No matter how hard MLS, ESPN, or any number of other entities have tried, soccer has never really caught on in America. So, Fox Sports is pulling out an unconventional approach and trying something new in order to drum up interest in the 2018 World Cup. They're currently trying to train Gus Johnson—one of the most popular play-by-play guys in America—to become "the American voice of soccer" over the course of the next five years. The plan is to have him call tons and tons of MLS games and Champions League matchups so that he is familiar with the intricacies of the sport, and then let him run wild in 2018 when the World Cup is broadcast on Fox.
"This is something we are going to work at," Fox Sports president Eric Shanks told Sports Illustrated recently. "It isn't an Olympic assignment where he does the luge for two weeks and then we don't hear from that announcer for the next four years. This is something we are serious about and something we will continue to work at. Based on the radio games and the practice games Gus has done, I think this is going to work."
Johnson doesn't sound quite as confident. And, can you blame him? It sounds like he has had very limited experience with the world of soccer (like most Americans out there) and is just trying to wrap his head around how to bring his passionate approach of broadcasting to the sport.
"I am interested in getting a little better every day," he says. "I want to learn this game. I am humbled by this game and their fans."
If nothing else, it's an interesting approach for Fox to take. And, we're glad to see that they're trying to force Johnson to learn more about soccer and prove himself before the 2018 World Cup as opposed to simply sticking him in the booth in five years and having him try to call matches. We'll be interested to see how it all works out.
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