Pick 29 – Harris: Geoff Shreeves – sideline reporter
Sky Sports sideline reporter Geoff Shreeves has an uncanny knack for asking the simplest of questions that elicit the most bizarre or agonized reactions from players and managers. He often distills the questions down to something basic such as whether a player realizes he’s been suspended for the next match, but his simple approach is often effective based on the answers from people such as Jose Mourinho and Branislav Ivanovic, just to name two examples.
Pick 30 – Tannenwald: Jason de Vos, game analyst
This name may be a bit unfamiliar to American viewers unless you’ve watched TSN’s Major League Soccer broadcasts through MLS Live. Jason is the lead booth analyst for TSN’s MLS coverage, and he does studio work on the network’s broadcasts of various international events. He is equally comfortable with the biggest international stars and the smallest details of Canadian youth player development. And most importantly, he is never afraid to be blunt – on TV, radio, Twitter (@jasondevos) or anywhere else.
Jason spent 15 years as a player for the Canadian national team and a range of clubs – most notably Ipswich Town, Wigan and the Montréal Impact in its earliest years. Although he never played in a World Cup, he has a deep firsthand knowledge of life on the field. And he comes with the added bonus of having worked previously with Arlo White on a few TSN broadcasts of MLS games on the west coast. I’d be happy to pair them up again.
Pick 31 – Yoder: Chris Kamara, sideline reporter
With Jeff Stelling in studio, there can be only one choice for my roving sideline reporter. Kammy may not break any scoops or hard news, but he will fight like beavers to entertain the masses from pitchside. I have enough serious analysts on board so Kammy can bring some levity to my team. If I can get just one viral moment like this, it will guarantee me a win in this fantasy draft in which there is no discernible method for victory.
Pick 32 – Levy: Ian Crocker, play by play
Look, my preferred Ian went way earlier when Mr. Darke was selected, but I don’t want to finish this draft completely Ian-less so I’m selecting Ian Crocker for my second play-by-play man. Crocker is one of the seemingly never-ending British announcers both Fox and NBC borrow from Sky for American television, but his distinctive high-toned voice helps him stand out from the rest. He’s worked the Scottish Premier League for a good portion of his career, but I know him most for his work on the EPL which is professional and often rather excitable.
Pick 33 – Levy: Kay Murray, wild card
You didn’t think I was going to finish this draft with Rob Stone having the best smile on my set, did you?
BeInSports hasn’t been as well represented as other networks during this draft and it’s for good reason. While Phil Schoen does great work calling about 15 matches per weekend and making it sound like he’s on location for each, and Ray Hudson… is… also there (is there a sound proof booth thick enough to contain him), the studio shows for BeIn have lacked a bit of luster when compared to other soccer-centric networks.
Not anymore. If Murray has been able to handle the FIFA Ballon D’Or ceremonies, working with the likes of Ruud Gullit while blushing past the creeping advances of Sepp Blatter in the past, she is capable of doing anything. For a World Cup team, I could have Stone or Murray spell Bob Ley in the studio, or have either on location at various matches during the tournament. If Murray can handle a one-on-one with Jose Mourinho, she can surely manage the likes of Del Bosque and Klinsmann.
Pick 34 – Yoder: Jonathan Wilson, wild card
I thought about a few different directions with my WC pick. Someone like Julie Stewart-Binks, who deserves better than the short-lived Fox Soccer Daily, could add a lot to my team in a roving host/reporter role. Another studio person like Alexi Lalas or even Tommy Smyth could liven things up among my analysts. But that said, I feel like doing something bold and bringing in the best tactical writer around to further make my network the choice for soccer fans.
Jonathan Wilson isn’t a TV guy necessarily, but his writing on soccer tactics is fascinating and I can think of no better way to reach out to the hardcore fanbase while also educating viewers about the fundamentals of tiki-taka, the false nine, and the deep lying playmaker. Give Wilson a few minutes at the touchscreen and it will take us to the next level of soccer analysis on par with the great NFL Matchup. And at the very least, it will help me in my FIFA manager mode.
Pick 35 – Tannenwald: Jorge Pérez-Navarro, wild card
Much has been made of this World Cup being the end of ESPN’s run broadcasting the tournament, and rightly so. It is also the last World Cup for Univision after a 40-year relationship with FIFA. The company has aired the World Cup since 1974, when it was known as the Spanish Information Network. Starting next year, the FIFA contract moves to Telemundo until 2022, just like Fox’s deal. Believe me, Univision intends to go out by setting the bar just as high as ESPN will.
In 2012, Univision Deportes – the channel’s all-sports cable and satellite channel – had English commentary of the second leg of the Mexican league autumn season playoff final. They did so because one of the teams involved was Tijuana, which had (and still has) many Americans on its team. Jorge Pérez-Navarro, Univision’s lead voice for MLS and U.S. national team broadcasts, did the play-by-play.
