MLS

Charlotte FC’s Announcer Crew Among Best in MLS

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We’re a little more than four months into this 2022 MLS season, and one cannot help but be fascinated by the story of the newest entry in MLS, Charlotte FC.

The play from Charlotte FC on the field has been somewhat of a mixed bag thus far in its freshman season in MLS, leading to the termination of the club’s original head coach, Miguel Angel Ramirez after just 14 matches in league play and 17 matches all told, counting Charlotte FC’s games contested in this year’s staging of the US Open Cup tournament.

Subsequently, Christian Lattanzio, who had been previously hired as an assistant coach on the departed Ramirez’ original technical staff, was named the franchise’s interim head coach and will remain in that capacity through the end of the season.

Charlotte FC Broadcasters Prove Impressive Thus Far in 2022

While the team’s performance on the field has been hit-and-miss so far in its freshman year, it’s the team behind the team that’s been a big winner, and it’s not even up for debate here.

Although Charlotte FC’s broadcast trio of play-by-play commentator Eric Krakauer, analyst Lloyd Sam, and sideline reporter/ pregame anchor Katie Witham have only worked together since late February, one would have surmised that these three talented broadcasters had been working as a unit for at least a decade.

This has proven to be an impressive crew so far this year.

A Broadcast Deal Is Signed

To best understand how the trio of Krakauer, Sam, and Witham came to be, we must first go back in time approximately one year, when a television deal for Charlotte FC’s broadcasts in its inaugural season of play in MLS was first inked.

On April 15, 2021, roughly 10 1/2 months before the team’s expansion season began on the road against DC United at Audi Field in Washington, Charlotte FC came to terms to air all locally-produced game telecasts on over-the-air stations inside the Charlotte area owned and operated by Cox Media Group.

It was a one-year deal that would see the team through its freshman year, an intentional move made by the parties involved in anticipation of a new media rights deal going into effect ahead of the 2023 season.

All locally-produced Charlotte FC television broadcasts originate on either Charlotte ABC affiliate WSOC-TV 9 or independent station WAXN-TV 64 in English, with Telemundo Charlotte offering Spanish telecasts of these games.

Subsequent deals saw stations operated by Gray Television, Hearst Television, and the Sinclair Broadcast Group in the Carolinas pick up the matches to ensure 100 percent coverage within Charlotte FC’s territory.

Raycom Sports Agrees To Syndicate Local Charlotte FC Matches

With Cox Media Group stations in the Charlotte area confirmed to run Charlotte FC matches on local television, the team needed a syndicator for these telecasts.

Enter Raycom Sports, a Charlotte-based television production company with decades of experience producing regional and national telecasts of live sporting events ranging from Atlantic Coast Conference football and basketball games to ESPN’s annual coverage of The Basketball Tournament every summer, along with ACC shoulder programming in the run-up to the college football season in years past.

Raycom signed on to produce and syndicate local telecasts of Charlotte FC games subsequent to the announcement by Cox Media Group.

A Team is Formed: Eric Krakauer Joins as Play-by-Play Announcer

With the broadcast deals squared away, Charlotte FC then went about forming the trio, with Eric Krakauer, who was employed as a teacher for 13 years before turning to television, being announced as the first of the three broadcasters hired last fall.

Krakauer joined Charlotte FC as the English play-by-play man after spending four years working as a host and announcer for beIN Sports.

“I’m very excited to join Charlotte FC’s broadcast team ahead of the Club’s inaugural season and look forward to helping to connect the Carolinas to the world of soccer,” Krakauer said in an official statement at the time. “The Charlotte community has embraced this team from the day the Club was announced, and it’s a privilege to return to Major League Soccer and bring the sport into homes across the region.

Eric Krakauer is no stranger to calling MLS games, as he previously worked on the Brazilian broadcasts of MLS for the subscription-based streaming service DAZN.

A Team is Formed: Lloyd Sam Hired as Analyst

On Dec. 7, just days before the Charlotte FC expansion draft was held, Eric Krakauer’s broadcast partner for Charlotte FC’s telecasts was revealed as Lloyd Sam, who played for the New York Red Bulls and DC United of MLS in his club career and for the Ghana National Team, was appointed as analyst for the games.

The hiring marked Sam’s first gig as an MLS broadcaster, having previously worked on USL and MLS NEXT matches since retiring as a player in 2020.

“I am thrilled and consider it [a] great privilege to be joining Charlotte FC’s broadcast team”, Sam said in December. “It being the inaugural season makes it even more special. I can’t wait to connect fans across the Carolinas to the action on the field. I look forward to bringing the expertise I have built up through my playing career in a fun, personable style.”

A Team is Formed: Katie Witham Completes the Trio

What would a telecast of an MLS match be without Katie Witham on the sidelines?

Viewers of the FOX Sports MLS telecasts found out firsthand throughout the balance of the 2020 MLS season when FOX did not use Witham or any other sideline reporters on games due to safety protocols put into place by the COVID-19 pandemic post-hiatus, but she returned for MLS Cup 2020 after the Columbus Crew were confirmed to be hosting the championship game.

Witham is based out of Columbus and FOX had her return after the Crew had clinched home-field advantage for MLS Cup 2020 as a means of not making any unneeded travel expenses, seeing the Crew win the title in her adopted hometown.

Due to budgetary concerns brought on by the virus, she was forced to sit out the entirety of last season, when sideline reporters were no longer being utilized weekly and telecasts were being produced remotely, as they were for most of the previous season after the disruption in play.

Ahead of this season, FOX elected to discontinue the use of sideline reporters on MLS coverage entirely, leading to Witham joining Charlotte FC’s broadcast team as its sideline reporter and pregame anchor.

“I am thrilled to join Charlotte FC as part of their inaugural broadcast team,” Witham began. “To be part of this Club’s history and help showcase their first season in Major League Soccer is truly an honor. Not very many people get the opportunity to take a front row seat during the team’s first-ever season and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to help Eric Krakauer and Lloyd Sam bring that to life each week on the telecasts.”

On a personal note, Katie Witham is my hero and mentor in the business and I owe my career to her.

It’s great to have her back this year.

Krakauer, Sam, and Witham Balance One Another Well

Charlotte FC knew what it was doing when this trio was assembled and their collective ability to play off one another and do it consistently well shows itself on-air.

Take, for example, the telecast of Charlotte’s May 22 victory at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

It was a hot Sunday evening in Charlotte that weekend, and the hydration break rules came into play, something that Krakauer and Sam made reference to during the match.

During the first half hydration break, Krakauer sent the broadcast down to Witham, who explained the WetBulb Globe Temperature rules used as a determinant as to if a hydration break is needed during a match.

Again, this is the telecast crew of a first-year team, but one would think that Eric Krakauer, Lloyd Sam, and Katie Witham have been working as a trio much longer than a few short months.

Final Thoughts

When MLS viewers outside of the Carolinas get the chance to watch a Charlotte FC local telecast on ESPN+, they should do it.

There’s no better trio than Krakauer, Sam, and Witham on the air in MLS today.

It’s a shame that this is the one and only season for the three of them on local television with the new media deal between MLS and Apple going into effect, but hopefully, these three get to work together beyond this season in some capacity.

Hats off to Charlotte FC on assembling such a talented trio.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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