ESPN has made a significant statement of intent for their continued involvement in the sport of soccer. As first broken by Sports Illustrated, the network has re-signed top MLS and USMNT analyst Taylor Twellman to an 8 year contract extension. Fox was heavily interested in signing Twellman away from Bristol to lead their own World Cup coverage.
Twellman said the long-term commitment from ESPN was one of the central reasons that he remained in Bristol instead of following the World Cup to Fox:
“From Day One my experience with ESPN has been nothing short of perfect,” Twellman told SI.com. “I am challenged every day by my bosses and co-workers. They have given me the resources to improve, and I am critiqued here very heavily and I enjoy that. It’s important I have that, because I have to improve every day. Ultimately, the relationships I’ve formed here the last three years were important to me. If it’s not broke, why try to fix it? What I wanted was a commitment, I want to do this for the rest of my career. More important to me than money was to grow as a broadcaster.”
Twellman will also have the opportunity to expand his broadcasting responsibilities in his new contract. Hosting roles on television and in local sports talk radio in Boston may be made available to the soccer analyst. Fox reportedly had interest in making him part of their golf coverage. (Twellman is a scratch golfer and was offered a contract by the Kansas City Royals.)
Twellman has made news-breaking a part of his repertoire in the last year as he’s broken several major stories in US Soccer in the past year including Landon Donovan’s retirement and Michael Bradley’s return to the league. He says it’s all a part of trying to become a better overall broadcaster:
“I have to continue to improve, because at some point all of these guys will retire and I have to make sure in my portfolio or skill set that it will be difficult for my employer to say ‘We won’t need him anymore,'” said Twellman, who is slated to call the USA’s friendly against Colombia in London on Friday and the Americans’ clash with Ireland in Dublin with Darke next Tuesday.
Twellman’s evolution and growth into the top American soccer analyst has been a great story after his retirement from MLS due to concussions. As far as relevance and importance to their particular sport, you could make an argument that Twellman belongs at the top of the list with his contributions to MLS and the USMNT, breaking news, and beyond with his outspokenness on raising concussion awareness. And all of it at just 34 years old.
The 8 year contract is a massive commitment from ESPN that puts Twellman in the rarefied “face of the network” category. His contract goes into the early 2020’s alongside the likes of other top analysts like Jay Bilas and Kirk Herbstreit.
Twellman was the biggest wild card in the American soccer television landscape. He would have been a fantastic coup for Fox Sports to give them a needed boost ahead of their World Cup coverage beginning next year. As it stands, Fox Sports is still shy of top analyst talent and they’re still looking at Twellman’s ESPN colleague Alexi Lalas to help fill out their ranks.
However, ESPN is still going to be a major player in soccer moving forward, even without the World Cup. Bristol will still have MLS and important USMNT games, Euro 2016, and EPL rights are up once again very soon. ESPN has even added some sublicensed Champions League games from Fox and will have the continued presence of the excellent studio show ESPN FC.
Soccer isn’t going anywhere at ESPN. And Taylor Twellman will be an integral part of it all, and maybe even more, over the next 8 years.