Taylor Twellman built his soccer bona fides as a player, scoring a team-record 101 goals for the Revolution from 2002-09.
When a serious concussion led him to premature retirement after a 2010 season in which he did not play a match, he found his way to broadcasting, sharpening his skills locally on Comcast SportsNet New England before quickly ascending as an energetic, insightful soccer analyst for ESPN since joining the network in November 2011.
Now, with the World Cup set to air on ESPN and ABC beginning Thursday until the championship match July 13, Twellman is positioned to take another leap.
Twellman, 34, is a significant part of ESPN’s game-plan for covering the World Cup. He will serve as the color analyst alongside the superb lead play-by-play voice Ian Darke for all of the United States national team’s matches, beginning with the group stage matchup against recent World Cup nemesis Ghana on June 16 at 6 p.m. All of the US games will air on ESPN.
For matches that do not involve the US, Twellman will be featured prominently as a studio analyst along with the likes of Alexi Lalas, Kasey Keller, and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Bob Ley, Mike Tirico and Lynsey Hipgrave, who comes from the channel BT Sport in London, are the studio hosts.
It’s a heady assignment — two, actually — given the staggering worldwide appeal of the World Cup. The affable Twellman, whose appreciation of his situation is apparent, isn’t about to declare a favorite role.
“I know I don’t have the career where I played three World Cups or anything like that,” he said. “I’ll do anything and everything as long as I’m involved.
“I’m not a big enough name to say, ‘Oh, I’m going to be Charles Barkley in the studio,’ ’’ said Twellman. “I will say I really admire how Kirk Herbstreit [former Ohio State quarterback and top college football analyst] handled his career. He does College GameDay, then calls the game at night, and he’s so established at it that sometimes people might forget he played.”
Among three channels — ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC — all 64 World Cup matches will air live. Ten will be broadcast on ABC, including the final July 13. Darke is already set to call that, but his analyst has not been announced. Steve McManaman, a longtime partner of Darke’s who will call the World Cup opener with him as well as all England games, is the presumptive favorite.
Twellman would be a fitting choice. For now, though, his prime focus is on the US.
“If they get out of the group, it’s arguably the greatest accomplishment a US team has ever had,” he said.
But he also recognizes that the US’s level of success is hardly essential to ESPN’s ratings — expected to shatter previous records — given the magnitude of the event.
“The US, if they do great, it’s icing on the cake,’’ said Twellman. “But this is so huge, such an anticipated event worldwide that for ESPN and ABC’s sake, [the World Cup] going to be a hit no matter what.”