Trying to second guess FOX is difficult since they’ve been known to make decisions out of left field, so I’ve listed below what my predictions are, as well as a few recommendations.
I can envision FOX Sports focusing much of its attention in the build-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup on the US Women’s National Team, and paying lip service to the other 23 teams competing. Expect countless interviews and segments focused on Team USA, as FOX will play a key role in building up the hype for the USWNT for the next 11 months.
I predict FOX Sports will keep presenter Rob Stone along with pundits Eric Wynalda, Warren Barton and Brian McBride. Expect FOX to give Julie Stewart-Binks a prominent role, since she can add a Canadian perspective to the broadcast (the Women’s World Cup will be hosted across Canada). Expect Mark Rogondino to be featured too either as a commentator or sideline reporter.
FOX will need to hire several experts on women’s soccer. FOX will probably try to hire Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Brandi Chastain and Kate Markgraf — to name a few.
I expect FOX will try to hire John Strong on a permanent basis, so he’ll be one of the commentators along with JP Dellacamera.
Expect FOX to find a way to keep Grant Wahl on its books, too.
The biggest issue that FOX Sports has is that it’s a very male-oriented network that doesn’t lend itself well to women’s soccer. FOX needs to change that next summer. The network has already stated that Gus Johnson will be commentating many of the Women’s World Cup games, so you’ve now got a very macho (shouting, deep voice, etc) lead commentator trying to appeal to an audience that is expecting what we saw from ESPN during the 2011 and 2007 Women’s World Cup tournaments.
FOX has a lot of work cut out for them to make 2015 a success. My prediction is that FOX will stubbornly stick to its current formula (to hell with hardcore soccer fans) and make small changes to get through World Cup 2015, so it won’t have to be worry about the tough decisions for 2018 until 2017 at the earliest.
Now that the World Cup is over, it’s time to clear house at FOX Sports. We’ve seen that the trio of Rob Stone, Warren Barton and Eric Wynalda are not cut out for the job, so if the network is going to make changes, now is the time to do it in order to bring in a new crew that can debut for the UEFA Champions League coverage and lead soccer fans through the European club season and national team qualifiers, into MLS starting in the spring, building them up for the Women’s World Cup next summer and kicking off the coverage of the Bundesliga in August 2015.