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Why ESPN FC is the best soccer show on US television


ESPN FC is the main international program for the ‘worldwide leader in sports. ESPN has a multitude of programs that cover the various aspects of sports around the world. However, ESPN demoted the program with the biggest international reach last year. Now, ESPN+ is the home of ESPN FC.

Moving to ESPN+

ESPN FC debuted in August of 2013 to coincide with NBC winning the rights to show Premier League matches on their networks. The show originally came on Monday-Friday on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET. On Sundays, an hour-long version of the show was aired at midnight ET also on ESPN2 to recap the matches that were played around the world. Less than a year after it started, the show was moved to ESPNEWS and had a new time slot of 6 p.m. ET. ESPN FC remained on the network until last year when their parent company announced their extensive soccer coverage plans on ESPN+ and stated that the show would exclusively be viewed on the OTT (over-the-top) streaming service.

The treatment of ESPN FC is not about the actual quality of the show. Rather, it represents the American audience’s lack of love towards the beautiful game. Only TNT’s nine-time Emmy award winning show Inside the NBA provides more entertaining content and analysis on a weekly basis. The main cast of ESPN FC has been the same since its inception and it makes sense because the crew has great chemistry with one another. Overall, the program has a diverse stable of contributors but host Dan Thomas along with analysts Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop, Alejandro Moreno and Steve Nicol are the core of the show.

ESPN FC crew

Thomas plays the role of the snooty host that knows how to get under the skin of the analysts with his questions and occasionally even his outfit selection. The Southampton supporter has been in the broadcasting industry since he was 15 working for BBC Radio, and last worked for Real Madrid TV before he joined ESPN in 2010. Burley is the biggest character on the show similar to Charles Barkley on Inside the NBA. The former Chelsea midfielder is a surly analyst that hates the Ballon d’Or, Messi-Ronaldo debates and has no respect for the UEFA Nations League which ESPN has the rights to broadcast. The former Scottish international is a brash individual that can be humorous in his analysis.


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Hislop is the free spirit of the program. The former West Ham goalkeeper always has a smile on his face. He laughs uncontrollably during the many hysterical moments of the show. Plus, he is responsible for the weekly power rankings. Here, the former Trinidad and Tobago international lists his top teams around the world. The segment is very entertaining. This is especially true when his co-hosts are criticizing his thought process as he’s putting together the list. Moreno brings the energy to the show with his catch-phrases, charisma and wit. The former Venezuela international also does a weekly segment on MLS, which he knows very well because he played in the league for 10 years.

More professional experience

Nicol is the most accomplished former footballer on the show. The legendary Liverpool left-back won four league titles, three FA Cups, the European Cup, now known as the Champions League, and the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year in 1989 with the Reds. He’s also been a successful manager that led the New England Revolution to four MLS Cup finals. Unfortunately they lost all of them. The former Scottish international doesn’t hide his love for Liverpool or his disdain for England and Sergio Ramos’ defending ability, and remains objective about everything else.

Other analysts

To provide more detail on topics, ESPN FC regularly features other respectable journalists. For example, Rafa Honigstein, Julien Laurens, Sid Lowe and Gabriele Marcotti make appearances. Sometimes, these guests stick around after the show to participate in the YouTube segment #FCExtraTime. This section is for viewers of the show to submit questions to the analysts via Twitter. That is where the personality of the show truly comes to life.

The analysts tell great stories of their times as footballers. We learn about their favorite dishes such as Nicol’s obsession with shepherd’s pie. Or, they tell about diets they may be in because their wife forced them to participate. And for the casual sportsman, they are avid golfers with stories.

As ESPN continues to acquire the rights of soccer leagues around the world, it would make sense for them to use ESPN+ to promote the leagues they have at their disposal. Given how good the show is, maybe ESPN+ FC deserves another shot at terrestrial television.

Editor’s note: ESPN FC is available every weeknight on ESPN+

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  1. Babs

    January 31, 2022 at 12:27 am

    Dan Thomas is from Cornwall, not Southampton.

  2. Anton Tungate

    December 20, 2020 at 3:17 am

    I cannot stand Dan Thomas he is a waste of space. He is the host and should stop getting in the way of those who have actually played football/soccer at the highest level. Just because he has interviewed a few sports stars does not mean he is an expert. He gets on one track at times and tries to get the “experts” to agree with his agenda! Trying, for instance, at every opportunity to shoot down Olly Gunnar Solskaer and Manchester United down AND also keeps trying to foist Pochettino upon M.U. I’d like to remind Mr.Thomas that Pochettino has never won anything even when he managed Tottenham who have two of the best forwards in the world. I do not want to hear your opinions I want to hear those who have been professional footballers and know what they are talking about. I do not want to hear a self oppionated presenter shouting down those who obviously know more than he has ever experienced. Shut the F! up and let us here the professionals talk surely that is what they are paid to do. Let them do it for all our sakes. Learn when to shut up and listen

  3. Dana Minor

    December 5, 2019 at 9:00 am

    Kind of a low bar to clear isn’t it? It’s not as if they have a ton of competition.

