Several U.S. players over two decades have excelled in the Premier League, most notably Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Brian McBride. But none has arrived with such great expectation at such a young age (20) while carrying the hopes of U.S. men’s soccer.
After starting Chelsea’s last four preseason matches, the winger is expected to make his league debut Sunday at Manchester United. NBC Sports Network and Spanish-language Telemundo will carry the match in the United States, starting at 11:30 a.m. Eastern time.
Over nine months, NBC Sports will go about its usual business chronicling the world’s most popular league, but in Pulisic, the network believes it will hit home with its audience.
“If he succeeds — and we all very much believe he will — there will be huge pride in this country,” said Pierre Moossa, coordinating producer of NBC Sports’ Premier League coverage. “There is nothing more exciting than when there is someone they can relate to and is having success.”
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The only other U.S. national team player expected to see regular playing time in the Premier League this season is DeAndre Yedlin, an outside back for Newcastle, which finished last season 13th of 20 teams. Center back Tim Ream and Fulham were relegated to the second tier after a next-to-last placement.
Chelsea is a high-profile club that will appear regularly on U.S. and global TV. The Blues are among the Big Six in England, joining two other London sides (Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur), the two Manchester clubs and Liverpool.
“It’s been a while since we have had [an American] of his prominence and potential and hype,” said Robbie Earle, an NBC Sports studio analyst. “We are hoping for some exciting moments. Hopefully we will see him grow.”
Will Pulisic’s presence change the way NBC presents the Premier League this season?
“It does and it doesn’t,” Moossa said. “There is so much interest in Christian, and it’s obviously very exciting for an American audience, so he is somebody we will focus on. But we also have to find that balance where you have to make sure you are true to the story lines and what is being discussed.”
Pulisic’s impact cannot be underestimated, however. In a marketing survey conducted in Boston, fans were asked to name the player they are most excited to watch aside from someone on the club they support. Pulisic was first at 25 percent, followed by Kane at 12 and Salah at 9.
“We work a lot with the Olympics, and there is huge pride when your country does well,” Moossa said. “The more people get to know him and his story, they are going to build that connection.”
Moossa also noted that Premier League kickoff times, as opposed to U.S. pro leagues, are in the morning and early afternoons — “family time. He will inspire a lot of kids. It’s our job to help them be inspired.”
Pulisic will have an audience in the Mid-Atlantic region. Besides his Hershey, Pa., roots and parents’ ties to the D.C. area (both played soccer at George Mason University), the Washington TV market has finished first in the national rankings for Premier League viewership in five of the previous six seasons. Baltimore won the other year.
Several Premier League matches per week appear primarily on NBCSN and NBC. CNBC is also utilized. Nontelevised games are available via pay packages, both TV and streaming. The campaign will kick off Friday with Liverpool hosting Norwich City on NBCSN and Universo (Spanish).
This season, NBC’s formal relationship with Sky Sports (both are owned by Comcast) will accommodate additional content and better matches, Moossa said.
And Pulisic is part of it.
“He is an exciting player and as he gets involved with the club,” Moossa said, “people are going to be super-excited about him.”
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