When it was announced that the 4th Round 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match between the Seattle Sounders and Cal FC (Tuesday, 7 PM Pacific) would be carried by FOX Soccer the assumption was that Eric Wynalda's presence was a large reason for it. This can be confirmed as true, but there's a bit more to the story. Via an email exchange with FOX Soccer's Vice President of Programming and Acquisitions Joshua Glassel Sounder at Heart asked about the interest of FSC in the Open Cup and specifically the early round game.
With Mark Rogondino and Brian Dunseth on the call and Christian Miles on the sideline FOX is making it clear this is not an amateur operation, but sending people familiar with the Sounders, MLS and as familiar as can be with Cal FC's players. Rogondino announced over twitter that he was at Cal FC's win over Portland. But the broadcast isn't going to be limited to that crew. Glassel told SaH that "We're planning to engage with him [Eric Wynalda] in-game a bit more than you'd see in your typical broadcast. The atmosphere at Starfire will be electric, and having consistent access to Cal FC's manager will enhance the broadcast experience for our viewers."
For a neutral wanting to capture the unique experience of the Open Cup the potential on TV seems quite strong. The key will be for the director and producer to manage those voices appropriately. Seattle fans can take comfort that they and the Sounders are as much a part of the story as Wynalda and Cal FC.
"Seattle being the three-time defending U.S. Open Cups champion is a great story," said Glassel, "and the fact that Eric Wynalda manages Cal FC is certainly unique from a FOX perspective. The bottom line is Cal FC's players have been remarkable, and the ability to capture a true David versus Goliath matchup is what this competition is all about."
Similar to the first two rounds (or is that rounds two and three now?) of the NCAA tournament, this match has a tale that even non-soccer fans can understand. That FOX would feature it isn't a surprise. Anyone can understand the story of David and Goliath, or Lehigh v Duke, or Norfolk State v Missouri. Keeping the blowouts interesting is always a challenge for US televesion. Do you remember the classic between Michigan State and LIU Brooklyn?
Still, a non-Final in the US Open Cup is going to be available to a majority of soccer fans. An HD feed means potential to appear on highlight shows. And if people watch, would FOX Soccer explore other non-Finals?
"We're big fans of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup," Glassel said, "and even though we're not the current media rights holder, we're thankful to have this opportunity to bring the game to fans of the competition. We'd love to broadcast additional USOC matches in the future."