Taylor Twellman is in it for the long haul with ESPN.
The soccer analyst has signed an eight-year deal with the network to be the lead analyst on ESPN's soccer coverage. The length of the deal is one of the longest at the company for a front-facing talent — and likely one of the longest for any sports broadcaster at a national outlet. Along with his game responsibilities, Twellman will also appear on SportsCenter and likely do some sports radio work in his hometown of Boston.
Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer signed new television and media rights partnerships last May with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes to televise matches in the United States through the end of 2022. Twellman, who has also earned a reputation of a news breaker on social media, will be front and center for that coverage.
"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."
Fox Sports had significant interest in Twellman–he met with their executives in Los Angeles–and they offered him the framework of an eight-year deal that would have included him working on the World Cup as one of the lead analysts. They also kicked around the idea of Twellman working on future golf coverage, too. Soccer viewers should expect Fox Sports, who holds the rights to the 2018 and 2022 World Cups and the 2015 Women's World Cup, to announce additional talent additions soon, possibly including some from ESPN.
Twellman said he's paying attention to that landscape and one big name to watch for the future will be Ian Darke, whose ESPN contract expires after the European Championship in 2016.
"Ian is a big one, and Jon Champion is as well after his work at the World Cup," said Twellman, who played in MLS from 2002-2010 and was also a member of the U.S. men's national team. "I learned very early in my job here that you are only as good as the people in the production truck and you have to always be on the same page. Whether it is my director or producer, the camera person or play-by-play person, I think every day about who my colleagues are."
Twellman said part of what drives him is knowing the current group of star American players, boldfaced names such as Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard, will be retiring within the next 5-10 years and could be very attractive for broadcasters. He said it's a strong possibility that he will expand his duties to hosting as his contract plays out so he can make himself more versatile as a 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.
As part of a non rightsholder, Twellman said he is unsure whether he would cover the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Bristol or at the site of those World Cup.
"I'm open to whatever they think the best role is editorially for me," Twellman said.