Out of the five lead commentators FOX Sports selected to announce World Cup games in Qatar, only two of them are American soccer commentators born in the US. FOX’s selection of John Strong and JP Dellacamera make sense. The duo are logical hires for FOX Sports given their name recognition among viewers.

However, why didn’t we see more American-born announcers calling World Cup games for FOX? And why aren’t we seeing more Americans breaking through the industry overall?

Some may say they’re not good enough, or they’re not given the chances because foreigners are occupying their jobs. Admittedly, it is difficult to compete when you have arguably the three best English-language commentators in the world working for American broadcasters. The trio of Jon Champion (ESPN), Peter Drury (NBC Sports) and Clive Tyldesley (CBS) bring gravitas to broadcasts of soccer games.

MLS’ search for American soccer commentators

Having said that, Major League Soccer has used mostly all American commentators since its launch in 1996, but the league hasn’t been able to develop reputable household names.

John Strong is the best exception. But the other one, Arlo White, whose style is more American than most American announcers despite his English accent, has drifted out of the game, and is now resigned to calling golf and random Chicago Fire matches.

In the past, there were so few top quality American soccer announcers because there weren’t many games available to call. That has changed, though. With more than 3,000 games available to viewers in the United States through streaming and television, more work has become available. Plus the number of games from USL, NWSL and other US leagues have created new opportunities.

Over at MLS, things are about to change too.

This week, sources with knowledge of the situation tell me that the first few hires for Apple’s MLS Season Pass streaming service are distinctly American. In doing so, the league has passed on a few arguably better British commentators who live and work in the United States. The league, sources tell me, are going for American voices.

There’s nothing wrong with that particularly if MLS wants to grow and nurture quality American voices. However, my preference would be for the league to hire the best talent available instead of who has the “right” accent.

Accents do matter in the United States

Arguably, there are several better, more qualified commentators in the US than Strong and Dellacamera, but they don’t get picked because they don’t have American accents. They may be completely fluent in English, but have a Spanish-language accent. Or they call the game better than others but their foreign accent doesn’t fit what a broadcaster wants in a World Cup.

Subjectivity certainly comes into play. We all have our own favorite commentators, and the ones we dislike. And oftentimes, there is very little consensus. But soccer fans who obsess about the sport can hear the difference. And as we’ve seen in FOX’s coverage of the 2022 World Cup, oftentimes those with English accents are not fit for the job.

So, with Major League Soccer’s 10-year deal with Apple, the leagues and its American commentators have the long runway to develop new stars. When World Cup 2026 rolls around, hopefully then we can say that there are many great American soccer announcers.

Guide to Major League Soccer

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