Highs and Lows of FOX Sports’ International Champions Cup TV Coverage

With the 2014 edition of the Guinness International Champions Cup now completed, it’s time to look at what FOX Sports’ coverage was like during the tournament.

Certainly, there were some good points but not surprisingly, given FOX’s track record of late, there were plenty of low points. As ridiculous as it sounds, FOX Sports’s soccer coverage even managed to be worse than usual at times during the tournament. Overall, there’s no doubt that it wasn’t good enough to compete with the way that both ESPN and NBC has raised the bar for soccer coverage on television in the United States.

Out of the entire International Champions Cup, FOX’s best production was for the Manchester United versus Real Madrid game at Michigan Stadium. One of the main reasons why it was improved compared to the other games was because FOX decided to put Rob Stone, Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda on an outside set instead of having the trio commentate a game, like they did for the LA Galaxy vs Manchester United match.

The trio are better suited to working in a studio — whether it’s inside or out.

The standout performer at FOX during the tournament was Brian McBride as a color commentator. The former USMNT World Cup star is improving his announcing, and is by far a better co-commentator than studio pundit. McBride is the polar opposite of Wynalda. The former Everton, Fulham and Columbus Crew forward is calm, cool, and collected. He doesn’t speak in absolutes or shout like Wynalda. McBride offers real insight and analysis and seems to work well with no matter what commentator he is paired with.  Going forward, FOX should consider pairing McBride with Gus Johnson.

Aside from the positives, one of the problems that FOX has it that it tries to treat its soccer broadcasts like any other sporting event. FOX uses the same theme intro for all of its sports, while NBC and ESPN both have a different musical theme for every sport, and they all stand out. Treat a soccer broadcast like a soccer broadcast and leave the NFL robot for NFL games.

Read more — FOX Sports delivers gimmicks in coverage of Liverpool-Manchester City game.

Another issue with FOX Sports’ soccer coverage is the fact that they didn’t use Gus Johnson. Seeing as how FOX has committed themselves to Johnson as the long term voice of soccer on their network, it would have made sense for him to commentate some of these incredibly high profile games. But maybe he thought he was too good for the tournament? Instead, FOX will continue to sprinkle him into six or seven soccer games a year.

Johnson is by no means a world-class soccer commentator, contrary to what Warren Barton may think. He needs to get more reps so that FOX could at least say that they are trying to put an improved product out there. Going forward, FOX should consider pairing Johnson with McBride to see what the chemistry is like.  This would build steam heading into the tournaments in the next 12 months, beginning with the Women’s World Cup next summer. Plus, McBride’s reserved style would perfectly balance with Johnson’s shouting.

After World Cup 2014 ended, the TV coverage of the International Champions Cup was FOX’s first big test to see if they are serious about covering soccer in an intelligent way. While they weren’t as bad as usual, they are nowhere near NBC’s quality and they are light years away from the gold standard of ESPN’s World Cup coverage. Borrowing what ESPN and NBC has perfected would improve the quality of FOX’s product and give it some legitimacy. Otherwise, viewers and sponsors will continue to think FOX Sports’ soccer coverage is, for the most part, amateur hour.

18 thoughts on “Highs and Lows of FOX Sports’ International Champions Cup TV Coverage”

  1. Agree on McBride. He’s very good. I think their strongest 2 commentators are John Strong and McBride.

    Strong did have gaffes(Daniel Sterling scoring for Liverpool), but he is their best. I don’t really enjoy their remaining stable of guys(Dellacamera, Glenn Davis, Dunseth, Gus, Wynalda, Barton) so it’d be nice if they realized their best talent within. You can go pretty far if you have strong A team.

    The Guinness ads mid-game were annoying, but not too bad. Had major annoyances with their enormous ticker for games on FS1 and FS2. There’s no need for those to be running the entire game.

  2. I hate to be overly critical about Fox’s coverage, because at least we are getting coverage, so i’ll just throw one piece of constructive criticism out there….

    Stop calling the game like its a radio broadcast. You don’t have to announce ever single player who is on the ball and what they are doing with it.

    That and please learn the players names and how to pronounce them. This isn’t English League 2. These players are on world-wide tv every single weekend. Get to know them.

  3. I can say I didn’t watch a full game of this “Cup”. I only DVRed the second half of the ManU vs Real match because I forgot it was on and just to see the spectical.

