MLS inks new television deal with NBC Sports

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major League Soccer has agreed a three-year deal with NBC Sports Group starting next season and featuring live broadcast of 45 games.

The deal replaces the North American league's current arrangement with Fox Soccer Channel and calls for two regular season and two playoff games to be broadcast on the main NBC network.

NBC will also pick up the rights to four U.S. national team games as part of the deal.

There will be 38 regular season games shown on the NBC Sports Network, which will launch in January and is the re-branded Versus channel.

Versus is the main broadcaster of the National Hockey League and MLS have been keen to have a similar level of promotion on the channel.

"Our new partnership with the NBC Sports Group is a significant step forward for Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer," MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement.

Neither NBC or MLS would give details of the financial aspect of the deal.

"MLS is a perfect fit for our new group and we are uniquely positioned to help grow soccer in the United States with extensive coverage on NBC Sports Network, significant programing on the broadcast network and our growing digital platforms," said Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group.

MLS games are also broadcast on sports network ESPN and on Spanish language network Univision - both those deals expire with the new NBC package in 2014.

Clubs in the league, which currently comprises 18 teams from the United States and Canada, also have local market deals - five of them with NBC-owned regional sports networks.

(Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Martyn Herman)