ESPN is the umbrella name for a group of sports-centric channels available online, as well as via satellite and cable television providers.
The sports network’s streaming service is called ESPN+ and is available via your computer’s browser or an app for your favorite device. Subscriptions go for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year. The service is also available as part of a Disney+ bundle, which includes Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month.
Due to the sports network’s policies and agreement with the various leagues and organizations governing the sports they broadcast (which includes baseball, American football, basketball, soccer, and much more), ESPN+ is unavailable outside of the United States.
This makes it tough for U.S. sports fans traveling internationally, or for American ex-pats residing outside of the U.S., to keep up with their favorite sports and teams.
While not the focus of this article, it should be mentioned that ESPN+ also restricts broadcasts of certain sports due to regional blackout rules. (More about that later.)
Luckily, there is a way for international travelers and U.S. ex-pats to get around ESPN’s international blackout: by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is an excellent tool for accessing streaming content that’s normally blocked in your area.
A VPN temporarily assigns your connected device a new IP address. An IP address is used to identify your device on a network (the internet), as well as to identify which device made a request and where a response should be sent to, much like your home’s address identifies you to your postal service.
An IP address can also be used to identify a device’s geographical location. This is how streaming services and other online services detect your location and decide whether or not to allow access to their content.
A VPN can assign your device a new IP address, making it appear as if you’re on the other side of the country or on the other side of the world.
In this article, I’ll tell you about 6 VPN providers that offer reliable unblocking for ESPN, as well as reliable protection for the rest of your online activities.
How to Watch ESPN by Using a VPN
Using a VPN to view ESPN from outside the U.S., or to view regionally-blocked games, requires just a few easy steps:
- Subscribe to an ESPN-capable VPN provider. (I recommend NordVPN.)
- Install the VPN provider’s app(s) on your device(s).
- Log into the VPN service.
- Select a server located in the U.S.
- Start the ESPN app, or visit the ESPN website, and enjoy the game!
What Is the Best VPN for Watching ESPN?
Extensive rounds of testing revealed that the 6 VPNs listed below are the best way for international travelers and American ex-pats to access ESPN from anywhere around the globe.
If the game is starting and you don’t have much time, here’s the pre-game summary:
- NordVPN: The #1 VPN for getting the most out of your ESPN+ subscription, NordVPN offers fast connections, excellent content unblocking, and top-notch online security. All for a reasonable price.
- Surfshark: This budget provider offers a fast-growing global server network, fast connections, and a bargain-basement price.
- ExpressVPN: This provider’s reliable server network delivers fast download speeds, making it an optimal choice for jumping into the action with no long timeouts for buffering.
- CyberGhost: This provider is the perfect choice for sports fans who want reliable access to ESPN+ without having to deal with technical mumbo-jumbo. Offers streaming servers specially designed to work with ESPN+.
- PrivateVPN: While this provider’s global server network could stand some expansion, their U.S.-based servers offer reliable access to ESPN+ and other U.S. streaming services.
- VyprVPN: This provider offers reliable access to many U.S.-based streaming services, ESPN included. Offers an extra layer of privacy thanks to its self-owned and -operated global server network.
You’ll find that all VPN providers have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. While some providers may boast fast connections, others offer increased privacy. Still, others may offer a somewhat limited server network but excel in connection speeds.
When ranking the best VPNs for American sports fans to use to watch ESPN+ when outside the U.S., I considered the following factors:
- Reliable access to ESPN+ and other U.S. streaming services
- Top-notch global server coverage, with servers in the U.S.
- Fast download speeds
- Excellent privacy and security protections
- Native app support for at least the top 4 device platforms
Here is my list of the top 6 best VPNs for watching ESPN+:
NordVPN should prove to be an attractive VPN option for sports fans. The reasonably-priced provider offers reliable access to ESPN+ and other streaming services.