    1. Not just you CT, but everyone else who has cut their “soccer” teeth, er… FOOTBALL, watching Fox, who almost always get it wrong, especially Gus. It is Manchester United or Man Utd. Definitley not ManU. They are not a university team. Not being picky, but they have been around a verrry long time and their name should be shown respect for who they are and all they have been thru as a franchise. Don’t mean this in a nasty way, but if people are not made aware how will they know.

    2. And I am sorry i got off subject so I really thought the coverage was sub-par. I long for the days of FoxSoccer Cannle, and thank GOD for Espn and mostly for NBCSports.

  4. That ticker was annoying. It was so obtrusive. But at least we got to see the games. Every time they pronounced Shaw SHAHH we wondered how difficult is it to pronounce a 4 letter word.

  5. Agreed about Gus. They can’t expect him to improve without actually calling games. If the only thing he does is 5 or 6 Champions League, then he’ll never improve or gain chemistry with the analyst. He better at least have watched these games to learn the game of soccer, which he has shown to have not near enough knowledge.

  6. First, the Gus Johnson experiment has failed and I just don’t see him getting any better. Fox should cut their losses and move on. McBride is getting better and that’s a good sign. They just need a better lead commentator who is knowledgeable about the game and doesn’t talk too much or shouts.

    The ticker and ads reducing the viewing area during the game was very annoying. There’s no need for the ticker as most sports fans who are interested in the score of their favorite team now get them on their phone or tablet. Most people have one of these today.

    The pre-game, halftime and post-game analysis is quite poor so I just skip them.

  7. The outside broadcast was a pathetic rip-off of ESPN Gameday. Can they do anything that is original, yet good?
    Unfortunately, I watched most of the games just because there was nothing else on, albeit with the sound off. The synchronization when the commentator says something and the obnoxious graphic repeating it, as usual takes away from the game.
    It’s as if FOX isn’t confident that a football match will not entertain by itself.

  8. Maybe FOX tried to lower the bar, so when they cover the next big soccer event, FOX looks “good”.

    Not understandable for Gus Johnson not to be calling the ICC matches. The guy needs a LOT of practice. Johnson will be busy with College Football games until december, then Big East basketball from january until march. He said that he will take about a month prior to the WWC, which is on june, to start preparing for it. That means that it is very probable that he will not do UEFA CL matches. I cringe when think about FOX intention of making Gus Johnson their lead announcer for the WWC, a train wreck about to happen.

    1. “World class” is such a subjective term. You can argue that until the cows come home (for or against). “World class,” except for a few exceptions, is in the eye of the beholder.

      For example, is Wayne Rooney “world class”? You would probably say yes, but there would be just as many people who would say no.

      1. Nah Chris … That one stood out for me as well. Yes, everything is subjective but Lambert at 32 is/has never been anywhere close to the “world class” conversation. I’m not sure what McBride was thinking.

        1. I’m not saying that Rickie Lambert is world-class. He isn’t (obviously). But the whole “world class” debate is usually one of those ones that can be debated endlessly without reaching an outcome.

          1. Gaffer,

            Sorry. But on this one, I think we’ll agree to disagree. That little comment by BMB made me cringe. There is ZERO doubt. RL never was/will ever be “world class”. That’s laughable. I truly don’t think the “world-class” debate can be debated endlessly w/out an outcome. I think that it’s an extremely short short list. 10, maybe 15 players at best. And that’s being kind. If RL is part of that list in BMB’s mind, then something is wrong with his footy knowledge. Brian McBride is simply *not* a commentator. He does not have the voice, the speech-patterns, the cadence, or the overall footy commentating brain to hang anywhere close to the big boys. It’s embarrassing listening to him. Btw, good to be back on your site… Missed yalls :)

  9. JP is the seasoned commentator they have.. In saying that I still wish they add some talent. Not a fan of Mcbride, horrible in UEFA matches

    The bar is so low right now for Fox, it’s almost a win everytime Johnson is missing from the booth.

    Off topic for Fox– anyone notice on FSP directv guide they are listing Scottish CHAMPIONSHIP matches– rangers hearts on Sunday. Most seasons I wouldn’t care but this year it may be more competitive than the Scottish Premierrship with rangers, hearts and hibs there.


  10. Gus Johnson A N D Brian McBride would be so gre–ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Holycow, I’d rather listen to a Russian stream, or watch a little box in the lower right corner with someone signing the game. Please, god… No. Please, please don’t match up the two absolute worst footy commentators on the planet. *silent prayer*

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *