Taylor Twellman on The Awful Announcing Podcast with host Brandon Contes. Taylor Twellman on The Awful Announcing Podcast with host Brandon Contes.

Despite a career-spanning 12 years at ESPN, Taylor Twellman never envisioned himself as Apple’s lead MLS analyst. However, shifting network priorities, including the loss of soccer rights, pushed him towards this unexpected opportunity, as he shared on The Awful Announcing Podcast.

“My first year there, I was blessed with so many of the greats taking me in, teaching me the craft, and having me understand what it takes,” Twellman told host Brandon Contes. “The Bob Leys, The Mike Tiricos, the Alexi Lalases, all the Sports Center anchors, Scott Van Pelt and I really became close.

“And all the non-soccer people of me banging on the door, telling them, ‘You need to cover soccer more; I’m not a soccer guy; I can talk other sports.’ Just doing that, I never thought I was going to leave, but then COVID hit, and certain decisions were made. And then you’re saying, ‘Well, wait a minute, what do I want to do?’

“I will always make a decision about my professional life on something that I want to do and that I’m passionate about, and ultimately, that’s what it came down to. Major League Soccer has always been at the forefront of that conversation, along with U.S. Soccer. And so, when Apple announced that they were taking over Major League Soccer, that was the first time in my life where I said, ‘Hang on a minute, I want to listen to this.’

“Major League Soccer did a very good job of explaining to me what’s going to happen over the next 10 years, where they want to take it. The growth of it on the backs of the World Cup, the Club World Cup, and all of the stuff away from Major League Soccer.”

Though Twellman later described the switch to Apple as a “no-brainer,” leaving ESPN wasn’t on Twellman’s radar, that was until a call from MLS deputy commissioner Gary Stevenson changed everything. Stevenson laid out their vision and invited Twellman to join, envisioning him as part of their new venture.

And Twellman did, too.

But being at ESPN for over a decade allowed Twellman to get out of his comfort zone, hosting shows like SportsCenter while contributing to others like SportsNation and even First Take.

“Taylor Twellman doing those forced people to at least acknowledge the soccer guy was doing something other than soccer,” he said. “And I had a real hair up my *** to prove people wrong on that. I don’t think soccer guys, in general, have done a good enough job of being inclusive and opening that up. I think soccer needs to improve on that.

“But I also think there are a lot of other people in the media world that haven’t opened their mind(s) to where soccer has grown over the last 10 years. And how it’s a huge part of our vernacular with sports coverage in our country. And so, I wanted to do that.

“Now, Scott Van Pelt, Mike Tirico, Bob Ley, all these guys…Kevin Neghandi. There wasn’t any negativity towards soccer. They were like, ‘Nah, absolutely. But you got to be able to hang with us.’ I got to learn their craft.

“I got to learn that. I got to be uncomfortable. It made me a better person on TV. It made me a better person. But I also got to meet new people, and I think, like — when you talk about relationships — you’ve got to get out of your comfort zone to meet new people.

“I was an all-sports guy growing up. I played baseball and went to college on a baseball scholarship. I played basketball, football, golf. I wanted to meet new people, so that’s never changed ever since I went to ESPN. And I’m very grateful ESPN gave me the opportunity to try it out. And, it’s pretty cool to say I hosted over 100 or so SportsCenter shows, to host SportsNation, to do First Take, all those other shows — it was an absolute blast.”

Twellman said that he “absolutely” got complaints from fans that the soccer guy on ESPN was talking about other sports.

“That’s exactly what Twitter and social media were for,” Twellman quipped. “It was the best to read stuff. I would test it out. I would look at Damien Woody, Domonique Foxworth, anyone, Tim Hasselbeck, and I’d say, ‘I’m gonna say the exact same thing you do, and I’m gonna show you what social media says,’ And they’re geniuses, and I’m not because I’m the soccer guy. I kind of loved it.”

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About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.