  4. distin

    December 2, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Because it isn’t. Until they get decent analysts & presenters it never will be.

  5. Justin

    November 30, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    Great show. Keep it going! Except when Moreno gets his little segment when he starts off yelling “you know it and you love it….”. That’s when I have to turn the volume down on my tv. Apart from that… love the show!!

  6. Jack S.

    November 28, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    When does this show become available for streaming each day? Why don’t they stream it live on ESPN+ at a certain time?

    Another thing that makes it difficult to watch is that the episodes of this show aren’t listed by date (at least not on the Roku ESPN app). Instead, they have some topic like “Can anyone catch Liverpool?” or some such as the episode title. If I want to watch a show that is on the same day as some match I’ve watched earlier during the week to see what the pundits have to say, I have no idea which of the half dozen or so episodes are that are available to watch on ESPN+ occurred on that same day.

    • DT

      November 29, 2019 at 12:23 am

      At least on Fire TV ESPN+ app you can watch it live at 730pm/est. I agree with you that the titles make no sense because right now if I look at it the upcoming program it is “11/29 ESPN FC” while Thursdays show is titled “Gunners host Eintracht.” The actual picture does include a ESPN FC logo along with a date, but it definitely could be categorized/distinguished better on the app. I have never been overly impressed with the show but I guess I am in the minority.

  7. Mac Baumgartner

    November 27, 2019 at 12:19 pm

    I cant disagree the show is good, but soccer content on ESPN is now gone, zero highlights.

    I delayed an update to ESPN app knowing I would lose access to highlights but alas, my system did it itself after more than a year. The ESPN model is failing, MNF is a travesty, a shell of it’s once massive self. The priorities have changed & we can expect more of the same in the next decade from our “leader in sports”….mediocre leagues no one wants to see behind a paywall.

    The Bundesliga is next to fade in america, we don’t have enough dedicated fans who’ll brave the ESPN+ quagmire just to keep up with the league. No more highlight shows or in depth player profiles, just a mess of pay wall crap graphics constantly “updated” with a new format to learn to navigate.
    Google is now the preferred source for highlights, league tables, etc
    There’s no reason to visit anymore

  8. rkujay

    November 25, 2019 at 8:41 am

    I enjoyed the show, but once they took it off the air to the pay site, poof. You’re dead to me.

  9. Azer

    November 24, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    ” Why ESPN is the best soccer show on US television ” This is news to me. Good luck finding the show on TV. The headline is misleading, It’s clickbait. ESPN FC didn’t interfere with any programming and it was removed from TV for no reason, other than greed. I can live without it. I will subscribe to ESPN+ next year for the Bundesliga, my favorite league.

    • Christopher Harris

      November 25, 2019 at 6:17 am

      The definition of what television is depends on the consumer. For example, consider the apps that come with many new smart TVs. It’s just as easy to watch programming from those apps on your TV set than it is to hook up a cable or dish to watch cable and/or satellite programs.

  10. Rich

    November 24, 2019 at 7:18 am

    It is a very good show, though the candidate list of daily English soccer news programs is very short.

    However, there are two main problems that hinder my enjoyment (and both are entirely within their control).

    First, they don’t show of highlights. Some days they show La Liga, and somedays don’t. Some match weeks they will have champions league highlights, and some rounds they just talk about the games. What’s the problem here? This is the worldwide Leader in Sports right?

    The second issue is more a personal pet peeve than anything. Now that the show is streaming only, there is no consistent time weight is actually available for viewing. I used to know that it was on at 5:30 or 630 before, now I just have to refresh and hope that it’s available. That ends up being more like 8 o’clock these days by which I am already on two other content.

    • Rich

      November 24, 2019 at 7:20 am

      I am sorry about the grammar. Apple voice to text really let me down!

    • MDFootball

      November 24, 2019 at 12:23 pm

      Several advantages to being on plus:
      1) they can and frequently do go past the constraints of a 30 minute time slot on terrestrial tv
      2) no commercials
      3) available on demand for at least a week after each episode airs
      4) They air the extra time segment at the end of each episode

      Highlights are pretty easy to find and it’s sometimes out of their control- TNT won’t allow other shows to air Champions League highlights and Bein had a similar policy for the leagues they air for quite a while.

