ESPN Signs Multi-Year Deal With USA Softball To Televise World Cup of Softball
ESPN has signed a multi-year deal with USA Softball to televise games from the World Cup of Softball, an annual tournament featuring Team USA and the world’s top teams. This year, in World Cup of Softball XII, eight teams from seven countries participate in a four-day round-robin (July 5-8) with two teams which have earned the best-record advancing to the championship game on the final day of competition (July 9). World Cup of Softball XII will be at USA Softball Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, the home of the Women’s College World Series.
Team USA is ranked second in the World heading into the World Cup of Softball XII and ESPN/ESPN2 televises the USA National Team’s round-robin games against other top-ranked nations, beginning with No. 3 Canada on July 6 (7 p.m. E.T. on ESPN). Team USA will then play No. 1 Japan on July 7 (8:30 p.m.) and two games on July 8: No. 7 Puerto Rico (2 p.m.) and No. 4 Australia (8 p.m.). All three of those games will air on ESPN2. ESPN will televise the World Cup of Softball XII Championship game on July 9 (1 p.m E.T.).
The World Cup of Softball XII is the first major international event for the women’s national team since the announcement of the sport’s return to the Olympic Games, making next month’s event a de facto start of their campaign.
In addition to Team USA and its aforementioned opponents, Mexico, Philippines and USA Softball Junior Women’s National Team round out the eight team field. A complete schedule of the round-robin can be found here.
Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (1996, 2000) Michele Smith will be the analyst on all the telecasts. In addition to her two Olympic appearances, Smith spent 10 years on the U.S. National Softball Team, where she won three gold medals in the World Championships (1994, 1998, 2002) and two more in the Pan American games (1995, 1999). Tiffany Greene will call the play-by-play.
ESPN has a long history of covering softball at multiple levels, including the World Cup of Softball from 2009 to 2014. The Women’s College World Series – college softball’s season championship event – has been televised in its entirety for the last 17 years. This year’s WCWS Finals between Oklahoma and Florida averaged a total live audience of 1,720,000 viewers for the Sooners’ two-game sweep, the most-watched sweep in Finals history. The entire Women’s College World Series coverage averaged a total live audience of 984,000 viewers across the 14 games (June 1-6), up 21% from the 2015 event (15 games, including a three-game WCWS Finals).
Team USA has won eight of the 11 World Cup of Softball events, including two of the last three years. This year’s team features 16 players from the 2016 squad which advanced to the championship game of the World Cup of Softball XI and also won the WBSC Women’s World Championship in Canada. Numerous members of this year’s squad were marquee players in last month’s Women’s College World Series, including Ali Aguilar (Washington), Kelly Barnhill (Florida), Delanie Gourley (Florida), Paige Halstead (UCLA), Jenna Lilley (Oregon) and Delaney Spaulding (UCLA).