Illustration by Lorenzo Gordon, Photo by Getty Images
Men in Blazers is launching an annual awards show, the latest piece in its progression from popular soccer podcast to global media platform.
The first “American Football Awards” will air May 28, as the final episode of the Men in Blazers’s ninth season on NBC. Awards will be given to the best English Premier League player and English soccer’s best American player, as chosen by American fans, and both recipients will give acceptance speeches as part of the show. A similar award for women’s soccer, built around the NWSL, will be given out later this year.
It’s just the latest expansion for Men in Blazers, which started in 2010 as a single soccer podcast hosted by Roger Bennett and Michael Davies. As the duo’s popularity grew, so did their ambitions—Men in Blazers now has an array of shows, across a handful of platforms, that currently reach about 160 million people per month.
“We are a surfer on a massive wave, and that wave is Americans falling in love with the sport we love,” Bennett said in an interview.
Men in Blazers makes the bulk of its money from advertising and brand deals, and has so far funded its expansion by reinvesting its profits. (The group has not yet taken on outside money.) Revenue grew 150% from 2021 to 2022, according to Men in Blazers managing director Scott Debson.
Up until March of this year, Bennett either hosted or co-hosted every show on the Men in Blazers network, but that’s changed in the last few months. The platform now includes a show aimed at Hispanic soccer fans led by former USMNT defender Herculez Gomez; and a women’s World Cup show hosted by USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn.
The group is also experimenting with different formats. Last year Men in Blazers put together a six-part docuseries, in collaboration with Crooked Media, to chronicle the moral and political complexity of the men’s World Cup being hosted in Qatar. There are also books, live events and Twitch shows.
The annual awards, Bennett said, are a nod to the traditional role that media companies have played in the honoring the sport’s biggest stars. The Ballon d’Or, for example, one of soccer’s most prestigious honors, was started by France Football magazine. The “American Football Awards,” he said, will reflect the opinions specifically of U.S. soccer fans, the very cohort that Men in Blazers has harnessed to grow its business.
“Twenty years ago, America was to global soccer what space was to Captain Kirk—the final frontier, a land that the greatest teams, the greatest brands, the greatest leagues couldn’t crack,” Bennett said. “Now it’s home to a diverse, passionate, deeply connected football fanbase.”