: Francine Daveta/NBC Sports

NBC Sports finalizes TV talent for Premier League coverage


NBC Sports Group announced its on-air talent for coverage of the Barclays Premier League will feature Arlo White as lead play-by-play voice, Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux as match analysts and Gary Lineker as special contributor. The commentating team will be supported domestically by Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, who will join host Rebecca Lowe as studio analysts in Stamford, Conn.

The England-based commentating team will call the matches live, on-site. White (pictured with Lowe), who spent the last two seasons as the play-by-play voice for NBC’s coverage of MLS and the 2012 London Olympics, will relocate back to the United Kingdom to partner with former England internationals Dixon and Le Saux, who will split time in the booth working as color commentators. Lineker, one of the most respected presenters in the U.K, will support the telecasts as a special contributor and will also host on-site coverage throughout the season.

White burst onto the U.S. Soccer scene as the television and radio voice of the Seattle Sounders at the start of the 2010 season. His smooth play-call and intricate insight won immediate plaudits from the soccer-impassioned Cascadia region, leading to NBC hiring his services to cover its MLS and Olympic coverage. Before coming to the States, White spent nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England where he was part of the BBC Radio 5-Live announcing team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. White also served as a host on BBC Radio 5 Live, Saturday 5 Live Sport, and the Monday Night Club and has covered a variety of BBC events including the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and various Champions League football matches.

MORE: NBC Sports’ programming plans for Premier League

Dixon and Le Saux are no strangers to the soccer savvy U.S. public. Dixon earned 22 caps with the English national team from 1990-99 and played for five English clubs including, most famously, Arsenal, where he played from 1988-2002. Dixon began as a color commentator for BBC before switching to rivals ITV, where he will continue to contribute in addition to his duties with NBC. Le Saux played 36 times for the Three Lions from 1994-2000 and played for Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers and Southampton over his 17 year career. Since retiring from professional football Le Saux has worked for BBC as a color commentator and an analyst on Match of the Day 2.

Lineker will contribute to NBC’s Premier League coverage while continuing to host BBC’s flagship show, Match of the Day. As a player Lineker earned 80 caps for England and famously won the 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals. His 17 year career began at Leicester City before moving on to Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham and Japan’s Nagoya Grampus Eight. After retirement Lineker entered the sports broadcasting world working for the BBC, Al Jazeera Sports and Eredivisie Live.

NBC’s commentating team will be supported by the studio team, which will provide coverage from NBC Sports Group’s new state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center in Stamford. Lowe, who was recently named lead host for NBC Sports Group’s coverage of the Premier League, will team up with former Jamaican international Earle and former English footballer Mustoe.  Since retiring from playing, Earle has worked as a color commentator for NBC’s MLS coverage and as an analyst for BBC, ITV, Sky, the Portland Timbers and ESPN while Mustoe has enjoyed a six year stint providing color commentary and analyst work for ESPN.

The full press release is below





NEW YORK – April 16, 2013 – NBC Sports Group has announced on-air talent for its coverage of Barclays Premier League soccer, starting in August.

  • Arlo White will serve as the lead play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s Barclays Premier League coverage beginning in August, calling games on-site from the U.K.;
  • Former Premier League stars Lee Dixon and Graeme Le Saux will join White, on-site in the U.K. as analysts on NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage;
  • Legendary U.K. footballer and presenter Gary Lineker will serve as a special contributor to NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage, and occasionally host on-site studio coverage in the U.K.;
  • Former Jamaican National Team player Robbie Earle and former English footballer Robbie Mustoe will serve as studio analysts, alongside studio host Rebecca Lowe from NBC Sports Group’s Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn.

ARLO WHITE – PLAY-BY-PLAY: White, who spent the last two seasons as the play-by-play voice for NBC Sports Group’s MLS coverage, and was NBC’s voice of soccer for the 2012 London Olympics, will relocate back to the U.K. to call Premier League matches on-site for NBC.

