There’s never been a better time to be an American soccer fan, at least when it comes to viewing options. There are the national leagues, the international competitions, highlight shows, documentaries, reality shows — they are all available to Americans via cable TV or the Internet, and it’s addicting.
Here are three soccer-related things on American TV that no new soccer fan should miss:
Saturday morning soccer – live!
The best professional soccer is played in Europe. Top players come from all corners of the globe to play in the continent’s top five leagues – England’s Premier League, Germany’s Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1 and Italy’s Serie A. The best news for American soccer fans is that you can see them all without having to go to your local sports bar or get on an airplane. With NBC Sports Network (home of the Premier League), Fox Sports (home of the Bundesliga) and BeIN Sports (home of La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1), soccer is virtually always on if you are an American cable TV subscriber.
The best time for families to watch: Saturday morning. Depending on where in the U.S. you live, you can see live European soccer games at 8 or 9 a.m. Simply get out of bed, get your cup of coffee, get a bowl of cereal for the kids and watch some world-class soccer.
Monday Night Soccer
Monday 8 to 10 pm Eastern on BeIN Sports
The first highlights show that any new fan should start watching is Monday Night Soccer on BeIN Sports. We almost never miss an episode in our family.
What makes it so great? The show features replays of four different games that aired during the previous week on BeIN Sports from the Spanish, Italian and French leagues, condensing 90-plus minutes of game time into about 25 minutes. The show is expertly produced, eliminating much of the dead time in a game while still preserving the feel of watching a game rather than a highlights package.
Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona – arguably the two biggest and most popular soccer teams on Earth — are almost always featured. That means you can watch Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi – the two most dominant figures in world soccer for the past decade — most every week. Their teammates, including Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema (Real Madrid) and Luis Suarez and Neymar (Barcelona), are worth tuning in for as well.
French power Paris Saint-Germain and Italian titans such as Juventus, Roma and Inter Milan are also frequently featured. That means stars like Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus) and David Luiz (PSG) can be seen, too. That’s an enormous amount of star power packed into a two-hour show.
The real star of the show, however, is BeIN Sports announcer Ray Hudson. He’s featured every week on Monday Night Soccer, typically having announced either Real Madrid or Barcelona’s most recent game. This retired English soccer player and coach packs a passion — and a way with words — that must be heard and seen to be believed. In his English accent, he talks of “magisterial” plays, passes that are “soft as a mother’s kiss” and shots that are like thunderbolts, while also producing shrieks of delight and wonder.
Here’s Hudson calling one of Lionel Messi’s best goals: http://youtu.be/0Q7ZAnCFzI0. Do yourself a favor and Google “Ray Hudson and Lionel Messi” videos. No one brings out the childlike glee in Hudson like Messi does, and once you’ve heard the sheer joy he exudes at watching one of history’s great players, you’ll want more.
And as a bonus, Monday Night Soccer often is shown during the summer after league play is over in most countries. That’s because they own the TV broadcast rights to major international competitions throughout the world and simply show the highlights of those games – many of which includes teams with stars from the world’s best leagues — in place of league games.
Men In Blazers
Mondays at 5:30 pm Eastern on NBC Sports Network
The other show we almost never miss is Men In Blazers on NBC Sports Network. Men In Blazers is all about the English Premier League, featuring highlights of most every game from the previous weekend. anything but your average highlights show, though, as hosts Michael Davies and Roger Bennett (AKA Davo and Rog, two Brits who now live in the United States) get silly, crack each other up, interview soccer-fan celebrities in their studio in New York and generally have more fun than the hosts of any highlight show you’ll ever see.
Kids, they even had Elmo as a guest. How cool is that?
To be perfectly honest, I understand about half their jokes, simply because I’m new to soccer and don’t get many of the references they make. (My son gets far fewer of the jokes.) But we understand more as we go. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter if some things go over our heads. What we do understand is so clever, and their passion for soccer is so infectious, that it makes for extremely entertaining television.
Note: Parents may want to watch one episode of Men In Blazers by themselves before watching with the kids. The guys make liberal use of the word “crap” and also make some references that are likely inappropriate for young ears — though virtually all of those references will likely go straight over your kids’ heads. I watch with my son, but be sure to use your own best judgment for what’s right for your soccer family.
The Bottom Line
There’s never been a better time in TV history to be an American soccer fan. Between live Saturday and Sunday morning soccer games and a wide variety of highlight shows and talk shows, there are countless ways to get your soccer fix on American TV. This document just barely scratches the surface, but stick with SocceredUp for more on the best shows for new soccer fans.
Photo credit: CreativeCommons