By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (May 11, 2023) US Soccer Players – Charlie Davies has been up since 4am and just finished several hours of live television and the extensive preparation required on either side of it. Yet he’s still brimming with his trademark enthusiasm as he takes a phone call on his drive home from the Connecticut studio that is home to the CBS Sports Golazo Network.
“We’re going to the top! We’re going to the mountaintops!” the former USMNT striker exclaimed to USSoccerPlayers.com with a laugh. “This is just the foundation, the building blocks. It’s only going to get better.… We’re in our infancy, the baby steps where things are ugly. We’re taking swings, some hit, some don’t. We’re supposed to be making all the mistakes now. So if this is our base, if this is us at our infancy, just imagine where we’re going.”
Davies’s excitement about his latest project is understandable. In addition to other studio analyst responsibilities for CBS/Paramount, he’s a key member of the crew that hosts “Morning Footy,” the live news and talk show that runs from 7-9am ET on weekday mornings on the CBS Sports Golazo Network, the United States’ first free, 24-hour digital soccer channel.
Launched last month, the CBS Sports Golazo Network is the latest of CBS/Paramount’s ambitious entries in the soccer space since acquiring UEFA Champions League broadcast rights in 2019. “Morning Footy” is a flagship product, applying a broad-based lens to the sport.
“We touch everything and anything from on the field to off the field and social media and fashion,” said Davies, who works alongside Susannah Collins, Nico Cantor, Alexis Guerreros, and Jenny Chiu as well as a revolving cast of guests. “It’s a fun, upbeat show. You can literally tell that we all enjoy it, because every one of us, if you interviewed each of us individually, the passion would be coming through the phone. Because we all love the game.”
Davies credits VP of Production and Creative Director of CBS Sports Pete Radovich and Coordinating Producer Michael Nastri for thinking big as they built out both the physical and human infrastructure for the CBS Sports Golazo Network and the other soccer offerings on Paramount. Cultivating a mix of tradition and innovation both at home and abroad, it encompasses recognized journalists and retired players across multiple countries as well as less-conventional voices like Guerreros, a stand-up comedian, and former professional referee Christina Unkel.
“It comes down to diversity,” said Davies, who also works on New England Revolution radio broadcasts and is an ambassador for his former club. “We all bring something unique and different to the table. So we complement each other extremely well. And we can talk on certain subjects that you couldn’t necessarily talk on other networks, because we have that viewpoint.”
For all the growth in soccer media over the past decade or two, relatively few networks have attempted to do something on the scale of the CBS Sports Golazo Network. The channel airs and promotes the leagues where Paramount has the rights like the Champions League, NWSL, and Serie A, though it doesn’t stop there, aiming to cover the full spectrum of the sport. Davies believes that approach, combined with his early experiences in media on SiriusXM’s soccer channel, is speeding along his own development as a broadcaster.
“It’s one thing to focus on a league, it’s one thing to focus on men’s professional soccer/football. But for me, to cover the world’s game, both men and women, it’s incredible. And I’m learning so much,” he said. “I’m constantly watching the game, constantly breaking it down. It’s making me become a better analyst. So it literally could not be better. And I work with the most amazing people. Everyone cares about the show, not only the show and work, but they care about the well-being of everyone off the camera.”
A recent in-depth, one-on-one interview with fellow USMNT alum Freddy Adu showcased Davies’ fast-growing skill set. It ranks as one of the highlights of CBS Sports Golazo Network’s opening weeks of operation. The two former teammates traversed many emotional topics.
“Freddy and I were so close back in the day. I looked at him as a brother,” recalled Davies. “Typically, it’s been surface level that you’ve heard conversations around Freddy and interviews in the past. So I wanted to go deeper, because we shared that experience in the locker room, we shared the adversity story, both in our different ways, that it just made sense that I could have this conversation with them. And at the same time, it felt like we were kind of building a bridge between each other, one that had deteriorated for whatever reason. But it felt like in this instance that we were reconnecting.”
Once heralded as the next great US soccer star, Adu didn’t quite reach his full potential, for a range of reasons. Davies could relate, with his own path to the top interrupted by the devastating car accident that nearly took his life before a USMNT World Cup qualifier in 2009.
“I know it’s been hard for him over the years. So I wanted him to know, hey, I’ve been in your shoes in terms of not fulfilling my potential because I made bad decisions. And it’s OK to be vulnerable,” said Davies. “It’s also exciting to come out on the other side and start something new. So I wanted him to know that and feel that because that was me. I was in his shoes before. And you just have to admit certain things went wrong and grow from it. The best part about the whole thing was, we spoke on the phone after, he was already on his way home, I was on my way home. And I asked him how he felt, and he told me relieved. He felt instant relief. And that was the goal. That’s what I was looking for in that interview.”
Davies navigated a long, grueling recuperation process after the car accident to return to the field. Then he overcame another such ordeal when he successfully battled a form of cancer called Liposarcoma in 2016. As painful and traumatic as it was, Davies today considers himself “fortunate” to have had such adversity drive home the importance of preparing for the next chapter of life.
“I know a lot of players struggle with that transition, because it’s the unknown. You’re always preparing to become a professional soccer player. You’re never prepared or told that when it ends, you have to start over in a lot of cases,” he said, crediting a long list of teammates, colleagues, and others, all the way up to MLS commissioner Don Garber, for helping him transition into media. “Things don’t last forever. So as long as you’re playing, you have to have an idea, I guess an outlook on what could the future look like. When I decided to retire, I was relieved. So I knew it was the right decision, one, to stop playing. And that’s obviously not for everybody, and two, because of those relationships I forged while playing, I had opportunities on the back side.”
Along the way, Davies has had to find the balance between honest analysis and respect for what he calls the “sacred” environment of the locker room he’d left behind, and the trust that bonds those on the inside.
“I’ve never wanted to be someone that’s a news breaker,” he said. “My intention has always been from the beginning to break down the game and to show people the way I think and hopefully the way that certain players think in certain circumstances, situations on the pitch. It really is a dream,” he said of his current work. “And I obviously don’t take it for granted.”
Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cboehm.
More from Charles Boehm:
- LAFC aims to break new ground on Champions League run
- US Soccer sporting director Matt Crocker outlines the scope for “the whole ecosystem”
- What we learned from USMNT 1, Mexico 1 – Continental Clasico
- Five questions for the Continental Clasico
Photo provided by CBS SPORTS HQ – GOLAZO. Credit: Mary Kouw/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved