Looking to beef up their MLS coverage and stand out from ESPN, Fox Soccer Channel today unveiled their new theme for their weekly MLS game.  Calling it “Soccer Night in America”, the new program includes enhanced graphics, a new set, and a jazzed up marketing campaign to draw attention to the game of the week.

The intent of the redesign, according to the release from corporate, was to bring the soccer productions more in line with other Fox sports offerings.  Some of the new features include better, more streamlined branding of the MLS games shown under the Soccer Night brand, the use of super-slow motion filming to allow more precise looks at the action, and the introduction of Vizrt technology.  Vizrt is a graphic design company that incorporates 3-D imaging into their products to create a crisper, clearer picture; many broadcasts worldwide use the technology and it is most famous as the graphic company for the CNN holographs during the 2008 presidential election.  What will not change are the personalities: Christopher Sullivan and Eric Wynalda will still provide the pre-game and post-game coverage, while the play-by-play team will be JP Dellacamera and Kyle Martino.  The first match under the new brand is this Saturday’s Portland/Philadelphia matchup.

Obviously this is just coming out now due to the very late negotiations MLS had with television networks to cover MLS, so I guess it’s better late than never.  My first thought when I heard the new brand was, “that’s the NBC slogan”.  NBC uses the phrase “Football Night in America” for their Sunday night NFL games, so the idea is not an original one.  I am, however, a proponent of improving the picture and production of MLS matches and see these changes as definitely a good thing.  One thing I believe that has driven the popularity of soccer is how beautiful the beautiful game looks on HD televisions.  Modern technology highlights many of the positives of the sport: the crowd noise, the vibrant colors, the fast pace.

The change also shows Fox is taking MLS seriously, and that’s a nice change.  While it is hard to deny that the English Premier League is the network’s bread and butter, MLS always felt like the proverbial redheaded stepchild: tolerated but not as beloved as the larger league.  At least trying to keep up with the EPL productions (the major EPL matches have seen a step up in production value recently – see the lineup introductions) shows Fox does care about the American product.  While as a Comcast subscriber I do not have Fox Soccer HD, I am curious to see the difference in production values this Friday.

What do you think of the new “Soccer Night in America”?