On The Pitch With Rob Stone

PLAYSOCCER Spring 2018

You joined the sports industry a year after college. Where did you want your career to go from there and did you always hope to cover major international sporting events?

I wanted to go exactly where I am right now. My dad had always instilled in me that when you are done with school, you’re going to be working for the rest of your life so you might as well enjoy it. I always enjoyed sports and talking sports, so I decided to marry the two. The fact that I get to spend my days watching and talking about sports that I’m passionate about is something pretty special.

This year’s FIFA World Cup in Russia will be the fifth one you have covered. How will this summer’s tournament differ from your previous World Cup experiences?

I think there will be more pressure and greater expectations on the presentation of a men’s World Cup than there has ever been before. There is going to be some new twists in how we need to handle our month of work because our U.S. national team is not there. This is the first world cup that American television has covered in a full capacity that is missing the U.S. national team and it’s a challenge that has frankly never been handled before. As I have been saying since the U.S. got bounced out, FOX Sports is going to completely over-deliver on our coverage of the World Cup.

With the U.S. out of the World Cup this year, how will you and FOX Sports deliver content that will keep viewers engaged?

Stars sell no matter the sport or industry. If you’ve got stars, people want to watch.
When you’ve
got three absolute icons that are still in their prime, guys like Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar, it’s a pretty easy sales pitch for us to present. But the beauty is that there are so many other stories that are out there and so many more that will emerge that once that ball rolls, the World Cup just takes you for a ride. Iceland is going to take you for a ride. The repeat efforts of Germany will take you for a ride. The stars we’ve never heard of that about to become the next international icons are going to take you for a ride. We at FOX Sports just happen to have a great seat to go along on this journey with everyone else.

Looking at the different Groups for the World Cup, are there any countries that you feel are set up in a good position to reach the knockout stage of the tournament and are there any “groups of death”?

I think there are several groups that smell of death. To be honest, they might not be fully dead but they do have an aroma around them. Group G has Belgium and England and I think Panama can surprise people. Group F with Germany, Mexico, South Korea, and Sweden are no push overs. Group E with Brazil and an underrated Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbian side is going to be more chaotic for Brazil than most people feel. The big countries like Argentina, France, Uruguay, are put in spots where they can think about putting the group stage in cruise control and clearly set their eye on the knockout stage.

Which countries or players are you most excited to watch this year?

I am always excited about the underdogs. For years I have been wanting to see a country from Africa do well. I think Egypt has the possibility to spring a surprise in Group A. The Peruvians’ story to me is fascinating and I would love to see them and Iceland make a big run to show the world its more than just Germany, Brazil, Spain, and Portugal. Soccer is the world’s game and it’s being played at an immensely high level all over the world. As far as the breakout stars to watch, Eden Hazard from Belgium has the opportunity on this stage to say hold on everybody I am that next wave of iconic talent.