Soccer

For MLS Cup, ESPN will deploy an optical player tracking system

Tomorrow, ESPN will debut a live optical player tracking system during the telecast of MLS Cup 2014 (3 p.m. ET) between the host Los Angeles Galaxy and New England Revolution.

Using the system to enhance the viewer experience for MLS Cup 2014 is the initiative of award-winning Senior Vice President, Production Innovation, Jed Drake, who discussed the product with Front Row. (EDITOR’S NOTE: The system was developed by ChyronHego, a leading U.S.-based broadcast graphics company.)

What are the unique aspects of the player tracking system?
The optical tracking system that we will be using on the MLS Cup is a breakthrough for us since we will now be able to track and “tag” players live. Thus, it will be of great use to specifically denote players on the pitch during the match. Further, we will be able to show formations on the field, indicating various coaching strategies. In replay, we will be able to shows paths of players and distances covered. We expect it to be a great enhancement to our coverage, and we are pleased to use this system on the biggest MLS match of the season.

We never use these systems for the sake of technology itself. It’s always about making our coverage better by ultimately making it a more interesting and enjoyable experience.
– ESPN Senior VP, Production Innovation, Jed Drake

Amy Rosenfeld (senior coordinating producer), Chris Alexopolous (producer), Bob Fratteroli (director) and I are always looking for new ways to enhance our soccer coverage, and this ChyronHego system has been very effective in the UK. We expect much the same.

What is the benefit to the viewer?
The viewer will have a greater and immediate understanding of what is occurring on the field. We often say about our best announcers that they see the game differently than we do, but that they also can convey what they see to us in ways that make sense, thus bringing our viewers into a greater level of understanding. With match co-commentator Taylor Twellman, we have exactly that kind of announcer. His descriptions of key situations on the pitch will be even more apparent, and timely.

How does this system compare to prior innovations?
Whether it is First and Ten, Sail Track, K Zone, Draft Track or other technology systems, there is always one clear motivation – make the telecast better for our viewers. That’s a very simple, but equally high, level of scrutiny.

We never use these systems for the sake of technology itself. It’s always about making our coverage better by ultimately making it a more interesting and enjoyable experience. The player tracking system we will use on the MLS Cup will do just that, and we look forward to hearing from our viewers as to their impressions.

Landon Donovan’s Swan Song
Landon Donovan celebrated winning the 2012 MLS Cup with his LA Galaxy teammates. (Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)
Landon Donovan celebrated winning the 2012 MLS Cup with his LA Galaxy teammates.
(Scott Clarke/ESPN Images)

It is only fitting Landon Donovan’s last professional match is the MLS Cup 2014 on ESPN, which has televised so many of his best moments as a professional and world-class national team player. Front Row picked the U.S. soccer legend’s top three moments on ESPN:

• June 23, 2010: Donovan’s stoppage time (90’ +1) goal for a U.S. 1-0 victory over Algeria to advance to the 2010 FIFA World Cup knockout round.

• June 17, 2002: 2002 FIFA World Cup Round of 16 match. A 65th-minute goal and USA’s second in a victory over rival Mexico, 2-0, to advance to the quarterfinal.

• Various dates: All five of his MLS Cup titles were televised on ESPN networks, including the last in 2012 when he captained the Galaxy to a 3-1 home victory over the Houston Dynamo in David Beckham’s last MLS match.

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