Prior to joining NBC, White was the play-by-play voice of the Seattle Sounders FC of MLS on television and radio. He previously spent nine years with BBC Radio Sport in England where he was part of the BBC Radio 5-Live announcing team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. White also served as a host on BBC Radio 5 Live and hosted the station’s flagship Premier League Football show, Saturday 5 Live Sport, as well as the Monday Night Club alongside BBC football commentator John Motson. From 2002 to 2005, White was part of the 5 Live Breakfast program on the BBC, where he covered, among other events, the 2003 Cricket World Cup in South Africa, the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and various Champions League football matches.

LEE DIXON – GAME ANALYST: Dixon will work alongside White on Premier League matches on NBC. A right back, Dixon was an English international earning 22 caps. He started his career with Burnley in 1982, playing for Chester City, Bury and Stoke City before joining Arsenal in January, 1988. He played for Arsenal for the rest of his career, retiring in 2002. He was part of four League Championships, three FA Cup wins, a European Cup-Winners’ Cup and a league cup. Dixon, who has worked as a color commentator for BBC, will continue his work for ITV.

GRAEME LE SAUX – GAME ANALYST: Le Saux will split time in the booth with Dixon working with White on NBC Sports Network’s Premier League matches. A left back and midfielder, Le Saux played 36 times for England, including the 1998 World Cup. He started his career with Chelsea in 1987, and also played with Blackburn Rovers and Southampton before retiring in 2005. He won the FA Cup in 2000 and also won a League Cup and European Cup-Winners’ Cup. Le Saux has worked for BBC as an analyst on Match of the Day 2, and as a color commentator.

GARY LINEKER – SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR/ON-SITE HOST: – Lineker will serve as a special contributor for NBC Sports Group’s Premier League coverage. He will also host some on-site coverage throughout the season. Lineker a forward, played 80 times for England, scoring 48 times, second most all-time for the Three Lions. He won the 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals and added four more in 1990. Lineker started his career with Leicester City in 1978 and played there until 1985, when he moved to Everton FC. He moved abroad with FC Barcelona a year later and after success in Spain, he moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 1989. He finished his career in Japan with Nagoya Grampus Eight in 1994. Lineker, one of the most respected presenters in the U.K, will continue to host Match of the Day, BBC’s flagship show.

REBECCA LOWE – STUDIO HOST: As previously announced, Lowe will relocate to the U.S. this summer, and will host Premier League coverage from NBC Sports Group’s new state-of-the-art International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn. Lowe joined ESPN UK in 2009 to co-host its Premier League matches as well as its FA Cup coverage, and co-anchor Between the Lines, a football debate and opinion program. Lowe co-hosted ESPN’s coverage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2011, in Germany, and its Euro 2012 coverage from Bristol, Conn. In May, 2012, Lowe became the first woman in UK history to host the FA Cup Final – a six-hour live broadcast from Wembley Stadium. Lowe will conclude her Premier League and FA Cup duties with ESPN UK in May.

ROBBIE EARLE – STUDIO ANALYST: Earle will work alongside Lowe and Robbie Mustoe as an analyst in NBC Sports Group’s Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn. A midfielder, Earle played 33 times for Jamaica, scoring eight times, including Jamaica’s first ever goal in a World Cup. English-born, Earle qualified to play for Jamaica thanks to his heritage. Earle started his career with Port Vale in 1981, before moving to Wimbledon in 1991. He played 10 seasons with Wimbledon before he retired. Earle has worked as a color commentator for NBC Sports Group’s MLS coverage and as an analyst for BBC, ITV, Sky, the Portland Timbers and ESPN.

ROBBIE MUSTOE – STUDIO ANALYST: Mustoe will join Earle and Lowe in the Premier League studio in Stamford, Conn. Mustoe, a midfielder, started his career with Oxford United in 1987. He moved to Middlesbrough in 1990 and played there for 12 seasons, before ending his career with Charlton Athletic and Sheffield Wednesday. He played in two FA Cup finals and one league cup final. Mustoe has worked with ESPN since 2008, working as color commentator on matches and as a studio analyst on ESPN Soccer Press Pass.

For more information about NBC Sports Group shows and properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios and headshots, please visit NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com (http://nbcsportsgrouppressbox.com)

Griezmann wins best player award in Spain for last season

SEVILLE, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23:  Antoine Griezmann of Club Atletico de Madrid looks on during the match between Sevilla FC vs Club Atletico de Madrid as part of La Liga at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuanon October 23, 2016 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
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VALENCIA, Spain (AP) Antoine Griezmann has won the best player award in the Spanish league for last season.

