In his relatively young career at ESPN, Taylor Twellman has quickly become one of the best analysts across sports, whether it’s calling games in the broadcast booth or offering insights from the studio. As the network’s lead analyst for soccer coverage, Twellman has been a leading voice on not just the USMNT and MLS, but the sport as a whole internationally as well. His straight-forward analysis, passion, and insight resonates very quickly with both casual fans and soccer diehards. Take his viral reaction to this year’s World Cup capitulation in Trinidad & Tobago as a prime example.
Although ESPN doesn’t have World Cup or Champions League coverage at the moment, they still maintain a significant presence covering the sport with Twellman carrying the flag. The former MLS MVP signed an eight-year contract extension with the network in 2014.
As ESPN is set to broadcast the MLS Cup Final this weekend, we were able to spend an hour talking with Twellman this week about the year that was in American soccer, from World Cup qualifying and the US Soccer presidential election to MLS expansion and #SavetheCrew. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Matt Yoder: When we look back on this year with so many happenings in American soccer (World Cup fiasco, Sunil Gulati stepping down, MLS expansion, #SavetheCrew) what is going to be the lasting impression from 2017 and the biggest development?
Taylor Twellman: The United States not qualifying for the World Cup. When you look back five, 15, 25 years we will look back at whether or not we reacted in the right way with that debacle. It’s by far the biggest disappointment I think anyone has had in the sport. Anyone that tries to bring up the ’86 World Cup and all that, the amount of resources the USSF had back then compared to now you can’t even compare. Different planets, different stratospheres.
I think there is an opportunity to be had that five, 10, 20 years down the road, we will look back…