After decades at Univision, broadcaster Pablo Ramírez starts a new era with MLS and Apple – The Philadelphia Inquirer

The voice of big U.S. and Mexican national team games for decades is one of the most impactful names in the first round of the new platform’s hires.
Pablo Ramírez still remembers a time back before Major League Soccer launched, when he took part in an open player tryout for the San Jose Earthquakes (who originally began as the San Jose Clash, before rebranding in 2000 to the name that goes back to the North American Soccer League club founded in 1974).
It was nearly 30 ago now, and the exact date is lost to history. But just about everything since then in Ramírez’s public life has been well-preserved.
From 1994 to 2022, the native of Guadalajara, Mexico was one of Univision’s signature soccer voices. He called the play-by-play for the network’s famed men’s World Cup coverage, some of the biggest U.S. and Mexican men’s national team games there were, countless Liga MX games, and action from MLS, the UEFA men’s Champions League, and elsewhere.
When Univision laid Ramírez off last year, it might not have resonated much in the English-speaking American soccer sphere. But in the Spanish-speaking sphere, the departure of el Torre de Jalisco, as he is widely known, was a thunderbolt.
However, his absence from screens won’t last long. Ramírez was the first Spanish-language play-by-play voice announced by MLS and Apple on Tuesday as part of their new broadcast package.
His hiring brings immediate credibility as the tech giant and the league seek to earn Spanish-speaking subscribers.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” Ramírez told The Inquirer. “They contacted me, and they showed me the new project is very ambitious; it’s historic, it’s unprecedented. And I was so happy to say yes. … I saw this league grow up, in my opinion, in a fantastic way.”
Ramírez isn’t the only former Univision voice whom MLS and Apple have hired. Marcelo Balboa, a longtime color analyst on MLS and U.S. national team broadcasts, is on board and could pair with Ramírez in the booth, though that hasn’t been confirmed yet. The new Spanish-language studio host, Tony Cherchi, is also a Univision alum who was in that big round of layoffs.
» READ MORE: Ex-Union players Sébastien Le Toux, Maurice Edu to call MLS games on Apple’s streaming platform
“They are my partners, they are my friends; they are great professionals,” Ramírez said. “Working with Marcelo, working with Tony Cherchi, it’s a real pleasure.”
Cherchi responded in kind about Ramírez: “He’s going to be a very identifiable voice because he’s been calling soccer games in the States for at least 20 years, and he’s got a unique style. So I think that’s going to be a good point for this MLS on Apple project to connect with people.”
Both men hinted that more hires are coming who have past experience at Univision.
The hiring of Ramírez wasn’t just hailed by Spanish-language broadcasters. Longtime play-by-play voice Max Bretos, one of the English-language hires announced Tuesday, has known Ramírez for many years too.
“I think it’s great for MLS to have someone who has a huge fan base built in already.” Bretos said. “There’s very few guys, there’s four or five guys on the Spanish side — where soccer is so [much] more developed on the media side — that people will stop to listen to. Pablo’s one of those guys.”
The two men share a special page of the American soccer history books. At the 2007 Concacaf men’s Gold Cup final, Ramírez had the Spanish play-by-play call for Univision and Bretos had it for the old Fox Soccer Channel, working in adjacent broadcast booths at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Benny Feilhaber’s late-game blast that earned the U.S. a 2-1 win was one of the most famous goals of that era, and both broadcasters had memorable calls.
“When I was talking to [MLS], they mentioned people that you thought would be good for this,” said the veteran of ESPN, Fox, and Los Angeles FC’s local broadcasts. “And I go, ‘Man, you don’t get voices like this.’ And I just know, because I have a lot of Mexican friends, and that’s the voice of their childhood — that’s the soccer voice that they are most familiar with, that’s the voice that they constantly imitate with their goal calls.”
» READ MORE: From our archives, a 2011 Inquirer interview with Pablo Ramírez


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