      The weekday shows begin at 7:30 eastern the vast majority of time and it typically displays on the panel of live events on the ESPN app’s home screen about 10 minutes prior to start time. At least that’s my experience on Apple TV

      • Brendan

        November 24, 2019 at 7:52 pm

        TNT allow NBCSN to show Champion league highlights I have see them on Premier league mornings on the Saturday after the mid -week games , hopefully CBS will allow ESPN to show them , I have seen highlights of the Italian League (Serie ) on TNT which ESPN have the rights to , so what is going on here

        • Rich

          November 24, 2019 at 10:18 pm

          The only plausible explanation I can think of is that ESPN FC is shown internationally. So, while SportsCenter CAN show TNT and Bein highlights to an exclusively USA audience, maybe FC cannot due to multinational rights agreements.

          Nothing else makes sense.

          • Christopher Harris

            November 25, 2019 at 6:20 am

            NBCSN hasn’t given ESPN permission to broadcast highlights from the Premier League. NBC Sports wants viewers to watch the highlights on TV (Goal Zone) or to seek them out online (NBC Sports App, website or YouTube channel, for example).

            • Rich

              November 25, 2019 at 11:16 pm

              I see EPL highlights on ESPN FC all the time.

              • Christopher Harris

                November 26, 2019 at 8:53 am

                Yes, they’re back. Earlier this season, they weren’t, but I’m glad that ESPN and NBC reached an agreement.

                • Mac Baumgartner

                  November 27, 2019 at 12:25 pm

                  But it’s massive that you cant watch ANY league highlights on

                  They are currently making massive changes & there are only sporadic, single videos to search out (online & apps)

      • Rich

        November 24, 2019 at 8:34 pm

        I’m a fan of the expanded show on ESPN+. I don’t like the fact that I don’t know when it will be posted on the app (and that time isn’t always 7:30). Remember, it’s a daily show so the content is more timely than just catching Game of Throne before someone spoils it for you.

        As for the highlights…sure you can catch them on YT, but that isn’t as helpful when they are trying to painstakingly break down a big play or call. Not only that, they are inconsistent about when they show UCL and Bein highlights (because they do sometimes have game action from those outlets).

      • Mac Baumgartner

        November 27, 2019 at 12:30 pm

        “highlights are PRETTY EASY to find” ????

        it’s a black or white issue, either they are or they aren’t….& that’s their problem, constant updates change where highlights could be found, now the categories don’t include leagues……there’s no HIGHLIGHTS section

        that’s been the entire business model of ESPN since inception, a highlights show
        now that they’ve changed everything, what are they exactly??

        seem to be intent only on disrupting the soccer tv market, not having good, watchable, content

  11. me

    November 24, 2019 at 5:08 am

    I’ll take your ‘ESPN FC’ and raise you ‘Sunday Supplement’ on Sky Sports. It’s the football equivalent of ‘Meet the Press’. Excellent analysis every week. Sunday mornings 10 am UK time… keep an eye out if you ever get chance.

    • James

      November 24, 2019 at 3:32 pm

      Yes, Sunday Supplement my favorite weekly show. Can be viewed for free on Youtube or audio as a podcast.
      Other podcast favorites from the UK:
      – BBC Football Daily – new podcast everyday. Monday Night Club and Friday Football Social my favs but a new podcast everyday (shortened versions of what’s live on BBC Radio 5 in the UK
      – Undr the Cosh – Weekly interview with generally a retired player done by two journeyman pros (Jon Parkin and Chris Brown). Can be viewed on Youtube on downloaded as podcast. Brilliant stories.

    • JMB

      November 26, 2019 at 7:11 am

      Anybody know if Sunday Supplement is available via NBC Sports Gold/Premier League Pass?

  12. Brendan

    November 23, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    It is in a league of its own great pundits on the game compared to any one else

  13. Carlos

    November 23, 2019 at 10:39 pm

    Tremendous chemistry and entertainment value to go with good analysis.

  14. Kristopher Klassen

    November 23, 2019 at 10:01 pm

    ESPN FC is excellent. Brutally honest and great guests.

  15. Lou Burns

    November 23, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    I wholly concur. Love those guys, especially Burley.

  16. cliff kobland

    November 23, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    It clearly is the best of a very limited universe but even while I have it (pay monthly for it’s service, ESPN+ that is) just wish it were on TV. Realize the American audience is fixated on other sports, but does ESPN really need 4-5 hrs per day on pro football or NBA, especially during the off season? You’d think a little diversity would be nice, 30 mins on “real” football is not too much to ask considering ESPN has 2,,News, Classic as well as the mothership that have to fill 9 hours daily each of the average weekday with no live sports programming.

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