Alexi Lalas Credit: Fox Sports

This summer should be a celebration of soccer in America.

For the first time, one network, Fox Sports, is televising both pre-eminent continental competitions – UEFA’s European Championship and CONMEBOL’s Copa America. One tournament features Europe’s best. The other features the best in the western hemisphere including a rare appearance by the United States and others from CONCACAF.

Outside of the World Cup (and maybe even including the World Cup) it’s a soccer fan’s wildest dream with matches taking place all day and all night. Except there’s just one issue muting the celebration for many fans.

Alexi Lalas.

Lalas was one of the stars of the American team in the 1994 World Cup when soccer really began to take a foothold in the United States. And how could you miss him with his huge red hair and trademark beard?

After his playing career, Alexi Lalas became an executive in MLS. And then he moved to television with ESPN and now Fox Sports. He has been a constant presence on the American soccer scene for 30 years. Given that track record, you’d assume he was a beloved figure in the American soccer world.

So why does it seem that there’s a groundswell of opposition to that constant presence at a time when it should be a celebration of soccer on television?

Check social media during any of the broadcasts and you’re likely to see Lalas’ name trending alongside the stars and nations actually taking part in the two tournaments on opposite sides of the globe… and not for great reasons.

At a distance, this is nothing new. If a commentator sticks around too long, fans can become jaded towards their analysis and personality. After decades doing NFL Primetime and other major events at ESPN, fans needed a break from Chris Berman. When Phil Simms and Tim McCarver first joined the broadcast booth they were seen as the best in the business. Decades later, fans were ready to hear new voices. Joe Buck was once the punching bag of the blogosphere but reinvented himself, becoming largely a fan favorite with his shift to ESPN and focus on Monday Night Football. Sometimes less is more.

Top-level analysts aren’t immune to criticism and often find themselves as trending topics. Just ask Tony Romo or John Smoltz. Or the entire ESPN NBA halftime show.

But when it comes to Fox’s coverage of Euro 2024 and Copa America, there seems to be a toxicity around Lalas’ mere presence on set that isn’t seen elsewhere in sports television. As if it is actively harming the product and the enjoyment of soccer fans instead of a mere nuisance or just something to complain about on social media.

Explaining why it feels so toxic could seem complicated, but the reasons are actually pretty simple.

Stuck in the Past

ESPN’s World Cup coverage was beloved as some of the best there has ever been by a sports network for any sporting event. But the network also televised the Euros for many years with similar high-quality coverage. Nevertheless, with the departure of John Skipper as president, the network largely gave up on televising huge international soccer tournaments.

Now Fox owns that space with the Copa, Euros, and World Cups. As much as there are some bright spots, Fox’s soccer coverage has just never reached that same ESPN standard. The bench of match commentators is not as deep and the studio doesn’t give the same in-depth analysis that fans loved. In short, Fox’s coverage has never felt as big or as important as ESPN’s. And in many ways, it just feels stuck.


A perfect example is when Alexi Lalas tried to compare the England National Team to the Dallas Cowboys.

Takes like that give soccer fans flashbacks to Michael Strahan patronizingly trying to explain the difference between “football” and “futbol.”

Face of the Network

When he was at ESPN, Alexi Lalas was part of a huge team of analysts and experts that was an extraordinary array of American and international talent. He was a role player.

At Fox, Lalas is the star of the show. All day. Every day. The other analysts are expected to take a back seat to him and play off of his brand of often bizarre commentary. It’s one thing for Lalas to have a Taylor Twellman or Michael Ballack to banter with. It’s another for him to be a Stephen A. Smith-type centerpiece where Fox thinks viewers are hanging off his every word at every moment.

Clearly, they are not.

And when Lalas is joined on set by stars of the game who have competed at the highest level for both club and country, such as Giorgio Chiellini or Daniel Sturridge, and they seemingly take a backseat to him, it’s hard to comprehend. The dynamic makes fans wonder “Which one doesn’t belong and why?” and it’s pretty easy to figure out.


Earlier in the Euros, a clip went viral of former England and Liverpool star Sturridge barely being able to contain his disbelief with one of Lalas’ rants while on set right next to him. And although Sturridge didn’t say anything, he spoke volumes about Fox’s current setup.

Alexi Lalas: Entertainer, Contrarian, or Troll?

Perhaps the biggest factor around the criticism towards Lalas is his current relationship with American soccer fans. Lalas has always marched to the beat of his own drum. That’s what we want from our television personalities, right? But over the past year, the relationship between Lalas and fans has taken a turn towards being adversarial and unhealthy.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup was a low point for the decorated US Women’s National Team. Lalas and Carli Lloyd went viral for their harsh criticism of the team and many of their star players. But Lalas went far enough to say that their progressive political stances and activism were “unlikeable to a portion of America.” When the USWNT crashed out in the Round of 16 against Sweden, some corners of the country were celebrating their demise. And Lalas, Lloyd, and others seemed all too happy to play up the culture of negativity and the political divides of the country.

In the aftermath of that tournament, it’s fair to ask how much of that controversy has to do with what transpired on the field and how much of it is influenced by Lalas’ own political and personal beliefs. Lalas has made his rightward political leanings well-known as an enthusiastic supporter of Florida Governor Ron Desantis. He also totally embraced Qatar during the 2022 World Cup in spite of their well-documented human rights issues while simultaneously asking things like, “What’s the matter with Portland?

Lalas can have whatever opinion he wants, but turning the American soccer conversation into an episode of Hannity has not left a good taste in anyone’s mouth.

Lalas has often gladly taken up contrarian points of view. It’s hard to find an MLS fanbase that hasn’t had a run-in with Lalas over the years. When the Columbus Crew, an MLS original franchise, were being threatened with a move to Austin, Lalas called it “good business” and said Columbus should be given a second-tier USL team as a “parting gift” even as the #SavetheCrew movement took hold. And he’s still very much pro-ownership even to this day.

If you’re a contrarian about everything, then nothing is real. Nothing matters. It’s just all in the art of playing a character, soccer’s Skip Bayless, who is there to poke and prod and troll. And perhaps the most disconcerting thing of all is that Lalas gets this and embraces it. In an interview with The Athletic, Lalas was unapologetic about his place in the American sporting lexicon.

“When I go on TV, I put on a costume and when that red light goes on, I don’t want people changing the channel. I don’t care if you like me or you don’t. I am as human as I possibly can be with the recognition that, on television, things have to be bigger and bolder,” Lalas said.

And sure, maybe Alexi Lalas thinks that this column is a “win” for him because he is once again the center of attention and as big and bold as ever while he triumphantly stands on his island of one. But right now he’s the only one winning, which makes it a lonely time for American soccer fans.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to