Getting the band back together

(l-r) Producers Amy Rosenfeld and Jed Drake on the road in Germany

Editor’s note: Front Row will provide weekly updates leading up to the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, which kicks off June 26. Upcoming stories will highlight ESPN’s on-air talent and behind-the-scenes staff, a look at ESPN’s unique production facilities, and some first-person memories from the historic 1999 Women’s World Cup.

Many of the people who were part of ESPN’s award-winning production team at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last summer are at it again, preparing for this summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany (June 26-July 17), which is now just four weeks away.

“You could say we got the band back together,” jokes senior vice president and executive producer Jed Drake. “We hope to build on the success of last summer and our level of ambition for this event is very high.”

All 32 matches will be live and in high-definition on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. In addition, ESPN has assembled another world-class roster of hosts and analysts, including several key members of the 1999 Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team. The group will call nearly all matches from site in Germany and provide studio analysis and perspective during the three weeks from the host country for the first time.

Another added bonus will be extensive coverage on espnW.com, ESPN’s new site geared towards female athletes and fans. espnW will provide a true global perspective of this world-class championship with features, team reports, daily player blogs, and the much-anticipated HERoics documentary film series, among just some of the highlights.

Planning for the Women’s World Cup began in earnest last summer. Members of the production task force, including Drake, coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld, head of production planning Geoffrey Mason, lead producer David Ceisler, and technical and operations leads Claude Phipps and Joe Caricone, have made multiple trips to Germany over the past few months, visiting the International Broadcast Center (IBC) and site of the finals in Frankfurt, touring the nine cities that will host matches, scouting locations, and more.

Next week, ESPN’s entire World Cup on-air team will travel to Bristol for a day of planning meetings. A day later, the production team will convene for another eight hours.

“Women’s World Cup coverage reached a fever pitch in 1999 after the U.S. beat China in the Rose Bowl in front of more than 90,000 fans and a record television audience, and I feel like ESPN is at that level of commitment going into this year’s tournament,” adds Rosenfeld, ESPN’s lead soccer producer and a veteran of several World Cup and Olympic soccer competitions.

She adds: “We will spotlight all the elite players and teams from Abby Wambach and the U.S., to the great Marta and Brazil, and two-time World Cup champion Germany. We will also introduce fans to first-time qualifiers such as Equatorial Guinea, a country most people likely know little about, or even where it’s located.”

Matches will be played in some of the more intimate German Bundesliga professional stadiums, so camera angles will be excellent and close to the action. ESPN studio coverage will travel from city to city for matches – from Dresden, which was flattened during bombings in World War II, to the more modern Wolfsburg, home to the enormous Volkswagen plant – providing opportunities to explore aspects of German culture and history.

The ESPN crew is tuning up and getting ready for its summer tour. From the pitch to the platz, it should be a great show.

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