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Ian Darke renews contract with ESPN through 2020

Ian Darke - June 17, 2013

Ian Darke, arguably the country’s most popular soccer commentator, has signed a multi-year agreement with ESPN to continue as the company’s lead play-by-play announcer. The news comes as a blow to FOX Sports who reportedly were interested in hiring him to commentate the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Darke will continue as ESPN’s primary voice for U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams’ matches, including FIFA World Cup qualifiers, and other tournaments and international friendlies. He will also pen a recurring column for ESPNFC.com and make periodic appearances on ESPN FC, the daily soccer television news and information program. The new contract extends through 2020.

This summer, Darke will be ESPN’s lead English-language play-by-play commentator for the UEFA European Football Championship 2016 in France (June 10 – July 10).

SEE MORE: Euro 2016 and Copa America Centenario schedule

“Ian is one of the finest English-language commentators in the world and his work has elevated our overall presentation of soccer since he joined ESPN,” said Amy Rosenfeld, Senior Coordinating Producer, ESPN Productions. “Ian has become a destination listen and has the proven ability to appeal to a wide audience. We are thrilled he will continue as an integral member of our team for years to come.”

Darke said: “Working alongside so many gifted professionals at ESPN has been a pleasure.  So I am delighted that I can continue to be a part of it, and look forward especially to what should be a magnificent European Championships this summer. 

“It has been great fun seeing the U.S. men’s team emerge as a respected power on the global stage and somehow, their games often seem to be dripping with drama. The brilliant women’s team remains world brand leaders,” he added. “So these next few years should be more than interesting in the commentary booth.” 

Darke joined ESPN full-time from Sky Sports in September 2010 following his critically-acclaimed work during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Paired with legendary Liverpool FC player Steve McManaman, the duo called matches from Premier League stadiums each week from 2010-2013 – a pioneering concept, at the time, in how the league’s matches were televised in the United States.

As the lead commentator for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, Darke brilliantly called the game-changing moment during the USA-Brazil quarterfinal match when U.S. forward Abby Wambach scored a miraculous header in the 122nd minute of play.

SEE MORE: Comprehensive guide to English soccer TV commentators

In Brazil 2014, Darke chronicled the U.S. Men’s National Team’s journey through the tournament’s toughest group and its overtime loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 – capped by one of the best World Cup performances by a goalkeeper with Tim Howard’s World Cup-record 16 saves. But it was during Brazil’s 1-7 semifinal loss to eventual FIFA World Cup winner Germany that Darke delivered one of his best televised match commentaries. Alongside McManaman, the pair aptly described the Brazilian national team’s on-field play and relayed the grief and shock that had overtaken the home nation’s fans at Belo Horizonte.

In the United Kingdom, Darke will continue as lead soccer commentator for BT Sport, covering the Barclays Premier League and other major European leagues.

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