Gus Johnson is out as Fox's lead soccer broadcaster. And another American play-by-play man is off of the sport's air.
As soccer has grown in the U.S., some very vocal people have clamored to see the sport's American broadcasters grow with it. Instead of the British accents that have long provided the soundtrack to the country's telecasts, they want to hear an American voice. One of their own. One that is reflective of the culture that is growing in the U.S.
The question is how many people there are who feel that way, and it doesn't appear to be many. Some networks have bet that it is a significant figure, as ESPN did with Dave O'Brien in 2006 and Fox did with Johnson. The idea that American soccer needs an American voice was the driving force behind both hires, but they both had brief careers in the sport, and for good reason. They didn't know the sport, from the rules, to the players, to the rhythm and everything in between. They tried, and by all accounts did work very hard, but soccer, like any other sport, isn't something you can cram for. You have to know it, and it was abundantly clear to viewers that they didn't.
It has become increasingly clear that Americans don't demand an American voice. They don't demand a British voice either and the feedback from ESPN's Mexico broadcasts has indicated that they don't even necessarily want a Latino voice. Americans simply want someone who is good, accent be damned.
At the moment, most of the best announcers on American TV are British. They are certainly more popular. The country fell in love with Ian Darke four years ago, an affair that continues to this day. Martin Tyler has gained a following, partly due to the FIFA video game series, and Jon Champion was beloved at this summer's World Cup. Adrian Healey and Derek Rae are also well-liked and well-respected, while Arlo White is a Brit who went from the Seattle Sounders' play-by-play man, to NBC's MLS voice, to its lead Premier League man, drawing rave reviews at each step.
That Americans have shown an affinity for Brits isn't necessarily a matter of bias either. All of the aforementioned announcers have been working in the sport for longer than this country has had a noteworthy soccer following. As much progress as the U.S. has made on the field, it is still a young soccer country and few Americans have grown up immersed in the sport, then grew as announcers in the sport.
With time, the U.S. will have its own broadcasters, and excellent ones at that. And when that does happen, there is no reason to worry that any sort of bias will keep them from getting chances. On the contrary, history says the Americans who come through will get more than their fair share of opportunities.
All four networks who broadcast soccer have given a lead national job to an American before, with ESPN featuring JP Dellacamera, O'Brien and Jack Edwards previously. The network has even used Glenn Davis, and Steve Cangialosi has been given spot duty alongside NBC's lead MLS voice, John Strong. All the while, Phil Schoen is the face of beIN Sport and the Johnson experience made it clear Fox would love to feature an American. There hasn't been a highly acclaimed American who hasn't gotten a crack, while networks have taken chances on Americans who never deserved it.
When the U.S. is producing waves of American broadcasters, they will be on air. Call it the next step in the country's soccer growth, but it will come, and even then they will not be alone because the Brits aren't going away either. If we know anything now, it is that viewers aren't clamoring for an accent of any kind. Wherever the voices may come from, Americans only have one criteria for their announcers -- be good.