The Atletico Madrid forward was announced as the winner in a ceremony organized by La Liga in Valencia on Monday. The Frenchman was not at the ceremony.

[ MORE: Ballon d’Or omissions ]

Atletico also had Diego Simeone win the best coach award, Diego Godin earn the best defender award, and Jan Oblak clinch best goalkeeper.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi was selected as the best forward, and Real Madrid’s Luka Modric as the best midfielder.

Team captains voted for the top players in each position, while a data-analysis system generated the best player award.

Barcelona won the Spanish league last season, ahead of Real Madrid and Atletico.

Biggest omissions from the Ballon d’Or shortlist

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal (R) is chased by N'Golo Kante of Chelsea (L)  during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

France Football released the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or award given to the world’s best player.

As expected in a EURO year, there are several Portuguese standouts to go with the usual suspects.

There are also some odd omissions.

[ MLS: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

Alexis Sanchez was Arsenal’s second-leading scorer as the Gunners finished second in the Premier League, and the South American attacker scored three goals as Chile won its second-straight Copa America, this one on American soil. It’s baffling that he’s not on the list.

N'Golo Kante enjoyed a season as the engine of the best story in Premier League history, manning the midfield for Leicester, and followed it up by helping France reach the EURO 2016 final. Pretty good, right?

Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic were key pieces in Barcelona’s run to the La Liga crown despite being limited by the transfer ban. Mascherano followed it up by captaining Argentina to the Copa America Centenario final, while Rakitic starred alongside Ivan Perisic as Croatia won a tricky EURO 2016 group before falling to eventual winners Portugal.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 11: Fernando Torres of Club Atletico de Madrid is surrounded by (L-R) Javier Mascherano, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on January 11, 2015 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Mascherano (far left) and Rakitic (second from right) are among several Barcelona players who didn’t make the cut (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images).

Harry Kane may’ve not been a good choice to take corner for England, but he also was one of the best all-around attackers in the world as Tottenham surged into the Top Four of the Premier League.

With four goalkeepers making the cut, it shows that club success is more important than performance. David De Gea‘s season was certainly on the same plane as Buffon, though the latter won the league with Juventus and edged Spain at EURO 2016.

Marcelo, Leonardo Bonucci, and David Silva were also players who succeeded for both club and country and could’ve found their way onto the 30.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Finally, let’s see how I fared in projecting the 30 men back in mid-September:

— I got 24 on the nose, wrongly guessing that Kante, Kane, Alexis, Mascherano, Rakitic, and Olivier Giroud would make the cut. Giroud led Arsenal and France in scoring, but if Alexis wasn’t going to make it the coiffed Frenchman had no hope.

— Of the six I didn’t get, only one brings me great shame: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should’ve been in the first 15 names on any list, not missing the post entirely. Paulo Dybala is a bit of a shocker from the crew, and Koke is a tricky miss. Luka Modric was our No. 31, while Rui Patricio was our 35. Diego Godin was a bad miss.

— What to learn from this: Atletico Madrid was obviously credited for its return to the UCL final, so Godin and Koke prove that carried a bit more weight than Kante and Giroud making the final with France, and Alexis thriving at the Copa America.

Whose historic hiccup was worse: Portland or Columbus?

PORTLAND, OR - MARCH 6: Kei Kamara #23 of Columbus Crew and Liam Ridgewell #24 of Portland Timbers go after a ball during the second half of the game at Providence Park on March 6, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. The Timbers won the match 2-1. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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It’s been less than a year since we discussed who was best suited to return to the MLS Cup Final following Portland’s 2-1 win over Columbus in the 2015 title match.

Now we’re wondering who’s fall was more shameful, the Portland Timbers and Columbus Crew each missed the playoffs, just over 11 months after contesting the final. That’s never happened before.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

We asked our staff to take a stand on the matter of who flubbed worse: Gregg Berhalter’s Crew or Caleb Porter’s Timbers.

Andy Edwards

Columbus: 2016 was Gregg Berhalter’s third season in charge in Columbus, and in each of his first two years, Crew SC took a gigantic step forward — from non-playoff side to in the playoffs in 2014; from young, naive playoff team to MLS Cup hosts in 2015 — which meant 2016 was supposed to be the culmination of a truly great revolution in Columbus.

