Follow Up: MLS Failing in its Mission


Ivan Gazidis/MLSNet

We have received some very consturctive and valid feedback over the past week about my piece from last week, MLS Failing in its Mission. Once again I feel the difference of opinion is genuine. Many of you rightfully want to see top club football in the United States. I however, am much more concerned about the development of our national team programs and believe that in a nation lacking the football culture of England, Holland, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, etc that these two are for the time being mutually exclusive. MLS has now gone public with it’s advocacy of the model I am so concerned about.

Even in a great footballing nation like England a club game dominated by foreign players and a development system run by the clubs can ruin a once great national team. In the 1986 and 1990 World Cups it can be argued England had the best teams in the world and were unlucky not to win the World Cup on both occasion. Now the English national team is so standardized and its number of player options so limited that it cannot even qualify for its own continental championship and regardless of what the jingoistic and world football knowledge bereft British media claims, England has not had the talent nor the tactical setup to truly compete in for a World Cup title since the Premier League began buying foreign players in mass.

MLS has made its choice and we will have to live with it. However, it is terribly unfortunate that a league that showed such restraint in spending and in expansion throughout its history is now spending like wild and is not so coincidently producing less quality young players for the national team program than ever before. The display in Tampa this past week during Olympic Qualifying is evidence enough of the de-emphasis this league has placed on young American players. Those playing in MLS don’t develop quickly enough anymore and those playing abroad because MLS offered them an insultingly low salary while buying journeymen foreign players aren’t given the time to develop in Europe nor the skill set as a youth player in the United States to compete for a first team spot in Europe when they sign their first professional contract. It’s no small irony that besides Freddy Adu, a wonderkid who MLS couldn’t screw up (even though Peter Nowak did try), Michael Orozco, developed in Mexico’s Primera Division was the most seasoned and cultured looking player. Mexico’s league continues to be better than MLS, and their player development system continues to be better. Sure Mexico isn’t going to the Olympics, but that can be blame can be laid on having too many good players at top European clubs at a young age, a problem we seem to never have.

9 thoughts on “Follow Up: MLS Failing in its Mission”

  1. I totally agree with you hear. Now that Gazidis is using the EPL as a model I’m fearful our youth national teams and eventually our full national team will crash and burn. Keep up the good fight, Kartik and work to turn those who are so critical of your view around (including Denholm)!

  2. Another fine piece of writing Kartik and as always thought provoking. This piece and you last post expresses the frustration many of us had watching the Olympic Qualifying. It was hard to watch at times franking and the streaker even had her down side!

    However on reflection was there any real chance that the US was not going to move out of the group stage. Not really, but Mexico probably thought the same thing! My believe that this Olympic only team was put together and told to get to know each other during qualifying. Given the various commitments of the players it my have been the only thing we could of done.I would expect a better viewer experience in the semi-final match which is the ticket to the Olympics. I would also think that the pre-Olympic camp and organization would be of a much tougher model. I am betting that the US Soccer leadership believes that it can medal this summer and wouldn’t that be wonderful!

  3. I think we are producing young talent, the problem is that the coaching has not caught up yet. I think the U23 roster has talent, its the manager thats not getting them to gel.

  4. I agree with JustinR. I saw plenty of talent during qualifying, it just isn’t being utilized properly. That is why watching those games was so frustrating. Like watching someone paint a fence with a tooth brush. It just doesn’t make sense. Jozy is obviously immencely talented, but he didn’t do anything during qualifying. That’s not because he came from MLS. In fact, other than Orozco and Davies (against Honduras anyway), every impact player was from the MLS (yes, Adu is from the MLS. He’s barely played half a season at Benfica). I do believe the EPL has not improved English national team football. Are we destined to suffer the same fate? I don’t know, but I do believe it hasn’t happened yet.

  5. I do agree with the premise totally partly because of our own mindset, our own inferiority complex which you Kartik sometimes show yourself. The assumption among our leading football people is any foreign player is automatically more skilled than an American. American trainers, coaches, etc have no faith in the American player and the assets we bring to the game. So essentially you have cheap foreign players being brought in with less talent and skills than our guys and winning starting jobs because our coaches who generally aren’t very good assume the American kid must not be as good as the foreign guy whose played in his home nation. Most of the time we see useless guys like Pascal Bedrosion, Jerry Tamishiro and now even the pole with no goals trumping Americans who can do the same thing for the same price. Those Americans don’t see the field and thus don’t develop and our national program regresses.

    I have been completely in agreement with your recent concerns about this foreign influx that MLS is promoting. Now I’m scared shi#%ess about the comments Gazidis has made in your linked article. Wake up American fans, we are going to go the same way as England without the fan support they have to absorb what may in turn happen to our national team.

  6. Kartik, your onging assessment of the situation falls well short of the mark. You failed to mention that MLS recently encouraged clubs to develop youth academies by letting them have first dibs on the players they develop instead of giving them up to the draft. At one point you briefly mentioned the new Development Academy, but failed to mention that it exponentially duplicating the successful U-17 program in Bradenton. You didn’t mention the MLS clubs that have Development Academy teams or that the rest of the clubs are scrambling to get in on the action.
    Before you write another follow-up article, please visit the Development Academy link on’s website. 64 Development Academy clubs played in front of National, MLS and College coaches and scouts this last winter and will continue to do so on a quarterly basis. The future has never looked brighter.

  7. The youth development system to which you refer Pablo is so backward and behind in its development. This situation is very disappointing. Our league has given up on the American player.

  8. You’re having a laugh Joe. While the 3-headed monster that is the USSF/MLS/SUM should have started the Development Academy years ago, it’s one thing they finally got right. When they started the program last year, they were very open about the problems with youth development. They went to great length’s to study successful youth development programs in England, Germany, France, Brazil, etc., and they’ve duplicated Bradenton’s successful U-17 academy 64 times in cities across the country.

    The league has some extra cash in its pockets from making a killing on the 2006 WC rights, and signs long-term TV deals with 3 networks, and decides to make the league more attractive by bringing in some foreign talent and you lot are running around like chicken little screaming the sky is falling. Seriously, check out the Development Academy site on and support both of your generalizations with some facts.

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