It didn’t go as well as the network hoped. Jorge’s spoken English is fine most of the time, but in the heat of the moment on live television he struggled with some catchphrases. I bet if he did it again now, he’d do a better job. I also am certain he’d do well as a studio analyst, host or reporter at a team training camp. So he fills out my broadcast team.
Pick 36 – Harris: Michael Ballack, wild card
My wild card pick is Michael Ballack from ESPN. Ballack’s ability to speak his mind and get his argument across in a concise manner makes him a must-watch. With Ballack, he doesn’t hold back, and can get argumentative when it’s a point that he’s passionate about.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t have much of a game plan for putting together a set of cohesive booth partners when I made my picks. I was more focused on talent acquisition, hoping I’d figure it out later. It seems later is now, and looking at my team I feel confident they would do a professional job, though I’m not sure the combination of Crocker and Moreno would be as symbiotic right out of the gates as Tyldesley and Neville will surely be. Frankly I may put Crocker with Neville and Tyldesley with Moreno. That might be the best combination I can offer.
My team shines, however, in non-game coverage. I have the best studio host, a wonderful lead analyst in Earle and the best current player turned part-time analyst perhaps in the entire world in Friedel. Not to mention, by having Neville and Moreno on site, I can use them for studio work as well on off days, and have them chime in on events from the locations they are assigned.
With Bob Ley anchoring the coverage and Rob Stone and Kay Murray both on location for interviews and reports and in the studio doing sit-downs with past stars and other human interest topics, my team must be the best group to host a televised event that takes a full month to complete.
Booth 1: Clive Tyldesley & Gary Neville
Booth 2: Ian Crocker & Alejandro Moreno
Studio: Bob Ley, Robbie Earle, Brad Friedel
Reporter/On-Site Host/Do Everything-er: Rob Stone
Wild Card: Kay Murray
Putting together a Fantasy Draft of the talent to cover a major competition is a fun and revealing exercise. It’s revealing because it could easily be a similar exercise to what FOX Sports will go through in hiring talent for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup as well as the 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament and beyond. There are many qualified candidates available on both sides of the Atlantic, but we’ll find out in the future whether they make the best choice or not.In my selection of my World Cup Fantasy Talent team, I tried to focus on individuals who have proven to be consistently the best in their field. It’s easy for talent to “phone it in.” It’s another thing entirely for them to stay on top of their game.
Booth 1: Derek Rae & Stewart Robson
Booth 2: Phil Schoen & Graeme Le Saux
Studio: Rebecca Lowe, Roberto Martinez, Jamie Carragher
Reporter: Geoff Shreeves
Wild Card: Michael Ballack
I wanted to bring together the best broadcasters and analysts that American television has developed. Soccer in this country is at a point now where we do have our own authentic voices, and where the British voices who come in have to prove that they do their homework. I also wanted to be sure my crew reflects the Hispanic influence on soccer in America. I hope my crew brings that perspective to Anglo viewers, and also captures some of that Hispanic-American “fusion” audience that speaks both English and Spanish.
I don’t get to watch British TV’s coverage of the Premier League and other soccer events, so I’ve only seen a few clips Gary Neville or Jamie Carragher on air. But I’ve watched all of the people I picked for my crew, and I know a lot of soccer fans in America have as well. I think that will be good for viewers. They’ll know they’re hearing from people who have a deep understanding of how to bring the world’s game to the sophisticated U.S. audience.
Booth 1: Arlo White (NBC) and Jason de Vos (TSN)
Booth 2: John Strong (NBC and Fox) and Ray Hudson (beIN Sport)
Studio: Mike Tirico (ESPN/ABC), Landon Donovan (Go-Go-USA Network) and Andrés Cantor (Telemundo/Fútbol de Primera Radio)
Sideline Reporter: Mónica González (ESPN/ABC)
Wild Card: Jorge Pérez-Navarro (Univision)
No fanbase takes their broadcasts more seriously than soccer fans. Perhaps it’s the sport’s complicated history on American television over the last decade and the fact that sports networks finally realized that soccer coverage can be successfully tailored towards soccer fans. (Who knew!)
No place is that more evident than in the play by play slot. So when the opportunity presented itself to select the top two match callers around, I had to take it. You can have anyone else in the world, as long as I have Ian Darke and Martin Tyler my World Cup coverage will be set and the rest is just gravy. Seeing as how I did have to pick 7 more announcers, I tried to create a nice mix of insight and entertainment that could give soccer fans the broadcasts they deserve.
Booth 1: Ian Darke & Taylor Twellman
Booth 2: Martin Tyler & Efan Ekoku
Studio: Jeff Stelling, Robbie Mustoe, Brian McBride
Reporter: Chris Kamara
Wild Card: Jonathan Wilson