One could easily say that right now we are living in a golden age of soccer on television. NBC has big plans for the English Premier League, Fox is about to debut their new sports channel with lots of soccer expected on it and the old kid on the block ESPN just debuted their daily(ish) soccer show called ESPN FC.
You really couldn’t ask for more could you? Well, if you are a MLS fan watching ESPN FC, you are asking for more.
The first couple episodes of the new show just fell short for me personally. Like on Sunday for instance. A game like Sunday’s MLS match in Dallas normally would have been a perfect lead-in but ESPN clearly hadn’t planned on leading with the FC Dallas-LA Galaxy game, which proved to be a not so small problem.
How do you not lead with a game that ended in a 3-3 tie with three goals fromLandon Donovan, loads of controversy to rehash in the form of two blown offside calls, questionable substitutions from FC Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman, not to mention the remarks from Donovan about Galaxy keeper Carlo Cudicini and his backline?
Instead of debuting at 10 p.m. ET, ESPN FC launched in mid-show more than 10 minutes after the LA-Dallas game ended and jumped right into the debate on whether Wayne Rooney should leave Manchester United to Chelsea. Really? You lead things off that way? When the full episode was re-aired later on that night, the program actually lead off with Community Shield highlights. Cool, but given how fans tuning in live just saw a wild 3-3 game, I doubt many would have stuck around to see Manchester United-Wigan highlights from a meaningless game.
I’m probably in the minority in this rant though. Many fans tuning into a show like ESPN FC aren’t in it for the MLS highlights. But you’d think that they would have at least kicked off their first show with the Clint Dempsey transfer story. That appeals to both sides of the ball.
My favorite segment…and I mean that sarcastically…came on Monday’s show. Taylor Twellman was in the studio along side his former coach Steve Nicol. At one point they begin talking about the US National team and specifically Timmy Chandler. Twellman mentioned rumors of Chandler wanting to switch back to play for Germany, and Raphael Honigstein, ESPN FC’s ‘German expert’, said, “The German FA have told me they no interest in calling him up.”
One small detail: Chandler has been cap-tied to the USA since the Honduras qualifier in February. There is no possible way of him switching back. Way to go geniuses.
The challenge of a show like ESPN FC or Fox Soccer Daily is whether to make it a U.S. soccer show or an international soccer show. My gut tells me ESPN will focus more on the international side while Fox will at least attempt to show more US and MLS stuff. Just a hunch. Either way both will likely bury MLS deep within the shows blocks and overload viewers with EPL and La Liga highlights (you just know we’ll see endless highlights of Barcelona and Real Madrid on these shows).
The good news about all of this is that ESPN, Fox and NBC are willing to put soccer out there for the masses. ESPN still holds US national team broadcast rights, which means they should be discussing a fair amount of USMNT stuff on their ESPN FC program.