Fox Soccer Channel is no more. The last remnant of Fox's total rebranding said goodbye earlier this week, replaced by the entertainment channel FXX. And in the early stages, Fox has to consider the move a success. FXX's ratings more than doubled Fox Soccer's primetime numbers on its first day by doing nothing more than airing a Parks & Rec marathon. With the season debuts of The League and Always Sunny, those ratings should continue to rise and make FXX a relevant cable channel moving forward.
But spare a thought for Fox Soccer, the forgotten network in Fox's grand shuffle. Well, unless you count Fuel, but I don't think anyone is heartbroken about its demise. We've chronicled how Speed fans are angry about their network giving way to Fox Sports 1, but what about the loss of a dedicated soccer channel?
I have a special place in my sports fandom heart for Fox Soccer, or Fox Sports World as I once knew it. This is a channel with a rich heritage in bringing international sports to our attention in the states. Before I became a soccer fan, I spent hours growing up watching sports from all around the globe. As a huge sports fan already, I was immediately drawn to international sports and all of these strange, new, exciting sports other countries called their own. I watched everything from Aussie Rules football to rugby union and rugby league to cricket, hurling, and darts. I took in as much as I could, trying to teach myself the rules to these sports so I could develop a greater appreciation for them, largely succeeding in AFL and rugby and utterly failing in cricket. I still have no idea what smashing a yorker to deep mid-wicket is all about.
And Fox Sports World was my guide. Sure this production looks like it was from 1983 instead of 2003, but the mysterious element of Romania and Namibia playing rugby was more captivating than another Yanks/Sawx highlight. I always wondered what happened to favorites from Championship Rugby like Matt Brown:
Some of my fondest memories from my high school weren't from trying to fit my life into an MTV pilot, they were watching Canterbury and Auckland play for the Ranfurly Shield or staying up to some forsaken hour to watch the Brisbane Lions vs Collingwood.
Alas, Fox Sports World gave way to Fox Soccer Channel in 2005 and I had to funnel this thirst for international sports into soccer, a sport I had viewed the same way Hank Hill did at one time. But as I watched soccer from around the globe I grew to appreciate it over time. I slowly learned it wasn't necessarily about scores in double figures, but about the continuous action that took place and those single moments that could change a game. The turning point for me was the 2006 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham, a game I watched on tape delay on Fox Soccer that still resides in my personal pantheon of favorite games. After this Steven Gerrard goal, I was hooked and I began following the EPL on Fox Soccer Channel the next year.
Over the next several years Fox Soccer continued to move forward with the EPL as its anchor. As soccer grew in America after the 2006 and more importantly, 2010 World Cups, Fox Soccer became a destination point for many new soccer fans thanks to its coverage of the EPL, MLS, and then the Champions League.
But as other soccer networks like GolTV and beIn Sport emerged and NBC stunned the sporting landscape by winning EPL rights, Fox Soccer no longer had enough inventory in which to operate a dedicated 24/7 soccer channel. Fox Soccer's last days were spent reairing Being: Liverpool marathons and classic games.
The truth is that the sports landscape, and specifically Fox, outgrew the need for Fox Soccer at the present time. With NBC snatching away the EPL, ESPN's focus on international soccer, and FS1 and FS2 being able to house what was left of Fox's soccer portfolio, the dedicated channel no longer made sense for Fox and its sports department.
However, this isn't necessarily a Speed situation where the racing fan doesn't feel like they have a home with the oppressive regime of stick and ball sports. There are still dedicated, largely 24/7 soccer channels at the moment with GolTV and beIn Sport housing many rights to international leagues. ESPN3 also offers an incredible amount of soccer coverage from leagues around the world. However, Fox made the decision to fold what was left of its soccer coverage into Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 like they would with any other major sport.
The dedicated channel that was Fox Soccer has given way to multiple channels dedicated to the growth of soccer coverage. Soccer fans have never had it better with ESPN buying into the World Cup, UEFA tournaments, and MLS. NBC airs the domestic league too along with their excellent coverage of the EPL. And Fox maintains a strong position with both the UEFA and CONCACAF Champions Leagues ahead of their turn on the international stage after Brazil 2014. There are more high quality soccer viewing options than ever before and the sport is still gaining momentum.
With the rise of globalization and our shrinking world, fans can now follow the EPL as closely as they would the NFL or NBA. They can become connected to a league and players an ocean away like never before and those sports once considered "foreign" are now a part of our everyday lives. Perhaps that's the greatest legacy of Fox Soccer and Fox Sports World. Perhaps it was ahead of its time.