World Cup: U.S. to name 23-man roster Wednesday on a TV network -- guess which one?
The not necessarily healthy relationship between U.S. Soccer and ESPN will take another step deeper into the bedroom shortly after 10 a.m. PDT Wednesday when Bob Bradley, coach of the national team, announces his 23-man roster for the 2010 World Cup at ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn.
All 23 players will be on hand for the event.
This is not sour grapes. I hardly expected Bradley to show up at my front door with his players in tow and tell me who will be on the plane to South Africa on Sunday.
But consider for a moment the greater good of the sport in the U.S. Wouldn't it have been better for the roster announcement to have been made somewhere where all the U.S. networks could cover the event? If ESPN has the exclusive, how much air time are CBS and NBC, for example, going to give to the moment. Not much, that's for sure, which means that for their millions of viewers it is a tree falling in the forest with no one around. Kind of as worthy of attention as a tractor pull or some guy pulling a dead fish into a boat in a swamp in Alabama.
The soccer federation has a lot to be grateful for to ESPN for its commitment to the sport, but sooner or later it has to realize that there is a bigger picture. Perhaps that time has not come yet, but it will.
Things will be just as incestuous -- too strong? -- in South Africa, where ESPN will be hosting a media event in Rustenburg on the night before the England-U.S. game. All well and good, but there just happens to be something else going on at the same time that night -- the World Cup opening game between South Africa and Mexico. It's almost as if that were secondary to ESPN's little party.
Meanwhile, the fact that Bradley is disclosing his picks now makes the starting lineup he fields on Tuesday night against the Czech Republic all the more interesting. Are Edson Buddle and Herculez Gomez and Alejandro Bedoya and Sacha Kljestan and DaMarcus Beasley and all the rest of the on-the-bubble players going to get a real chance to show what they can do in a game with the pressure on them, or have the decisions already been made?
More on that later from Rentschler Field in East Hartford, where a near-sellout crowd is expected.
The game is on TV, but I forget which network.
Update: Turns out I was wrong. The ESPN bash is the afternoon of the USA-England game, not the night before, so it does not conflict with the tournament opener. So if the food is any good, I might even show up. Then again, maybe not.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Bob Bradley. Credit: Mel Evans / Associated Press.