The Gus Johnson experiment is over, ending in a messy lab explosion that left chemical goo all over the place. Now it’s time for Fox Sports to clean up the mess, go back to the drawing board, and start over.
Gus is gone from Fox’s soccer coverage and the network now has to begin again in their search for a lead announcer for World Cup coverage that begins next summer in Canada with the 2015 Women’s World Cup. In many ways, it’s a chance for a reboot in their coverage of the sport as they attempt to match the very high bar set by ESPN’s excellent international soccer coverage.
That journey begins tomorrow as their coverage of CONCACAF qualifying for the Women’s World Cup kicks off with a Fox Sports 2 doubleheader: Guatemala vs Haiti followed by the USWNT vs Trinidad. And the announcing assignments may give us an insight into Fox’s mindset and who the leading candidates might be post-Gus to be their top announcer.
The play by play announcers for Women’s World Cup qualifying include John Strong, JP Dellacamera, Mark Rogondino, Justin Kutcher, Jenn Hildreth and Mark Followill. Several of those names will be familiar to dedicated American soccer fans. Kutcher, who has recently been seen calling college football on Fox Sports 1, did a very solid job calling Bears-Falcons on Sunday with one of the biggest assignments of his national television career.
Top MLS voice John Strong will call two of the three USWNT games in qualifying while veteran J.P. Dellacamera will call the other. Most importantly, Strong also gets the assignment for the final while Kutcher and Rogondino call the two semis.
Elsewhere in the Fox lineup for the tournament, Cat Whitehill Angela Hucles, Danielle Slaton, Tony DiCicco, Kyndra de St. Aubin, and Christine Latham are the analysts. Whitehill will be the lead analyst for the tournament calling the final and two USWNT games with Jenny Taft on the sidelines. Rob Stone leads the crew in studio that includes Fox Soccer regulars and former national team players Leslie Osborne and Heather Mitts, as well as former Mexican international Monica Gonzalez. Julie Stewart-Binks will also make appearances as a studio host throughout the tournament.
The full announcing and game schedule can be found here.
Fox is making a huge investment in the WWC qualifying that has never been seen before by televising every game for the first time. And while there may not be much drama over the qualification round for the USWNT, there will be plenty of keen observers watching the broadcast booths closely throughout the tournament. This is Fox’s first big test run with an international tournament. And barring a major import ala Martin Tyler, one of these announcers very well could be the lead voice for next summer’s World Cup and moving forward into 2018.
Right now it appears John Strong is the leading candidate with Dellacamera, Rogondino, and Kutcher in the mix as well. It may be a sign that Fox is still committed to American voices covering the sport for their biggest events and is finally content with giving the ball to experienced American soccer announcers and letting them run with it.
There are no good soccer analogies I can use to replace that article-ending football analogy, are there?