In the sports media world, connections are crucial for journalists to obtain information and create specialized content for sports fans. The United States and its top-flight soccer league, Major League Soccer, affords those who cover MLS matches the ability to venture into the locker room after matches to speak with and interview players. That may be a given in the States, but that practice is unheard of in other soccer leagues around the globe.
Even then, players — especially those who first come into MLS and experience the culture shock of journalists having access to the locker room — may not be all that willing to speak with 100% honesty for whatever reason during a post-match interview. It’s an understandable sentiment. Players and clubs are oftentimes wary of what they say to the press.
On BSI: The Podcast, those sentiments are more or less forgotten.
The podcast is hosted by Benny Feilhaber, Sal Zizzo, and Ike Opara. All three are Americans who have at some point played in MLS. Opara is the only active player in the league currently plying his trade for Minnesota United. Zizzo plays in the USL Championship, and Feilhaber announced his retirement from the game as a player earlier this year on the podcast.
The podcast offers an extremely unique perspective into MLS, an admittingly intriguing and occasionally unusual league. All three of the hosts have vast experience in American soccer and MLS, opening a doorway for fans to digest American soccer lore through interviews and storytelling with other players that are brought on as guests.
While any given athlete may be personable and willing to make appearances on talk shows and podcasts, the personal connection the hosts have with their guests is a core component as to what differentiates this podcast from others. More often than not, the guest is a personal friend of at least one of the hosts, though the trio has broken away from that mold on a few occasions by bringing in United States Women’s National Team players Jessica McDonald and Emily Sonnet. They’ve also indicated they will look to branch out and bring on guests they may not know as well.
The podcast has featured some of the biggest names in the American soccer landscape, including Landon Donavan, Stu Holden, Carlos Vela, Maurice Edu, Chris Wondolowski, and a handful of others. While Feilhaber seemingly has aspirations for a post-playing career in some vein of soccer, the lax nature of the podcast has created a space for these friends to have hilarious conversations and tell obscure and often times never-before-heard stories.
As former and current players who have played with and against the majority of their guests, the hosts have their own entertaining stories and experiences that eradicate the disconnect between themselves and their guests that would otherwise be present.
The podcast even includes fan questions sent in via social media for each episode’s final segment: Ike’s Interrogation. Opara has the chance to ask the guests five questions that put the guest on the hot seat. The guest has the chance to “plead the fifth” to one of the questions, but if the guest answers all five questions, they have the chance to ask any of the three hosts any question that they’re then required to answer. Oftentimes, the ensuing banter and stumbling over answers throughout this segment makes for good entertainment.
The BSI trio has increased its episode output during the coronavirus pandemic to assist its listeners during this unprecedented and troubling time. They’ve even set up a gofundme page where listeners can donate for a coronavirus relief effort.
If you’re looking into a way to learn more about American soccer, Major League Soccer and some of its more uncharted stories, BSI The Podcast is a great place to start.