN personalities scheduled to report from Miami are Hannah Storm, Max Bretos, and Antonietta “Toni” Collins, who grew up in Miami and played soccer at St. Brendan High before joining the Mexican women’s youth national team, playing college soccer at Mt. Union College in Ohio and embarking on a broadcasting career at Univision.
“I never imagined, when I was growing up in Westchester, playing at St. Brendan’s and rooting for Barcelona on T.V. with my family that one day I’d be back in my hometown, covering El Clasico,” said Collins, 33. “It’s a dream come true for me. When I first heard that Barca and Real Madrid were coming to Miami, I texted my mom and said, `I’m going to be there.’’’
Collins’ mother is Maria Antonieta Collins, the Mexican journalist and T.V. host.
“Miami is such a melting pot, and there is so much passion for soccer there, it was part of my DNA growing up,” Toni Collins said. “My dream was to work for ESPN, and now to think that this Hispanic girl from Miami is going to be hosting SportsCenter with Hannah Storm from my hometown, it’s just amazing. I will be beaming with pride, showing off Miami that week.”