Neither Tobin Heath nor Christen Press are in New Zealand at this World Cup with the U.S. women’s national team but they’re still deeply invested in the tournament. The two launched a twice-weekly series covering the 2023 World Cup titled The RE-CAP Show. The show’s press release says the hour-long Youtube videos include “raw, no-holds-barred post-game analysis and their outrageous stories from the field and in the locker room.” And with the first two episodes now available, they’re delivering on expectations.

The show follows the USWNT’s potential path through the World Cup, with an episode per group stage match and four more through the knockout stage — with eight episodes in total. It will be U.S.-focused but still have tournament coverage at large. Both Press and Heath are listed as executive producers, and they’ve secured multiple brand sponsorships, like Ally and UKG (both NWSL sponsors).

A few days before launching the new project, Heath spoke to The Athletic over Zoom from the show’s set; Press joined off camera, as she had just completed her fourth surgery after tearing her ACL in 2022. Press said she was doing fine, though ready to get past the bed rest and back to physical therapy. Before the call, both players had been working on an edit of the show’s first episode. They were learning the specific pain of watching yourself back on a video for work.

In episode 1, we debate if it’s easier to be a starter or a sub. Watch and let us know in the comments who you think wins!

— Tobin Heath (@TobinHeath) July 21, 2023

Unlike Press, Heath knew she wouldn’t be playing in this World Cup far earlier for both physical and mental reasons. Instead, she joked, she “created a World Cup for myself in this project.” Content has always been part of the plan for their company RE-INC (which they founded with Megan Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenberg in 2019), alongside their commerce and community elements. Heath first had the idea for RE-CAP in November after some conversations at the USWNT Players Association gala in New York City.

“When I first started playing, I only wanted to be seen as a footballer because that was the only thing that couldn’t be distorted through somebody else’s lens of me,” Heath said. “If I was going to be shown, it was going to be doing something awesome, like scoring a sick goal or making a defender look silly because that was the purest form of myself.”

For years, she avoided interview requests or rejected concepts for adverts because she didn’t want someone else deciding how she would be seen.

“I never had an opportunity to actually show my authentic self as the other side of it because the lens that we were pushed through for such a long time was just the patriarchy’s version of what a female athlete should be,” she said, “which we understand is not representative of what women’s sports is.”

Now Heath and Press want to build something that will reimagine the way women are seen and understood in sports.

“I wouldn’t have to close that door to myself,” Heath said about working in sports media, “because I know that I can open it, and I can be represented and seen the way that I actually am.”

Launching during the World Cup was a no-brainer. Who better than two champions to speak about this tournament, considering their pedigrees with the USWNT?

The chemistry is there too. Press and Heath’s complementary natures and clear affection comes through on the Zoom, too, with a side of gentle teasing. After Heath talks for a while on her opening answer (roughly 1,000 words), Press cuts in: “Sheesh, you really are long-winded.”

Heath agrees good-naturedly. “I said all that without taking a breath.”

Press had her own reasons for agreeing to the project, and they were deeply personal.

“I will say — probably in half the words — that when Tobin came to me with this idea, I was so surprised, knowing that both of us have pretty actively stayed outside of the limelight and the camera.” Press said. “When I started to dig into the why, this is Tobin’s vision. This is Tobin’s baby, and it’s fueled by her passion and her fire.”

Press called the project a “vulnerable” one and not just because they’re learning to watch themselves back on tape. Press and Heath have been involved with every aspect of production.

“We’re human and flawed and can be humorous, and all of those complexities shine through,” Press said. “We’re not just hosting a show, we created the show. We went out and pitched our brand sponsors ourselves. We found our production company, and we’re working hand in hand writing the show.”

They make the decisions. There’s no person in a suit somewhere, deciding the narrative of the format or handing over talking points. They’re not judging the players that go into broadcast commentary or analysis following their playing careers as the options are still so limited, but it’s not for them.

“I’m sick of copying and pasting what men’s sports is to women’s sports. I don’t agree with it whatsoever,” Heath said. “I really want to be a part of defining (the structure of women’s sports), what it feels like. I want to be authentic to what we do and who we are. Now everybody’s waking up to women’s sports because they’re like ‘Oh s—, I’ve been living under a rock.’ We’re seeing these status quo sports structures come in and trying to make women’s sports a gendered version of men’s sports. It’s not the same, and we really diminish the value of what women’s sports is when we try to be that.”

Press wants to build something now, so the next generation of players that follows them can host their own shows and get paid, but in a way that feels organic and aligned with their values. She doesn’t want the next generation to worry about the pay day or pushing some else’s agenda. “It allows for more people to be seen, and viewed, and understood, and heard,” she said.

So far, the show feels loose and relaxed, even with some scripting and its slick production values. In the first episode, former USWNT coach Jill Ellis is mid-answer and curses before realizing what she’s done and asking if it’s OK to swear. “Yeah!” Heath quickly affirms. Within the first 24 hours of the first episode, it had already picked up over 50,000 views on YouTube. The second episode features OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey following the USWNT’s 3-0 win over Vietnam in their tournament opener.

Ahead though, lies the absurd schedule of a World Cup — one that they’re both familiar with, but from the specific environment of a team in the tournament. Trying to cover one? An entirely different beast.

“We told our friends, ‘You can’t see us until after the World Cup ends,’” Press joked.

The filming schedule includes plenty of quick turns off games, but Press thought that would be part of the appeal for fans that might not be able to or want to watch matches at odd hours due to the time zone difficulties of New Zealand and Australia. The show won’t have game recaps, but Press promised they’ll have the “juicy bits” of games, balanced with in-depth analysis.

“Tobin’s going to be watching games throughout the night; she’s writing this show,” Press said, saying the plan was to watch, analyze, write and film within a few hours. “We don’t nap in this household, we’re not nappers, and I told Tobin she’s going to have to learn how to nap because there’s no other way to do this. She’s going to be up through the night… this woman needs nine hours of sleep every night.”

Heath quipped that their lives revolve around preparation, performance, and recovery. Why should filming a show be any different? There’s still a matchday minus-one, there’s still a pregame meeting, they’ll still need to fuel up. But the competitor can come out too.

(Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for RE-INC)

“I’m a Gemini, a split personality. It’s Tobin and Tahbin, and Tahbin only comes out on the field,” Heath said (a spelling check of Tahbin was necessary). “But also Tahbin has emerged in a couple of things. I was doing my first take of Tobin’s top things. I’m not an actor whatsoever, and Christen was laughing because while I was going through my process, Tahbin came out and I just went into full…. I don’t even know how to describe it—”

“Oh, I do,” Press cut in, once again, laughing. “Tahbin is a competitor, and Tahbin does not care about how anybody feels or what anybody else needs. Tobin is the nicest person, Tahbin is not nice.”

She referenced a 2016 incident where Heath was issued a red card during a Portland Thorns game, in which she reacted by spiking the ball in frustration. “There’s Tahbin in fine form.”

That’s the sort of thing that helped winning two World Cups though, even if Press stressed she has to lock it down on set for everyone else’s sake. Heath and Press’s show isn’t necessarily the first one schooled around the idea of two athletes sitting down to talk about the sport they play, but there’s still something about this one that makes it specifically theirs.

Giving fans and viewers another option and another model for what women’s soccer coverage can look like at this World Cup is only a good thing, with so much room still left for building media infrastructure around the sport.

“When you’re under the same roof as men’s sports, whether that’s being in the same ownership or same platform or sports programming, you’re always going to play second fiddle and there’s always going to be a bias to it,” Heath said. “That’s why my passion is to create new structures that look and feel like us.”

(Top photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for RE-INC)