They started the season slow, with no wins in their first five games. But they had done the same thing just 12 months earlier and there they were playing for the Cup in December. The Crew looked to be slowly turning this season’s corner when the Kei Kamara/Federico Higuain thing exploded and effectively ended their season in May.

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

The big knock on Crew SC last year, at least for me, was that they never seemed to figure out a Plan B — if “hit it long for Kei, he’ll knock it down, and Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram will run onto it and toss the alley-oop back to him inside the six” wasn’t working, you’d already beaten them.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

2016 exposed Berhalter, perhaps more than any player on the roster, because of the elongated nature of those struggles — literally the entire season. Finlay (6 goals, 9 assists) and Meram (5 goals, 13 assists) put up fine numbers once again, but they rang hollow for a losing team going nowhere all season long.

Wil Trapp’s age-23 season was completely wasted — he’s no longer “a young player” — and I’d take a long, hard look at Europe this winter if I were him. The defense has been an unmitigated disaster the last two season (53 and 58 goals conceded), mostly due to the all-out attacking nature of Berhalter’s game plans — hint: defending 2-on-4 against counter-attacks almost never ends well. The “other” Kamara, Ola, actually panning out was the saving grace that kept them within a mile of the playoff race.

Nick Mendola

Portland: Maybe it’s an odd year thing; Portland won the 2015 MLS Cup after claiming the West’s best record in 2013.

Or maybe, just maybe, the Timbers ran out of luck under newly-extended Caleb Porter in his fourth season on the job. This time, no one bailed them out.

Portland came out of nowhere to claim the West’s No. 1 seed in 2013, as Porter engineered an astounding 15 draws including 10 on the road. The tactics and lineup selection helped, but so did the arrivals of Diego Valeri and Will Johnson (pretty important, no?).

The Timbers missed the playoffs by a point in 2014, a 3W-1D end to the season not enough to make up for a horrible start to the season.

The next season saw the Timbers win it all, but not without needing a three-match winning streak to leap ahead of four teams and claim the third-seed (Seattle, LA, and KC all finished two points back). Six games later, they went from almost out to on top of the MLS world.

So what happened this year, with many falling all over ourselves to praise the long-term prospects of a Timbers dynasty? A giant failure. The Timbers failed to win a single road game, tossing aside their strong home field advantage (Portland was 12W-3L-2T at Providence Park).

SANDY, UT - APRIL 19: Head coach Caleb Porter of the Portland Timbers encourages his team during their game against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium April 19, 2014 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

The Timbers scored the second-most penalties in the league this year, with five, so it’s not like fortune avoided them (The Red Bulls didn’t score one).

But, oh, this was ugly.

Portland took three of its the final 12 points available to it. The Timbers lost big in Vancouver and Houston, two non-playoff destinations. In its last 13 games, Portland lost nine and won four.

[ MORE: Yedlin on Newcastle, EFL Cup ]

The Timbers completed the fewest passes in Major League Soccer, 400 less than the closest competitor and 4,300 behind the league-leading Revs. Portland couldn’t take the ball away, either, with the second-fewest interceptions in the league.

You could even argue that losing 4-1 in Vancouver on Decision Day — a loss to a knocked-out Cascadia Cup rival — makes it worse than Columbus’ season alone. This was awful stuff, albeit schadenfreude for the anti-Porter brigade.

Oh, and they bombed out of a poor CONCACAF Champions League group without a Liga MX or MLS opponent in it.

Alright, so Andy tabbed Columbus and Nick took Portland. Let’s get a tiebreaker in here.

Matt Reed

Every champion has a target on its back but the Timbers managed to essentially bring back all of its key starters from a season ago, despite losing Maxi Urruti. The Timbers were involved in 22 games separated by one goal or less in 2016, with Caleb Porter’s side winning only seven of those contests. Had one more game gone in their favor the Timbers would likely be back in the postseason. 

The case for (and against) every Eastern Conference playoff team

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 13: Benoit Cheyrou #8 of Toronto FC defends Andrea Pirlo #21 of New York City FC free kick at Yankee Stadium on March 13, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
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Of the six teams remaining in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, you could argue there are three distinct pairings.

