Here at World Soccer Talk, we will continue to take the lead by identifying the new generation of candidates for soccer television commentary positions on major national television networks in the United States, with particular emphasis on English-language broadcasts.
In March 2013, we identified John Strong as the best home-grown English-language soccer play-by-play commentator and we voiced our opinion to FOX Sports President and COO Eric Shanks, who had assigned Gus Johnson to the number one soccer play-by-play position instead.
Shanks decided to end the Gus Johnson experiment in September 2014 and promoted Strong from freelancer to the #1 soccer play-by-play position in January 2015.
Since then, a new generation of aspiring American play-by-play broadcasters, both men and women, have used Strong as a template for calling soccer matches as they develop and hone their broadcasting skills.
Six weeks ago, we identified injured U.S. Men’s National Team and Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Jermaine Jones as a potential candidate for a television studio pundit role at FOX Sports.
Jones made his debut as a guest studio pundit for FOX Sports during the Mexico vs United States World Cup qualifying matches at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on June 11.
World Soccer Talk will continue to track Jones’ progress as a television studio pundit as his playing career is expected to wind down after World Cup Russia 2018.
On Sunday June 18, FOX Sports Executive Producer of World Cup Soccer David Neal made a late substitution by replacing former U.S. Men’s National Team member Brad Friedel with former U.S. Women’s National Team member and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Wagner as co-commentator/match analyst to call the Cameroon versus Chile FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 match on FS2.
Wagner called the match with her usual FOX Sports women’s soccer broadcast partner JP DellaCamera from a sound booth at FOX Sports’ Pico Boulevard production facility in Los Angeles. The telecast was Wagner’s first experience calling a men’s international soccer match on a nationally-distributed U.S. television network.
Video clip from the Chile-Cameroon telecast on FS2:
Besides calling the Cameroon versus Chile match, Wagner has appeared on Confederations Cup Tonight shows on FS1 on evenings after matches, as well as the Confederations Cup Preview Show which first aired on the FOX Network on June 3. Her analysis of Portuguese striker Cristiano Ronaldo as a “scientist” is one example of how she uses her people-reading skills to make an astute observation, which she was able to communicate and inform viewers.
Video of Wagner’s analysis of Cristiano Ronaldo:
Wagner’s rise as a soccer analyst on U.S. English-language television has been meteoric. Not only has she been promoted at FOX Sports from the #4 broadcast team during FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 to the #1 women’s soccer broadcast team since 2016, she was selected as the primary match analyst for the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) weekly telecasts on Lifetime during the 2017 season. During the autumn, she calls women’s college soccer matches for PAC-12 Networks.
Wagner’s life away from the television booth may be even more impressive than her professional life, as she is able to manage time efficiently as a very busy working mother of 4 very young children, a set of triplet 4-year-old boys and an 18-month-old daughter.
Wagner’s former teammate at the U.S. Women’s National Team and Santa Clara University, Danielle Slaton, who works as a touchline reporter and field level analyst during San Jose Earthquakes Major League Soccer regional telecasts on NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports California, uses the words “overachiever” and “incredible mom” to describe Wagner in an introduction video welcoming Wagner to the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
Will FOX Sports offer Wagner additional opportunities to call men’s soccer matches during the 2017-2018 season, such as UEFA Europa League matches on FS1 and FS2 on Thursdays, which FOX Sports will use to evaluate announcers for possible assignments to call FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 matches a year from now?
If Wagner were able to earn an assignment to call FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 matches for FOX Sports, she will be able to cap off her remarkable ascent by becoming the first woman to call men’s World Cup matches on television in the U.S., regardless of language.
World Soccer Talk will continue to track Wagner’s progress during the next 12 months, as we wish her the very best.