On the soccer pitch at a park on New York City’s Lower East Side last week, NBC Sports Premier League analyst Kyle Martino was stretching in preparation to play in Steve Nash’s celebrity charity showdown.
Before he held his own on defense against U.S. Mens’ National Team teenage stars Weston McKennie and Tim Weah, Martino spoke to Awful Announcing about what he learned from his unsuccessful run for U.S. Soccer Federation president, the merits of VAR at the World Cup, and the Premier League and more.
What did you learn from your presidential run?
I learned that, if I start with the positives, there are many people in this game that have helped to grow it to the level it’s at, from grassroots all the way up to the professional level. It’s exciting to see where the game’s come.
During that progression, there’s a bit of inertia that’s responsible for the growth of the game. It’s the greatest game on the planet, and it was a bit discouraging and worrying that there has been a culture of patronage that’s just focusing on the top level of this game that has kind of metastasized over the years.
I hope that Carlos Cordeiro will bring the reform he promised during the election. I think out of the gate, the 2026 World Cup bid was successful. They hired, finally, a technical director on the mens’ side in Earnie Stewart, who I think can do a great job. So those are two positives in a very young campaign. We’ll see where things go. But I challenged him [Cordeiro] to focus on the entire pyramid, and fix the culture at the top so that this game can be everyone’s.
What can you do now in your role?
Continue to be a voice and use my pulpit to raise concerns and issues, and also offer praise when things are done well. What I can really do on a day-to-day is what I’m doing with Street Soccer USA, a non-profit using soccer as a social vehicle for change in inner city communities. I’ve agreed to chair their national board, and we have a lot of amazing announcements coming up here soon, in anticipation for our July 14 Street Soccer USA Cup series that’s gonna take place in Times Square.
Where or how do you think your and NBC’s coverage of the Premier League is evolving and growing?
Naturally. I think the evolution is organic. We started with an idea template that was built off of how NBC tells sports stories, but also the authenticity of how our sport and specifically the Premier League has been covered, an amalgamation of many different networks and generations of covering this game. But it evolves when there’s just something that creeps in naturally that will enhance the experience without it being gimmicky. And from time to time, whether it’s advancements in technology, or just as we get gray hair and age and become different pundits, we evolve individually. The way we work together, I think, is the greatest thing that’s constantly shifting, of two different voices and a different pair sitting next to Rebecca [Lowe] every weekend.
What do you think about VAR? You’re seeing it in the World Cup, and why aren’t we going to see it in the Premier League?
I mean I’m all for VAR. I believe technology will help the overall viewing experience and increase the merit and integrity of the game. But really, I worry about the execution of it. I don’t think it’s a perfect system yet, but I do stand on the side of “I invite it.”
Last question: Do you think Rebecca Lowe is one of the more underrated media personalities here in America?
Well, I think she’s underrated in that the people who love her and the plaudits she gets is based off of a very small sample size of the type of person she is. We are fortunate to see her all the time and see her off camera and around the game. And not only is she a great soccer mind and understands the game like an analyst, but wears a producer hat, wears a friend hat, wears a mother hat, wears a lot of hats for NBC. And we’re lucky to have her, and we wouldn’t be the same without her.