In the aftermath of yesterday’s U.S. Men’s National Team World Cup roster announcement, we’re left wondering what the overall implications will be given the absence of U.S. soccer’s most recognizable star of all-time. We explored the reaction from brands that are in the Landon Donovan business, but what’s next for the U.S. World Cup campaign’s major stakeholders?
The popularity of the World Cup and U.S. soccer transcends a single player, regardless of how much of a name brand Donovan might be. The U.S. team will charge on and viewers who plan to tune in to the action in Brazil will still do so. However, with only four returning contributors from the 2010 World Cup, this roster suddenly seems devoid of recognizable players.
Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley are the mainstays left to carry the torch for the U.S.. Both Dempsey and Bradley recently returned from European club soccer to play domestically, making the same commitment to MLS that Donovan himself made several years ago. Beyond these three, it’s up to the young, lesser-known players on the U.S. side to seize the opportunity in Brazil, and take a giant step towards supplanting these veterans as marketable stars in the run up to the 2018 World Cup.
As for Donovan, now that he’s available during the World Cup, one can’t help but think this opens up new possibilities for brands and broadcasters to leverage his presence over the course of the next few months. ESPN is the first company that should pounce on the opportunity presented by Donovan’s omission from the final U.S. roster.
Who better to join Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas in ESPN’s World Cup studio than U.S. Soccer’s most recognizable player, and someone with the most intimate knowledge of not only International soccer and its players, but the U.S. side and Klinsmann’s strategy. Perhaps Donovan would prefer to stay home for the World Cup, keeping the focus solely on the players that will suit up for the U.S.. In that case, it would provide a tremendous opening for Fox Sports 1 to secure the LA Galaxy star as an in-studio analyst. There’s some familiarity there already, as Donovan served as a studio guest for the network’s UEFA Champions League coverage last fall. No offense to Lalas’ credentials, but I imagine Fox would pull viewers away from ESPN’s coverage by showcasing Donovan’s analysis on his former team’s performance.
Coach Klinsmann maintains that Donovan will be his first call if a U.S. forward goes down with an injury prior to the World Cup, but in the meantime, broadcasters should be doing everything they can to secure his services for their tournament coverage.