The news is depressing. I don’t care for Denver’s hip-hop station much. And local sports radio in Denver is entirely unaware of the sport we call soccer. A sport that is the faith of two billion people world is totally ignored because the local stations are too busy running round-the-clock, wall-to-wall coverage of the Broncos.
So on my morning commute, I listen to soccer podcasts, and nothing but soccer podcasts. Here, ranked, are my favorites. To see the 2015 rankings, click here and here. There are a few other pods I’ve toyed with this past year that didn’t make the cut, but these nine, chronicled in two parts, I consider worthy of at least an occasional listen. Your mileage may vary based on your personal footballing tastes.
All of these can be found on iTunes, and most are also available on Soundcloud and Stitcher as well.
9. The Mutant Gene
Last Year: NR
Podcasts either get really interesting guests, or carry the load themselves with their hosts. Alexi gets great guests, which makes up for the fact that 1) he doesn’t have a co-host with whom to banter, and 2) Lalas can be a bit abrasive. He likes his hot takes, and he’s not super committed to backing up his most absurd points.
That doesn’t matter, because ‘The Mutant Gene’ gets some really good guests sometimes, and Lalas is a good interviewer. In the past year, he’s had John Strong, Eric Wynalda, Grant Wahl, and Ted Westervelt (!).
Lalas takes three topics each show to explore in detail. Some are worth the deep dive, others, less so. Also, although the first eight episodes were weekly, Lalas is now releasing pods monthly, which, isn’t great. Still, this is worth a listen.
8. Rapids Podcast
Last year: NR
Last year, the Rapids podcast got a ‘non-rating’, because it can’t be objective, for obvious reasons. This year, Conor MacGahey and Richard Fleming’s weekly pod make the cut. Their game reviews leave a lot to be desired: they go through what happened in the match, but tend not to assign any responsibility or blame for a loss other than ‘they were unlucky’.
The Rapids Podcast did provide some great content in the form of players ‘soccer journeys’. The interviews with Marlon Hairston and Dominique Badji were particularly interesting. It is the kind of thing the pod can do that no one else can: get access to Rapids players and get their life story. On some occasions, this is a can’t-miss podcast for any Rapids fan. On other, less momentous occasions, pass.
7. Voice of C38
Last year: NR
Full disclosure: I was a guest on the C38 podcast twice this year. That pulls down their ranking considerably.
Brendan, Brian, and the Drunken Monk are the only pod that covers nothing but Rapids games and Rapids culture. They regularly get an interview with a player or club official at tailgates before the game; Padraig Smith, Dillon Serna, Marcelo Balboa, Marco Pappa, and Sean St. Ledger.
The guys do a great job, and they don’t take themselves too seriously, nor are they concerned about staying on topic - a recent pod unpacked Brendan favorites in English League Two. The lack of structure is a minor fault - the guys just talk for an hour about a thing - but overall, this is a solid podcast.
6. Men in Blazers
Last year: Ranked #2
For humorous banter and sheer absurdity, you can’t really beat Men in Blazers. MiB review every event in the EPL over the past weekend, and also cover international football, with particular attention on the USWNT, which is much appreciated, considering very few people really give our women’s team the attention they deserve outside of World Cup years. This is an EPL pod, so you have to align yourself with a world view that only pays passing attention to MLS, and even then, only really to NYCFC. Still Rog and Davo (Roger Bennett and Michael Davies) are entertaining while really understanding the details of the game, even if they might prefer to break down Arsene Wenger flipping Jose Mourinho’s tie over the late-game tactics of Arsenal vs Chelsea.
This pod would likely be ranked higher if not for one simple thing: it goes up too late. MiB comes out on Wednesday, which means I usually listen to it Thursday. By that point, I’ve pretty much forgotten everything that happened five days earlier. They break down games in detail that I’ve watched. But by the time they get to it, I can’t remember it. The other problem is the pod has a schtick; the cracking of a Guinness, reading the Ravens, Rog putting something in the emporium, rambling about the way Jurgen Klopp gives hugs, etc. The patter tends to feel a little too worn, a little too familiar, if you’re listening to the one-hundreth edition of it. A tweak or a shake up might be in order.
Still, Rog’s preprepared elegies and the fantastic way he interviews guests with incredibly deep preparation make this pod occasionally fantastic. I had read Bob Bradley’s story of coaching the Egyptian National team in James Montague’s fantastic book, ‘Thirty One- Zero’, but to hear him tell it to Rog in detail was absolutely riveting. If you like EPL, or even are mildly intrigued by it, give this a listen.
Last Year: Ranked #5
Yeah, no, I don’t know what this name means. But I’ve been listening for over a year now and I really enjoy the Flakoglost pod. Todd Brossard, Richard Terry, and Jose Bueno know all you need to know about football; Todd has his pulse on America’s lower league clubs like Harpos FC, Detroit, Chattanooga, the NPSL, the NASL, and more; Richard Terry is a Crystal Palace and Rapids C38 diehard; Jose Bueno has El Tri, the USMNT, the Rapids, Liga MX, and well beyond.
Flakoglost definitely has pivoted from a ‘soccer from 5280’ perspective to more of a ‘lower league, grassroots football’ pod, and that’s been fascinating to watch. I think Todd has spent more of his own money traveling to fourth division soccer this year than any sane person should. Flakoglost has been doing more interviews with Presidents and GMs of little independent teams and less soccer news banter, which I really liked, but I think their niche and their voice in the overall soccer landscape is fairly unique and irreplaceable. Also, you’re likely to be able to buy these guys a pint down at The Bulldog Bar, something I can’t say for Alexi Lalas.
Stay tuned for part two in a few days, when we reveal the top four soccer podcasts of 2016...