Stewart-Binks eager to kick off her ESPN MLS sideline reporting Sunday

Sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks makes her ESPN MLS match coverage debut Sunday.  (Photo by Melissa Rawlins / ESPN Images)
Sideline reporter Julie Stewart-Binks makes her ESPN MLS match coverage debut Sunday.
(Melissa Rawlins/ESPN Images)

Julie Stewart-Binks, who joined the company in December, will make her ESPN debut this weekend during the season-opening Major League Soccer Sunday telecast – Orlando City SC versus New York City FC (ESPN, 5 p.m. ET).

One of soccer’s top sideline reporters, Stewart-Binks will cover every MLS on ESPN telecast in 2017, joining play-by-play voice Adrian Healey and analyst Taylor Twellman.

The Toronto, Canada native, who regularly covers both soccer and hockey, discusses her new ESPN role and more with Front Row in advance of her debut.

How excited are you to start at ESPN?
I couldn’t be more excited about joining ESPN – a network, which as a kid growing up in Canada, I really never even imagined I would make it on. I am very fortunate to be able to continue my career with some of the brightest soccer minds in the world. The soccer crew is obsessed and passionate about the sport, which is what you need when you cover “the beautiful game.” Everyone on the team has creative ideas and fresh takes. Everyone wants to go bigger and better with our coverage – to broadcast the fastest growing sports in America to sports fans in the country.

(L-R) Adrian Healey, Julie Stewart-Binks and Taylor Twellman cover MLS for ESPN. (Melissa Rawlins/ ESPN Images)
(L-R) Adrian Healey, Julie Stewart-Binks and Taylor Twellman cover MLS for ESPN. (Melissa Rawlins/ ESPN Images)

What goes into your preparation as a sideline reporter?
When preparing for a game, I immerse myself in the stories by local reporters and writers of the teams I’m covering for the week. The beat writers and local TV reporters are the ones on the ground at training every day. They have great intel on the teams.

Our production crew meets with a few players and the head coach of each team a day or two before the match. This is where I pick their brains on key storylines from my extensive research without the pressure of a camera or microphone. Also, I usually grab a key player or two from each team the day before, or when the teams arrive at the stadium, to update my story angles.

What is a day at the office like for you, covering a match?
It is the best office in the building – on the sideline between both teams. I’m very cognizant of being balanced in my reporting, telling the players’ stories, and helping viewers better understand what is happening. I’m the only person on the TV commentating team on the field level and in a position to see and hear things hundreds of thousands of people watching on TV can’t. So, I try my best to explain what is happening as quickly as possible to provide additional context.

What are you most looking forward to this MLS season?
A new year – a new season. With that comes fresh blood for each team. New players we don’t know much about. It’s a blank slate, a new story yet to be written. Who could be the next Nicolás Lodeiro [the midseason designated player acquisition who led the Seattle Sounders to the 2016 MLS Cup title]? How will the new expansion teams in Atlanta and Minnesota fare? What will Seattle look like as MLS Cup champions bringing back a healthy [U.S. Men’s National Team star] Clint Dempsey into the lineup? It is like the next season of your favorite TV drama. You never really know what can happen.

Editor’s Note: For details on ESPN’s planned coverage of MLS opening weekend, visit ESPN MediaZone.