The tide has officially turned for soccer fans in the USA who love to watch their own league. Last August, the announcement came that NBC would be a new television partner for Major League Soccer starting in 2012. Many have been anxious and curious to see what would happen as the transition was made from FOX Soccer to NBC.
Sunday, March 11th marked the debut of MLS coverage on the NBC Sports Network. Right from the start at 3PM EDT (12 PDT), you have to say that the entire production was top notch.
The graphics were bold and sharp, the theme music was energetic and the live-on-the-field studio indicates that NBC has taken this game seriously. The amount of information coming from their hosts and experts was refreshing, and they did a spectacular job in covering both teams.
I think Seattle’s loss is our gain when it comes to Arlo White calling the action in the booth. Strangely enough, Kyle Martino was down on the field between the benches delivering commentary. You could tell at times they were not playing off each other well, but as the match went on the partnership grew stronger.
Russ Thaler, the host of NBC Sports Talk on the network, was your live desk host. Alongside Thaler was former Portland Timbers/Root Sports Analyst Robbie Earle. I’m not familiar with Thaler actually being a soccer fan, but one thing is for sure – he did a good job informing the audience.
Earle was fantastic with his analysis with the replays. He was forthright in giving his own opinion of what should have been done on the field, exhibiting the energy and excitement that we long to see. It was refreshing to observe the excitement these four guys brought to the table. The best news is that we will have this every single week broadcasting the league.
The debut leaves me eager to watch their two upcoming US Men’s National Team broadcasts. NBC Sports Network will air both the match against Scotland in Jacksonville, as well as the road trip to Toronto at BMO Field against Canada. That is the real test for me, to see how they handle a National Team broadcast.
While the rights to the important international matches have been obtained by ESPN (Euro 2012, World Cup 2014, US qualifiers) and FOX Soccer (World Cups ’18 and ’22), I feel that if NBC had the chance to show these types of games, they would be equal or better than the other two. When FOX Soccer tried to improve their graphics last season to keep the MLS contract, you had the feeling it was, “too little too late.” The grumblings about switching to the European calendar serve as a distraction from the fact that FOX Soccer didn’t invest the resources to put forth a quality on-air product for MLS.
Whatever you want to say about the quality on the field, soccer in the United States needs a platform dedicated to promoting the domestic game in the right way. NBC Sports Network has delivered an impressive showcase for the league, and we should all be excited for its future.