….as told to guest writer Brian Mechanick.
The leaders of U.S. soccer journalism are clear: Grant Wahl, Ives Galracep, and Steve Goff. But with ESPN ramping up its soccer coverage to unprecedented levels, one writer in its empire has emerged as one of the leading new voices covering all of American soccer: Jeff Carlisle. No other writer at “The Worldwide Leader” brings the mix of thoughtful analysis and sheer American soccer know-how that Carlisle does.
Carlisle has produced some of ESPN’s best written content lately, highlighted by his recent article exploring the failure of the USMNT from 1950 to 1990. Jeff began his soccer journalism career in 2002 with QuakeMagic.com, where he covered the San Jose Earthquakes and San Jose CyberRays of the short-lived WUSA. He has written for ESPN.com since 2005, covering MLS as well as the U.S. men’s national team.
Jeff and I had the opportunity to have an in-depth conversation this past Wednesday. We discussed his career, the future of ESPN’s soccer coverage, and what to expect at World Cup 2010 for the Yanks right before left on his one of the bigger assignment of his career, an excursion to South Africa.
Q: When you were writing about the San Jose Cyber Rays for Quakemagic.com did you think that in eight years you were going to be writing for ESPN and going to South Africa to cover the World Cup?
It was always a goal, but you never know how things are going to work out. You have those dreams but you just try to take it step by step. I’ve been very fortunate, a lot of times I was just in the right place at the right time. It certainly worked well though.
Q: There has been a blowout of the coverage to promote the World Cup at ESPN, do you see the network carrying this momentum through and promoting soccer after the World Cup or is it more of a one-off promotion akin to the Olympics?
I don’t think it’s a one-off. When you look at the other properties that ESPN purchased on the broadcast side, they are still broadcasting MLS games, they have the rights for the next World Cup and they showed the European Championships two years ago.
I see them continuing to make a huge commitment to soccer. It’s a growing sport, but it’s fragmented with MLS fans, EPL fans, national team fans, and those don’t necessarily all overlap. The [executives] are long-term thinkers, and they’re not only trying to make money today, but also make money down the road, so I don’t see this as a one-off.
Q: The ESPN Soccernet website you write for, specifically on the U.S. front, has undergone a lot of changes in the last six months. Where do you see the website going forward and what do you see as your role with the site?
A lot of things were done specifically for the World Cup and I think that is why the U.S. page made such a transformation, but it is very World Cup-centric. I don’t make the decisions, but I do see it going back to what it was….a catchall U.S. page, whether it was the national team (men and women), MLS, WPS, college, and all that stuff. After the World Cup, when some of the stuff dies down, I think things are going to back to the way they were.
As far as my role, I’ve got a contract with them for the next year, so I don’t see my role changing after the World Cup. The people I talk to–they are pretty excited about soccer–and they just hired a new soccer-specific editor.
I think that speaks to the number of stories they see soccer producing.