Q&A With beIN Sport’s Lead Soccer Play-By-Play Man Phil Schoen

Schoen discusses calling matches with Ray Hudson, the soccer landscape in Florida, and more
Jack Bell (@JackBell} | Jan 25, 2016

From his base in Miami, beIN Sport’s lead soccer announcer Phil Schoen discusses South Florida’s vibrant professional soccer scene and, of course, his work with his rollicking broadcast partner Ray Hudson on more than 100 games a year.

Schoen has been one of the more recognizable voices calling soccer games on American TV for more than 20 years, first with ESPN/ABC, then on GolTV, and now on beIN Sport. The native of South Florida traces his soccer heritage back to the NASL’s Golden Era when he followed the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Schoen spoke recently with Jack Bell of

Bell: What have been some of your recent career highlights?

Schoen: Getting to be a part of an international venture like beIN Sports from the outset is exciting, it’s similar to what I experienced when GolTV started. It’s energizing being a part of something new and having the chance to do it better than before. Along the way I’ve had the chance to actually call a game at the Camp Nou [in Barcelona] and the Bernabéu [in Madrid], and to do Copa América in Chile, those have been some of the high points. But I would also say getting another chance to do U.S. games with road qualifiers also has been a thrill.

Bell: OK. The obvious next question is what has it been like working with Ray Hudson?

Schoen: I’ve been blessed to be able to do what we do, and, I’m trying to think of the right way to say this – in some ways it’s a dream come true to work with Ray. He’s someone I appreciated as a player in our youth and to get a chance over the last decade-plus to work with him has been amazing. I know there are some people out there that don’t get him. I guess there’s a lot of that. But working with Ray is never boring and, in any sport, it is important to be able to both understand and explain the tactics of what you’re seeing and to convey the passion that’s going on in front of you. I think there are very few people who are able to do both in any sport. Ray is one of them.

Bell: You guys call so many games, whether it’s off monitors in Miami or on location. Do you ever worry about going stale?

Schoen: Absolutely not. It’s one of the reasons I never went out and got a goal call like some announcers do. Or in baseball a home run call. For me it’s because every goal and every game is different. Every game I watch I pick up something new, that helps to keep it fresh and to realize in many ways that it’s not about us, it’s about the game. While a lot of people draw attention to what we do, we both realize that to be able to commentate on games that contain the likes of a [Lionel] Messi or [Cristiano] Ronaldo is a big reason people are tuning in in the first place. Not much building up that needs to be done. I love what we do and we work hard to do the best we can for the people watching at home. It’s the game that is important.

Bell: It is an exciting time for professional soccer in South Florida. Miami FC is about to start its first season, under head coach Alessandro Nesta. There is certainly going to be a rivalry with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. What do you think are some of the challenges for pro soccer in the area?

Schoen: There is a huge potential market down here and I think the problem in many ways throughout the United States and specifically in South Florida is that people view the soccer market as they do the American sports market without realizing that soccer fans are different. It isn’t any more true than in South Florida. The area gets a bad rap because of the ambivalence of fans of the established sports. I think we saw a bit of potential the last year of the Miami Fusion when Doug Hamilton took over the front office and Ray took over the team on the field and captured the hearts of soccer fans. There was steady growth and excitement building in the community. Unfortunately it was cut short largely because of the economic situation of the time.

Over the last decade that potential market has grown astronomically. Some people say that whatever team comes here has got to win right away and keep winning to keep attention. I think that is a little simplistic if not utterly wrong. One thing that needs to happen is that the team has got to integrate itself into community. More importantly it has to be exciting. Even if they win there’s probably nothing more fatal than being boring. I think, from what we see now in this market, Florida will have two MLS teams, four NASL teams, six or seven NPSL teams and numerous college teams. There is a fan base out there that is waiting if not begging to be energized and entertained.

Bell: How do you think it’s all going to play out?

Schoen: Some people think putting another NASL team in South Florida is a bad idea. I’m not one of them. I think it’s taken a while to come to the realization that what we’ve seen in MLS with New York having two teams is that the market is energized more than it’s ever been. The addition of Beckham’s team could make things more difficult for [Miami FC owners] Paolo Maldini and [Riccardo] Silva, but not impossible. It could actually prove to be a net positive.

The disadvantage they [Miami FC and Fort Lauderdale] have is not much chance to go head to head [with a potential MLS team], but there will be increased attention on the sport that they will have access to. If they take advantage of that and opportunities to go head to head in friendlies and the Open Cup, that could be an opportunity to make their claim. Overall from an NASL perspective, I think the Open Cup is one aspect that has not been taken advantage of as much as could be. Back in the early days of MLS when Rochester came up and won the Open Cup, it showed that MLS was not the only avenue.

Bell: What do you make of the rivalry between Miami FC and the Strikers?

Schoen: It’s too early to tell, however, there is an awareness in the soccer community that to have the likes of Ronaldo and Maldini/Nesta can only help. However all three of them are beyond their playing days. It’s a hook, it’s an opportunity. But you still have to accomplish on the field. While the Strikers improved last season and while Miami seems to have some very good early signings in [Dane] Richards and [Wilson] Palacios especially, the final verdict has to wait until they step onto the field.

Bell: For you personally, how do you think it’s going to shake out? What excites you?

Schoen: As a fan, having grown up in the days of the Strikers and to have seen that ripped away makes me realize how valuable the sport can be, but also how tenuous it can be. I have always believed in the Florida market considering it is, arguably, among the few places in the country you can play the sport year round. And with an influx of people from around the globe it gives you a melting pot of soccer that has so much untapped talent. I think that with more pro teams down here with better coaching that comes with that, the more Floridians you will see in the national team picture. That’s something that has not always been the case. We’ve taken a back seat to California, even New Jersey. Arguably, Florida has even more talent has even more raw talent.

With the addition of Miami FC, the re-emergence of the Strikers, and all the NPSL teams in the area, it makes it much more likely that talented players will be spotted and developed rather than slipping through cracks.


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