One of my goals for this whole soccer project is to convince Americans to watch the lower leagues of English soccer — the ones below the Premier League.
And, as of the 2017-18 season, and kind of out of nowhere, it is suddenly a lot easier for us to at least watch it on TV. But it’s confusing as hell. I will try to sort it out for you.
More Than One League?
First, if you don’t know, there are 92 professional soccer teams in England, sorted into four leagues: The Premier League, the Championship, League One, and League Two. The last three are collectively known as the English Football League, or EFL. This post explains it all.
The Premier League in the US is on NBC and its various other networks and streaming services. It’s rather hard to miss.
To watch the EFL, which I highly recommend for various reasons, read on.
iFollow — Team-Specific Streaming Service
This year, for the first time, the EFL made available to each club an online service called iFollow. If the club opted in — and most did — its overseas fans can pay $140 for the whole season, and see every game (pretty much) on their laptop or mobile device (with the iFollow app). Replays are available starting at noon the day after. Commentary will be supplied by the club whose iFollow you’re watching — i.e., homers. I love homers.
To find out if your team is offering iFollow, just go to their website or to this list on the EFL website.
There are 11 clubs who opted out — including Aston Villa, Sunderland, and Fulham — but those clubs might have their own streaming service. (Check their websites)
How confusing is all this? If Fulham are playing Nottingham Forest, no matter where, Forest fans can watch on iFollow (probably — see below), but Fulham fans can’t.
There is an FAQ about iFollow on the Football League website. Best of luck.
Now, there are exceptions to this. Of course. None of these will be on iFollow at all:
- Games involving two teams who didn’t sign up. Check with their own streaming service, if they have one.
- The EFL Cup, traditionally known as the League Cup, now (sadly) known as the Carabao Cup for sponsorship reasons.
- The Checkatrade Trophy, which, really, nobody gives a crap about anyway.
- The EFL Playoffs, which are on regular television. Stay tuned.
- Any game picked up by the EFL’s international broadcast partners, which in the US is …
ESPN3 — Online Streaming for Many Games
Just before the season started, ESPN announced that it is showing EFL games, mainly through its online service, ESPN3 — and mainly from the Championship. If a game goes international for broadcast, then it’s not on iFollow. You follow?
ESPN will also be showing the
EFL League Carabao Cup — which the Premier League teams are in, of course.
This page, which will be updated, shows all the games you will be able to watch on ESPN. It seems to be all Championship games, unless there is an international break and the Championship is off, and then it’s League One.
My head hurts.
The Bottom Line
- If you follow a particular club and they have iFollow, this is a really cool thing. Most of their 46 games will be available in it, and the rest will be on ESPN3. Easy peasy. Slap down $140, and you don’t miss a game all year.
- If your club doesn’t have iFollow, you might be able to catch them on their own streaming service. Check their website.
- If, like me, you just want to watch some EFL action, ESPN is providing from two to four games per weekend, which is covered by my cable package. Easy peasy.
- If you want to know which games from the Championship are on where … here you go.
I still prefer to see these things in person, of course, but I’m lucky. Or deranged. Either way, seeing more lower-league English soccer games is a benefit I can’t wait to take advantage of. I encourage you to do the same!
You might also want to follow me on Facebook or Twitter or subscribe to my newsletter, which among things introduces you to a new club in each issue.