A New Forum For Soccer Discussion in a Traditional Medium

Soccer Supporters and bloggers, the "Match Pricks" get a legitimate forum for their commentary.

Soccer Supporters and bloggers, the "Match Pricks" get a legitimate forum for their commentary.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin has no professional outdoor soccer team.  The last pro outdoor team in Wisconsin, Milwaukee Wave United, faded away in 2005 following two seasons in the second division A-League and one as an independent team.  Milwaukee has NEVER had a first division pro soccer team – even in the old NASL, which placed teams in 38 markets over 17 years.

So Milwaukee is an unlikely market to find an hourlong, weekly soccer show on a traditional over the air radio station. And not just any radio station, but 540 ESPN, a station branded with the most iconic American sports media name, the Disney-owned brand ESPN.  There are not very many English language soccer shows on American radio.  There is the Division 2 focused “Kick This” on Rochester, New York’s WHTK 1280 AM, Glenn Davis’ Houston Dynamo dominated Soccer Hour All Access on Houston’s SportsTalk KBME 790 and Sounders FC Weekly on 710 AM ESPN which, as the name implies, is limited to Sounders FC news and commentary.  Online there is the general soccer talk show, World Football Daily, but over the air, soccer talk is very hard to find.

Starting this Saturday at 8 am Central Time, however, there will be at least one over the air radio show in the United States that will discuss world, American, local and indoor soccer.  540 ESPN in Milwaukee will host the weekly “Soccer Saturday Presented by the Milwaukee Wave”.   As President and CEO of the Milwaukee Wave indoor soccer team, I recently negotiated a  partnership between the Wave, the oldest professional soccer franchise in the United States, and the Craig Karmazin owned 540 ESPN.

The weekly show is a major undertaking and commitment by the Milwaukee Wave and includes the skills and time of many people to make it work.  Wave VP of Communications Matt Schroeder serves as the show’s producer and director and coordinates the various moving parts of guests and hosts.  540 ESPN’s Matt Salmon is the show’s studio host and acts as the playmaker on the show’s team.  Wave Hall of Famer and television color analyst Art Kramer will serve as a regular co-host on the show as well.

It will of course have a segment on indoor soccer and the Milwaukee Wave featuring interviews and commentary with legendary Wave Head Coach Keith Tozer.  In addition to being the winningest indoor soccer coach in history, Tozer has also been the United States Futsal Coach since 1996.

Of great interest to me is the format and planned content for the show’s other four segments. Each week, approximately eight minutes each will be dedicated to local, American and world soccer plus an open segment for fan phone calls or discussion on hot soccer topics of the week.  Three of those four segments will be heavily influenced or even provided by local soccer fans and participants themselves.

     540 ESPN's studios face out onto Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

540 ESPN's studios face out onto Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee.

The local segment will include interviews with youth club leaders and feature accomplishments by local clubs, high schools and colleges. The world soccer segment is the most intriguing to me as it will have commentary from local supporters of clubs around the world.  Two of the featured commentators will be Arsenal supporter Colin Deval and Liverpool supporter Jim Kogutkiewicz who pen the entertaining Match Pricks blog. In the show’s test run last weekend, the Match Pricks provided intelligent and humorous comments on BridgeTerryGate, Portsmouth’s economic troubles and Manchester City’s upset of Chelsea which was playing out live on the studio’s television monitor.

World soccer segment guest hosts will include supporters of other European clubs and hopefully of Latin American clubs as well, which I hope will inspire honest and entertaining, if not always fully informed, discussion on a variety of world soccer topics.   Certainly Barclay’s Premier League, Champion’s League and this summer’s FIFA World Cup will dominate discussion in this segment, but other world soccer topics will be discussed as well.

I will likely host many of the American soccer segments.  The “Red, White and Blue” segment will only be as good as the guests we line up and my interviewing skills.  I am hopeful that Keith and my contact lists will take care of the former and my journalistic education and training, soccer management experience and intellectual curiosity will take care of the latter.

The show’s signal will be available over the air in Southeastern Wisconsin and will even reach to Madison, Green Bay and most of Chicagoland.  It will also be made available globally live via internet streams on both MilwaukeeWave.com and ESPNMilwaukee.com and will live on via segment podcasts, which will be stored on both websites. The 540 ESPN studios, which are in downtown Milwaukee and look out onto Wisconsin Avenue, have a pair of in studio cameras and we have opportunities for taped video segments as well.  So there is a chance that in the future, we may be able to produce a television version of “Soccer Saturday”, perhaps condensed to 30 minutes for broadcast, on the local sports channel and online.

If you’re interested in keeping updated on scheduled guests in the show, follow ”Soccer Saturday” on Twitter @soccersat540 or visit the show’s website.  If you want to participate, during the show you can Tweet questions to @soccersat540,  email them to soccersaturday@espnmilwaukee.com or call the studio line during the show at 800-990-3776.

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