Fans listening to home broadcasts of Minnesota United matches hear a voice with a British accent. It is not an aesthetic gimmick. It is Callum Williams’ voice. Williams is a native of England and has covered some of the top soccer leagues in the world. Previously, he was the voice of Sporting Kansas City in Major League Soccer. Now he’s the first play-by-play man for Minnesota’s MLS franchise. He chatted recently with the Star Tribune’s Aaron Reiss.
Q What do you like about working here compared to England?
A I understand there are other sports here, but the world’s game, in the U.S., is intriguing to me. I really have a lust for Major League Soccer. I’ve been in it a long time, and I’ve seen it overcome a lot of different challenges. After I stopped working with Sporting Kansas City, my fiancé and I said we would consider coming back to the United States for the right opportunity. When Minnesota United approached me, I wasn’t sure at first. I didn’t know what the culture was like here, so I spoke to a couple of different coaches who I know around the league. All of them told me Minnesota’s soccer culture is fantastic. Downtown, you see a soccer jersey most days. I really believe in this league. How can this not work in the United States?
Q How would you compare the appetite for soccer here to Kansas City, which has a model MLS franchise?
A When I first went to Kansas City, no one knew anything about the game. As soon as the team opened a soccer-specific stadium, we saw the opinion of the game change overnight. Soccer has been in Minnesota for a very long time. There’s no real education period. Already there is a culture here that took us a while to build in Kansas City, and that means it’s only going to get bigger and better.
Q How did you get your start in broadcasting with the BBC?
A I joined the BBC when I was 19. I would go up and down the country reporting on games. The commentator covering the biggest game of the day would say: “There’s been a goal at wherever. On site for us is Callum Williams.” I would give an update before the commentator went back to broadcasting the main game. It was a fantastic learning curve. That was a time when I really sunk my teeth into the industry. I was in local radio at 16. I went to Kansas City when I was 21.
Q When you decided to come to Minnesota United, how hard was it to step away from broadcasting from stations and teams you grew up watching?
A I always wanted to commentate on the Premier League and what were essentially the best leagues in the world. But I’ve developed such a passion for this league, such a belief in this league. It perhaps wasn’t as hard as people would think.
Q What do you think is the ceiling for MLS?
A It can go as high as it wants to. There’s a lot of expansion right now, which is great, but let’s not overexpand too quickly. Let’s get everything right with what we have first. ... I don’t think anybody thought it would ever get to this stage, right? Here we are, just over 20 years in. I’m intrigued to see what this league looks like in another 20 years.