In addition to unblocking ESPN+, the provider is known for offering reliable access to Netflix streams in the U.S., Canada, Japan, the U.K., the Netherlands, France, and Italy. They even offer a helpful Netflix information page on their website.
NordVPN has nearly 5,500 servers located in 59+ countries around the globe. Over 1,970 of those servers are located throughout the United States.
While NordVPN’s speeds are the slowest on this list, they can easily handle the HD streams that ESPN+ and other streaming services offer. The provider never imposes daily or monthly data caps.
A kill switch option, the blocking of ads and malware, DNS leak protection, and IPv6 leak prevention all join with military-grade encryption to protect your connection. Plus, the provider offers “Double VPN” protection (which routes your connection through two servers) and obfuscated connection options.
A no-logs policy and acceptance of cryptocurrency round out the provider’s security and privacy protections.
The provider’s multi-platform support includes apps for the Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Amazon Fire, Linux, and Android TV platforms. Chrome and Firefox extensions are also available.
All of your devices can be protected thanks to the provider’s compatibility with numerous router makes and models. Up to 6 devices can connect simultaneously using the same set of login credentials.
- Over 1,970 U.S. VPN servers
- HD-capable connections
- Excellent privacy and online security
- Reasonable pricing
- Excellent access to streaming sites
- The app interface could be friendlier
BEST VPN FOR ESPN+:NordVPN is the best VPN option for ESPN+ viewers looking to get the most out of their subscription. The service provides reliable, well-protected connections to streaming services for a reasonable price. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of NordVPN.
Surfshark makes the list this time around thanks to its reliable unblocking of ESPN+ and other geo-blocked streaming services, fast-growing server network, and its bargain-basement pricing.
Surfshark’s global server coverage (3,200+ servers stationed in 64+ countries) has shown healthy growth recently, doubling its numbers since last year. The provider unblocks ESPN+, as well as other streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and more.
Surfshark’s connection speeds match up well with its competitors. The provider easily handles both HD and 4K content.
Military-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and ad and malware blocking options protect your online activities. Your privacy is also well-protected, thanks to a strict no-logs policy and a Bitcoin subscription payment option.
Native app support includes apps for the iOS, Android, Android TV, Linux, macOS, Windows, and Amazon Fire platforms. Firefox and Chrome browser extensions are also available. Router support is also available. The provider allows a generous unlimited number of simultaneous connections.
Customer support is covered by a searchable support library, a contact form, and live support chat.
- Reliable connections to NBC and other services
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Comprehensive privacy and security protections
- Fast-growing global network
- Fast download speeds
- No 24/7 support agent chat
PERFECT FOR BUDGET-MINDED VIEWERS:Surfshark delivers top-notch access to ESPN+ and other streaming services. Unlimited connections offer VPN protection for large groups. The provider’s low-priced multi-year subscriptions are a major plus. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of Surfshark.
ExpressVPN is a reliable way for American residents currently outside of U.S. borders to catch allof their favorite of the on-field action. The provider’s fast connections offer reliable access to ESPN+.
The provider not only offers reliable access to ESPN+, but also to other streaming services based in the United States – and internationally. This includes Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, and many others.
ExpressVPN’s global server network includes 3,000+ servers in 94 countries, with hundreds of those located in 16 U.S. cities.
Download speeds from this provider were the fastest of any VPN service tested in our most recent speed tests. HD and 4K streams are no problem for ExpressVPN, and you’ll never face the delay-of-game penalty called a data cap.
Military-grade encryption, a kill switch option, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection cover your online activities. Meanwhile, the provider’s strict no-logs policy and Bitcoin subscription payment option protect your offline privacy.
Native app support includes apps for the iOS, macOS, Windows, Android, Chromebook, Amazon Fire TV, Kindle Fire and Linux platforms. Browser extensions for the Firefox and Chrome platforms are also available.
Up to 5 simultaneous connections are allowed using the same set of login credentials. Users can also protect all of their connected devices by taking advantage of the provider’s excellent router features.