You have red-hot traditional sides in DC United and the New York Red Bulls; There are the big-name driven, deep squads from Toronto FC and New York City FC, and finally the two relative unknowns truly deserving of “wildcard” status in the Philadelphia Union Montreal Impact.

[ MORE: Yedlin on Newcastle, EFL Cup ]

Sure the table tends to tell us who’s who in the pecking order. It’s hard to bet against the Red Bulls seeing they haven’t lost since July 3, and Frank Lampard has somehow quietly been a wrecking ball thanks to dynamite performances from captain David Villa and world-class maestro Andrea Pirlo.

But there are reasons those teams may not be the true favorite to advance to the MLS Cup final, just as there are ways to imagine Philly can punch their way through the East. We’re here to give you both.

Philadelphia Union (6)

Why they’ll win: The young unit might be too green to know it isn’t expected to knock off Toronto in Toronto, or a New York team in New York or New Jersey. Chris Pontius and Tranquillo Barnetta add veteran skill and savvy, while Andre Blake is capable of stealing some of the league’s more terrific strikes.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Why they won’t: Their last win was Aug. 27, and we’re supposed to expect the Union to win on the road at Toronto, RBNY, and then either NYCFC or DC. Nah, dog (though it’d be quite a story and we’d be happy to watch it).

Montreal Impact (5)

Why they’ll win: Didier Drogba may not be mentally in it, but he’s still a fierce competitor who can score with the best of them. By the way, the “best of them” definitely includes Ignacio Piatti. The Argentine has been one of the top players in the league this season, and can take over any game (Yes, even three on the bounce).

Why they won’t: The dysfunction and fall-out from Drogba’s benching permeates the room before match against red-hot DC United, and an average road team fails to meet expectations.

Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba heads the ball in front of D.C. United midfielder Marcelo Sarvas during the second half of an MLS soccer match Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP)

DC United (4)

Why they’ll win: A four-match win streak earned most of DC’s starters a well-deserved rest on Decision Day, and there will be a “Why not us?” cry coming from the DC dressing room. Patrick Nyarko has been a lot of fun to watch. Luciano Acosta is legit as well. Bill Hamid is an excellent shot stopper, and the four-time champion Black-and-Red is overdue for a final, having been absent since beating KC in 2004.

[ MORE: Pre-playoff power rankings ]

Why they won’t: Let’s be honest, most arguments against DC sound quite political. “Well, they can’t win because of the other guys being so good.” DC doesn’t have the firepower of TFC, NYCFC, and RBNY; Would you bet on them beating two of the above, which they likely would have to? (Actually, kinda).

Toronto FC (3)

Why they’ll win: Frankly, this is the best defensive team in the East, with a minimum of three game attacking breakers in Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. Imports Drew Moor and Clint Irwin aren’t scared of the spotlight, and Will Johnson will be putting on for his city. And they’re good away from BMO Field. This could be TFC’s season, y’all.

Why they won’t: This is Toronto’s 10th season, and happens to be the first one in which it won more matches than it lost. TFC’s debut home match comes on Wednesday evening, and there’s something to be said for experience. While some of its players have plenty, the club does not possess much at all.

New York City FC (2)

Why they’ll win: One of only two teams (Toronto) to finish their road schedule with a .500 record, Patrick Vieira has been able to get the best out of the superstars and the lesser-known members of NYC’s squad. Tactically, we’re not sure there’s another coach in the East with his acumen.

Why they won’t: It’s also Vieira’s first playoffs as a manager, and the whole franchise hasn’t done that dance, either. They have one win in five combined matches against RBNY and TFC.

New York Red Bulls

Why they’ll win: Frankly, as stated above, because they don’t lose. Jesse Marsch hasn’t overseen a loss in three-and-a-half months, has two legit claimants to MVP honors in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan, and have been reinforced by one of the deepest Academy production lines in MLS.

Why they won’t: New York won just three road matches all year, even if it managed 7 draws away from Red Bull Arena. On top of that, this is year No. 20 of MLS, and founding members RBNY have zero titles and one final appearance. Those ghosts could come creeping up to the door.