Dr. Joe Machnik's involvement in soccer spans multiple decades and levels, and he shares his incredible story on the Planet Fútbol Podcast.

By Grant Wahl
February 15, 2018

On a new episode of the Planet Fútbol podcast, we speak to Dr. Joe Machnik, the renaissance man of American soccer, who is currently the soccer rules analyst for Fox Sports. But his past goes all the way back to being an All-American goalkeeper at Long Island University, a coach who led LIU at age 23 to the 1966 NCAA title game; who coached ice hockey and men’s and women’s soccer at the University of New Haven; who was an assistant coach on the U.S. men’s 1990 World Cup team; a referee who worked the 1988 NCAA title game; a FIFA match commissioner; a director of officials for three U.S. pro leagues and the creator of the popular No. 1 Soccer Camps.

Machnik was recently inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

Here are some of the top quotes from the podcast, which you can listen to below. (You can subscribe to and download the podcast on iTunes here):

On how he got introduced to the sport of soccer:

“It’s a good story. I grew up in New York City in a little Brooklyn neighborhood called Green Point, which is very popular now. There was a park, McCarren Park, and I was a big hockey fan at the time. Only lived seven subway stops from the old Madison Square Garden. You could get into a hockey game for 40 cents with a geocard. I sat down in an English class at my high school, Brooklyn Tech, and the fella next to me, we introduced ourselves. His name was Andrew Shaparovic. And we started talking about hockey. The Boston Bruins had a Ukrainian Line they called the Uke Line. It was Busyk, Staciuk and Horvath. I knew about them and he was surprised because I followed hockey.”

“So he said, ‘Do you play soccer?’ I said no. He said, ‘Well, we need a goalkeeper, and you can come up to the gym and try out.’ So in my second semester sophomore year I went up to the gym, and because I knew a little hockey and angle play and could make a kick save and had some baseball experience growing up, basketball too, I survived the tryout. And the first year, my junior year, I was on the jayvee. My senior year I was on the varsity. Brooklyn Tech was one of the stronger teams in New York City, and I was along with another player, Ray Klivecka, who at one time became the coach of the Cosmos, he and I became the first two recruits for Long Island University’s soccer program.”

“That’s how it all began. And of course, Andrew, my friend who I met in that English class, took me to his club, which was the New York Ukrainians. And I played for them in the juniors and later for their senior team and was the backup goalkeeper for the Open Cup champions of ’66.”

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On how he got the job as Fox Sports’ soccer rules analyst:

“Fox had already had the NFL, and of course they had Mike Pereira, who everybody knows, who does the rule interpretations for football. And they said, ‘We need somebody to do something like that for soccer.’ And Michael [Cohen, a longtime soccer producer] said to the people at Fox, ‘I have your guy.’ So I had a screen test. It was right after one of their broadcasts, Rob Stone was at the desk, and they brought me in and sat me at the desk and showed me video clips that I had not seen before. I had to analyze on the fly those clips. They said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And maybe two months went by before I got a phone call and they said, ‘You have the job.’”

“Their explanation to me was that they thought the way I handled it versus the way others handled it, because they did interview quite a few others, was that my teaching background from the university, that’s what they really wanted. Someone who wouldn’t just criticize the rule or the interpretation or the referee, but actually explain it and teach it to the people who are watching soccer. And to do it in a way not to insult them, because soccer has been around now a long time in the country. You can’t talk down to the fans. They’re sophisticated fans. So that’s how I got the job.”