ExpressVPN’s MediaStreamer DNS service opens access to ESPN+ and other streaming services for set-top streaming boxes, game consoles and Smart TVs. It should be noted that MediaStreamer connections are not encrypted.
- Unblocks ESPN+ and other streaming services
- Wide-ranging global server coverage
- HD- & 4K-capable connections
- Excellent app support
- More expensive than many competitors
- Doesn’t label streaming servers
VERSATILE VPN PROVIDER:ExpressVPN is an excellent everyday service that does a good job of unblocking ESPN+ and other streaming services. The provider’s fast connections are well protected, and their apps are available on all popular device platforms. While the provider is fairly expensive, a 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of ExpressVPN.
CyberGhost should catch the eye of ESPN fans who don’t have much experience using a VPN. The easy-to-use provider offers excellent access to many streaming services, without a bunch of complicated settings to wade through.
CyberGhost has over 6,200 servers located in nearly 90 countries. Many of those servers are streaming-optimized, offering access to ESPN+, Netflix, Hulu, and numerous other streaming services around the world.
CyberGhost’s streaming-optimized servers deliver extremely streaming-friendly connection speeds, easily handing the HD and 4K streams.
In addition to the usual bank-grade encryption, kill switch, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak protection, CyberGhost offers the ability to block ads and malicious websites, as well as block online tracking. The provider can also force websites to serve up secure versions of their pages.
Your privacy is well-protected thanks to the provider’s “no server logs” policy and Bitcoin subscription payment option.
Easy-to-use apps are available for the Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire, iOS, macOS, Linux and Windows platforms. Firefox and Chrome browser extensions also make the starting lineup.
In addition, the provider is compatible with numerous router makes and models. Up to 7 devices can connect to the service at once.
- Streaming-optimized servers in numerous international locations
- HD- and 4K-optimized connection speeds
- Easy-to-use apps for most platforms
- Comprehensive privacy and security protections
- Apps missing advanced options that some users prefer
- Some servers are a bit slow
EASY-TO-USE AND STREAMING-OPTIMIZED:CyberGhost is the best VPN option for novice VPN users. Easy-to-use apps provide access to streaming-optimized connections for numerous streaming services, including ESPN+. A 45-day, no-risk money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of CyberGhost.
PrivateVPN, while working with a rather limited global server network, offers excellent access to ESPN+ and other streaming services in many locations around the globe.
While 150+ servers spread among 60 countries around the world is by no means “comprehensive” global server coverage, the provider’s server network does do a comprehensive job of unblocking streaming services in its covered locations.
The provider delivers plenty of horsepower in the connection speed department, offering optimal access to HD and 4K streams. PrivateVPN imposes no bandwidth limitations or data caps.
The provider protects your internet activities with kill switch, DNS leak and IPv6 leak protections, as well as auto-reconnect and “Stealth VPN” protections. (Stealth VPN makes your VPN activity appear to be normal internet traffic.)
A strict no-logs policy and a cryptocurrency payment option offer excellent privacy protection.
App support is limited to the Android, iOS, macOS and Windows platforms. No browser extensions are available. You can protect the rest of your connected devices by accessing the provider’s router features. You can also connect up to 6 devices to the service simultaneously using a single login.
- Reliable ESPN+ access
- Stealth VPN helps hide your VPN activity
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- Server numbers need improvement
- Multi-platform support limited to “big 4” device platforms
SUPER SECURE PROVIDER:PrivateVPN unblocks ESPN+ as well as many other streaming providers and offers a “Stealth VPN” option that helps disguise your VPN activity as normal browser traffic. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of PrivateVPN.
VyprVPN makes it onto this list of 5, not only because of its fast connections and access to ESPN+, but also because of its self-owned and -operated global server network.
The provider’s global server count comes out to 700+ servers laid out among 70 countries around the globe. Those servers deliver reliable access to multiple streaming services, ESPN+ included.
