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Twenty-First Century Fox counting the cost of USA's World Cup elimination

The USA team appeared to have done the hard work last Friday with a convincing 4-0 win against Panama.
Aaron Johansson
Aaron Johansson turned his back on Iceland to play for the USA

While the USA team is undoubtedly distraught at failing to qualify for next year's football World Cup, so are Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (NASDAQ:FOXA) shareholders.

The world's favourite team sport is growing in popularity in the US, but it is doubtful that interest in next year's tournament Stateside will be that high without the US men's team's involvement, making Fox's investment in securing the English language rights for coverage a dubious one.

The network paid US$425mln for the broadcasting rights for the 2018 tournament in Russia and the 2022 tournament in Qatar – and there are doubts the latter will even go ahead.

It always helps viewing figures at a major tournament when the national team qualifies, but team USA blew its chance last night in a crunch match with Trinidad & Tobago, losing 1-2 to the team that was placed last in the six-nation qualifying group and which had nothing to play for except pride.

It did not help matters that a succession of other results went against the USA, including wins for Honduras and Panama.

It is the first time since 1986 that the USA has failed to qualify for the World Cup. Only elite footballing nations Brazil and Germany can match that.

In three of the last four tournaments the team has made it past the group stage in the World Cup tournament, which is no mean achievement, albeit not anywhere near the level of success achieved by the USA's women's team.

While the result was a disaster for Fox, spare a thought for Aaron Johansson, who played for Iceland at under-21 level but then switched his allegiance to the USA to have a better chance of playing in a World Cup.

Iceland, with a population of around 335,000 has qualified for the 2018 World Cup; the USA, population 325mln, has not.


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