Gus Johnson set to lead Soccer Coverage for Fox Sports

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Gus Johnson set to lead Soccer Coverage for Fox Sports

Fox Sports has provided a major change to the status quo for American soccer fans Tuesday morning by announcing that Gus Johnson will become the new lead play-by-play man for the networks soccer coverage. Johnson, who has developed a cult following due to his excitement and knack for calling many close NCAA tournament games for CBS, will call his first match for Fox next week when Manchester United face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. Johnson will also call several other Champions League and Premier League matches for Fox, including the FA Cup Final and the Champions League final; with the ultimate goal being for Johnson to be Fox’s lead play-by-play voice for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

Over his career Gus Johnson has collected many fans who love the enthusiasm and excitement that he brings to every broadcast, regardless of who is playing. However, the move is a tremendously risky one for Fox, as American soccer fans demand the best, and can be very critical.

Despite soccer’s growing popularity in the United States, American soccer broadcasters are few and far between. ESPN, the current World Cup rights holder in the United States, came under a rash amount of criticism after the 2006 World Cup, where American Dave O’ Bryan led the networks coverage, which was made up of mostly American broadcasters. Since then the network has converted to all British voices to provide play-by-play for their soccer telecasts. In 2010 the network drew praise for their coverage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for their commentary team of Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Derrick Raye, and Adrian Healey, all of whom are British. The network has since hired Darke full time to be their lead soccer commentator on the Barclays Premier League, US Men’s National Team World Cup qualifiers, and the MLS Cup final.

In similar fashion, Fox, who own the Premier League rights for the remainder of the season, have used either the international audio feed from IMG, or the feed from SKY Sports when doing their broadcasts of European soccer.

Now Fox is trying to bring back the American soccer broadcaster, by slowly having Johnson call more and more games. Johnson, who has called 12 games for the MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes on radio, has also done practice games in the Fox studios, but now he will be thrown out onto the biggest stage in the world.

While Fox maintains that Johnson is still a work in progress, the question that arises is why Fox is immediately putting him on the biggest games. Johnson’s first game will feature two of the biggest clubs in the world, in a match that has built in anticipation for weeks. Many fans are now worried that Johnson may take away from the majesty of this game, which could make it less enjoyable.

There are many people out there that would simply never like to hear an American broadcasting a soccer game, some people just prefer to hear the game in its “native voice.” For many American soccer fans, the names of Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Jon Champion, or Peter Drury are as well-known as names such as Jim Nantz, Joe Buck, or Al Michaels. With access to the best commentators on the planet, why settle for anything less?

Another issue that could arise is that of Johnson’s style of broadcasting. Johnson is loved by his fans for the excitement he brings to each game. It seems as though any game that Johnson does turns out to be a close game with a wild finish, regardless of the talent gap between the two teams. Due to this, Johnson became one of the most beloved play-by-play men of the NCAA tournament, a tournament known for wild finishes that were made even more exciting by Johnson. However, many Johnson fans will admit that while they love watching games he does, his excitement would be too much for the biggest games. Fans would rather see Jim Nantz call the Final Four, or Al Michaels call the Super Bowl, instead of Johnson. In 2011 Johnson became the voice of the NFL video game “Madden,” causing mass amounts of excitement; two years later he was replaced as fans were already sick of him.

Johnson is determined to learn the game and become a strong soccer commentator; something that he acknowledges will take time. While there is every chance that Johnson will become a great play-by-play guy for the world’s most popular sport, one has to wonder if throwing him out there for the biggest games right away will cause so much backlash that Fox’s plan will be doomed right from the start.    

Fox Sports has provided a major change to the status quo for American soccer fans Tuesday morning by announcing that Gus Johnson will become the new lead play-by-play man for the networks soccer coverage. Johnson, who has developed a cult following due to his excitement and knack for calling many close NCAA tournament games for CBS, will call his first match for Fox next week when Manchester United face Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League. Johnson will also call several other Champions League and Premier League matches for Fox, including the FA Cup Final and the Champions League final; with the ultimate goal being for Johnson to be Fox’s lead play-by-play voice for the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

Over his career Gus Johnson has collected many fans who love the enthusiasm and excitement that he brings to every broadcast, regardless of who is playing. However, the move is a tremendously risky one for Fox, as American soccer fans demand the best, and can be very critical.

Despite soccer’s growing popularity in the United States, American soccer broadcasters are few and far between. ESPN, the current World Cup rights holder in the United States, came under a rash amount of criticism after the 2006 World Cup, where American Dave O’ Bryan led the networks coverage, which was made up of mostly American broadcasters. Since then the network has converted to all British voices to provide play-by-play for their soccer telecasts. In 2010 the network drew praise for their coverage of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa for their commentary team of Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Derrick Raye, and Adrian Healey, all of whom are British. The network has since hired Darke full time to be their lead soccer commentator on the Barclays Premier League, US Men’s National Team World Cup qualifiers, and the MLS Cup final.

In similar fashion, Fox, who own the Premier League rights for the remainder of the season, have used either the international audio feed from IMG, or the feed from SKY Sports when doing their broadcasts of European soccer.

Now Fox is trying to bring back the American soccer broadcaster, by slowly having Johnson call more and more games. Johnson, who has called 12 games for the MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes on radio, has also done practice games in the Fox studios, but now he will be thrown out onto the biggest stage in the world.

While Fox maintains that Johnson is still a work in progress, the question that arises is why Fox is immediately putting him on the biggest games. Johnson’s first game will feature two of the biggest clubs in the world, in a match that has built in anticipation for weeks. Many fans are now worried that Johnson may take away from the majesty of this game, which could make it less enjoyable.

There are many people out there that would simply never like to hear an American broadcasting a soccer game, some people just prefer to hear the game in its “native voice.” For many American soccer fans, the names of Martin Tyler, Ian Darke, Jon Champion, or Peter Drury are as well-known as names such as Jim Nantz, Joe Buck, or Al Michaels. With access to the best commentators on the planet, why settle for anything less?

Another issue that could arise is that of Johnson’s style of broadcasting. Johnson is loved by his fans for the excitement he brings to each game. It seems as though any game that Johnson does turns out to be a close game with a wild finish, regardless of the talent gap between the two teams. Due to this, Johnson became one of the most beloved play-by-play men of the NCAA tournament, a tournament known for wild finishes that were made even more exciting by Johnson. However, many Johnson fans will admit that while they love watching games he does, his excitement would be too much for the biggest games. Fans would rather see Jim Nantz call the Final Four, or Al Michaels call the Super Bowl, instead of Johnson. In 2011 Johnson became the voice of the NFL video game “Madden,” causing mass amounts of excitement; two years later he was replaced as fans were already sick of him.

Johnson is determined to learn the game and become a strong soccer commentator; something that he acknowledges will take time. While there is every chance that Johnson will become a great play-by-play guy for the world’s most popular sport, one has to wonder if throwing him out there for the biggest games right away will cause so much backlash that Fox’s plan will be doomed right from the start.