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Harkes out as ESPN's lead analyst


LOS ANGELES -- John Harkes is out and Taylor Twellman is in as ESPN's lead analyst in the booth for MLS and U.S. Soccer broadcasts in 2012, several sources have told Harkes, the U.S. Hall of Famer who played in two World Cups, was recently informed that his contract would not be renewed. Twellman, the former New England Revolution star whose playing career was cut short by concussions, has spent this season working in ESPN's studio coverage and as the analyst for local broadcasts of the Philadelphia Union.

Ian Darke will continue to be ESPN's lead play-by-play voice for the U.S. national team, the English Premier League, Euro 2012 and select MLS broadcasts. Alexi Lalas will continue in his position as an ESPN studio analyst. Adrian Healey is expected to continue calling MLS games when Darke is not involved.

The landscape of national soccer broadcasts has been changing lately, with NBC Sports/Versus taking over Fox Soccer's package of MLS and U.S. games for 2012-14. What's more, Fox's recent surprise victory in securing the English-language rights to broadcast World Cups '18 and '22 (over ESPN and NBC) has signaled that Fox intends to be a major player as the demand for soccer in America grows larger.

NBC Sports and Fox are still in the process of finalizing their on-air talent for 2012. In conversations with several sources here on MLS Cup weekend, I learned a few things. NBC Sports is currently pursuing Arlo White and Kyle Martino as their targets for broadcasts that could begin as soon as January. White, a British expat, has worked the past two years as the local voice of the Seattle Sounders. Martino, a former MLS Rookie of the Year, has been Fox Soccer's booth analyst for MLS and U.S. games this year.

It's possible that White and Martino could turn down NBC and stay in their current positions. I'm also hearing it's likely that veteran play-by-play man JP Dellacamera will stay at Fox Soccer while continuing to work as the local voice of the Philadelphia Union.