The provider’s connection speeds are easily up to handling the HD and 4K streams that modern streaming services deliver. No data caps or bandwidth limitations get in the way of your fun.
The provider protects your online antics by applying a layer of government-grade encryption, kill switch protection, and DNS leak and IPv6 leak prevention. The provider also blocks malicious sites and offers split-tunneling for more flexibility in protecting certain apps.
As I mentioned before, VyprVPN owns and operates its entire global server network, which means no third-party contractors ever have access to your personal data. The provider’s servers never save any logs, but unfortunately, there’s no Bitcoin payment option.
App support is available for iOS, Android, Android TV, macOS, and Windows devices. No browser extensions are as yet available.
Unless you’re willing to pay more, you are limited to 3 devices connecting to the service at once. However, you can use VyprVPN’s router capabilities to protect all of your internet-capable devices.
- Provides reliable access to ESPN+
- Fast connections
- Optimal online protection
- Owns and operates its VPN servers
- Slightly pricey
- Limit of 3 simultaneous connections
PROPRIETARY SERVER NETWORK:VyprVPN delivers reliable access to ESPN+ and other popular streaming services. The provider’s self-owned and -operated server network adds an additional layer of privacy that most other VPN providers can’t match. A 30-day money-back guarantee is available.
Read my full review of VyprVPN.
Can I Use a Free VPN to Watch ESPN?
Wagering on sporting events isn’t allowed in most states, and I wouldn’t bet on accessing ESPN+ with a free VPN, either.
ESPN+ and other streaming services have become skilled at detecting when a viewer is using a VPN to access their service from outside the designated viewing area. When they detect a VPN IP address, they block it. That means the VPN provider needs to quickly set up a new VPN server with a new range of addresses.
This constant game of virtual “Whack-a-Mole” can be expensive, and I guarantee that a free VPN provider doesn’t have the resources to keep up.
You’ll also find that using a “free” VPN can cost you in terms of convenience, privacy, and security.
When you use a freebie VPN, you may be forced to wait in a queue with other users until one of the limited connections on one of their servers becomes available.
Once you’re given the green light to connect, you may be automatically connected to a server of the provider’s choosing, or you’ll likely find a limited number of server options.
When it comes to security and privacy, many “free” VPNs keep their servers humming by tracking their users’ online activities and selling the info to advertisers and other interested parties.
Some free VPNs have been found to insert unwanted advertisements and tracking cookies into their users’ browser sessions.
It’s up to you, but to me, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to put your privacy and security at risk just to save a few bucks. Pay for the VPN subscription.
What Sports Are Available on ESPN+?
The following sports are available on ESPN+:
- Major League Baseball
- Pro and College Basketball
- Pro Soccer
- American Pro and College Football
- Professional Boxing
- Much, much more
What Else Is a VPN Good for?
Besides having the ability to open blocked streaming content from other countries, a VPN also opens access to other online sites and services, including gaming and even financial sites that might normally be blocked. But it doesn’t stop there.
A VPN also encrypts your internet connection, preventing your Internet Service Provider from tracking your online activities and throttling or blocking your connection simply because you’re engaging in “unapproved” activities like peer-to-peer file sharing.
That same connection encryption offers unbeatable protection when you’re using your device with a public Wi-Fi hotspot, especially if you’re shopping, banking or conducting other online activities.
Hackers love to monitor other users’ online activities on unprotected hotspots, as it allows them to steal credit card and other valuable info. They can’t do that when you’re using a VPN.
It’s a Wide World of Sports out there, and there is no reason for you to miss a second of the action simply because you’re either visiting or living outside U.S. borders. A VPN offers U.S. fans unfettered access to their favorite sports on ESPN+, no matter where they are.
A VPN – like my top choice, NordVPN – offers users the ability to access blocked content, no matter where they’re traveling around the globe, while also protecting their internet connection from throttling.
A VPN also protects your online activities from being monitored or blocked, keeping your important personal and business information safe from prying eyes.
For more information, visit the NordVPN website.