Americans Should Stay in MLS


By Chris Riordan

There is an important question beckoning, one that needs an answer. Where can talented members of the U.S. men’s National Team go, to best cultivate their talent?

Some of our most talented players are withering away on benches in Europe . Last year, Jozy Altidore was transferred from Red Bull New York , to Villareal of La Liga, in what was the highest transfer fee for an MLS player. While, it was disappointing for our domestic league to lose such an exciting and skilled player, it seemed good for the National Team. This was supposed to be Jozy’s chance to take his game to a new level, and get valuable international experience in Europe . After playing well in some friendlies, and non league fixtures, the move seemed the right choice. Then, Altidore was sent on loan to second tier side Xerez. At the time, I figured that all parties would benefit from this deal, and that Jozy’s playing time would be increased greatly. Instead he has foundered on the bench. Even after scoring a hat – trick in a World Cup qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago , Altidore still can’t crack the lineup.. This is inexplicable, he clearly has a lot of talent, yet he’s not even getting time as a sub.

While he can’t get off the bench, another young American talent, Freddy Adu, rarely if ever, even makes it on the match day 18 squad. Adu plays for Ligue 1 side, AS Monaco. Again, it seems strange that an exciting, versatile player can’t even get cleanup minutes.

DaMarcus Beasley, while not as young as the other two mentioned, has been a very important part of the US MNT. DaMarcus also has trouble finding any kind of consistent playing time.

Also, guys like Michael Parkhurst, arguably the best defender in MLS last season, are playing at smaller clubs in Scandinavia. Though, they are making more money, the level of play is not much different there, than at home.

So the question bodes, where can guys like Altidore and Adu go to develop their game, with an adequate level of play and sufficient playing time? Or does it serve the National Team and domestic club game better, to have them in MLS?

It’s nice to see our players in Europe , but it’s just as good to see them play at home. I’d rather see them play here, then say, (no offense) in Norway.

13 thoughts on “Americans Should Stay in MLS”

  1. Alexi Lalas had a commentary on this on MLS Originals this week. It’s free to watch. Making the move to Europe does not mean you will be a starter, nor does it mean you will be playing in a higher quality league if you are a starter.

  2. I think that Hollands league is a good league to go to get playing time, improve your game and transfer to a bigger league when your ready.

  3. This has been an issue I’ve been mulling over for some time and almost touched on in my last article here. I agree with Jack, I think Holland is probably one of the better, if not the best, places for young American talent to land. Keep in mind, this is not just an issue for US players, but also Mexican players. Time has come for MLS to do what FMF has started doing, if a player goes to Europe and isn’t playing, bring him back home on a loan (ala Bravo). Further focus on creating a strong academy system for developing youth in the States – might that explain why Jozy Altidore is toiling at Xerez while fellow New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi is getting regular playing time at Villarreal. Rossi, after all, served time in the traditional Parma and Manchester United youth systems, while Altidore was a draft pick for Red Bull New York. This isn’t a knock against Altidore and his talent, I think the bigger issue is there’s a bias against American players and the manner in which our youth development occurs (or doesn’t occur) here impacts how our players are treated in Europe.

  4. Argentina and Brazil are especially good at doing what Brian talked about. If a guy is sitting in Europe, they are brought back home almost immediately. The problem is that MLS seems less and less interested in player development for the US National Team: maybe this is a good thing from a business perspective as the league is perhaps the healthiest football league on the planet and more recession/depression proof than any professional sports league in the world, but it doesn’t help the USMNT at all.

    So many mid range American players go to Scandinavia because to quote an agent I know “Most MLS offers are insulting to veteran players from a monetary standpoint.” Unless this changes the Hunter Freeman’s, Joseph Ngwenya’s and Clarence Goodson’s of the world will continue to head out of the league at a rapid pace.

  5. What we need is not so much the MLS to keep American players as much as the total worldwide domination of media coverage of two or three European leagues need to end. Like, seriously. I’m so goddamned sick and tired of the Premier League. It hasn’t even been remotely interesting in the last five or so years. When it started, the only given was that Man U would finish the season in one of the top three spots. Now the only things up in the air are, who gets relegated, and who qualifies for the Uefa cup? But even that gets minimal coverage. Instead all we ever hear about are the “big four,” an elite group of teams that the structure of the Premier League is directly responsible for producing. The EPL, representing a country of fifty million people, has a television contract whose worth is surpassed only by the NFL, a top flight competition in a country six times the size of England. The massive revenue and international scrutiny channeled into this little sliver of Europe has not only ruined the competitive balance of English football, but of the Champions league as well. It also competes for attention with domestic leagues outside of Europe, a battle that it always wins, because it has the backing of a stupendously large international media conglomerate. It needs to stop, now. The sooner, the better, not only for the MLS, but for world football.

  6. And one more thing, when you think about it, the experiences of European football in the last twenty years follow that of American college football very closely. The formation of new leagues with enormous streams of revenue from broadcasting rights, the positive feedback loop in said leagues of television money funding stronger and stronger teams, leading to more and more lucrative television rights, which has the effect of obliterating what parity had existed beforehand, the tyrannical wielding of power by a dozen or so of the wealthiest and most powerful clubs; I wonder what it all means.

  7. “maybe this is a good thing from a business perspective as the league is perhaps the healthiest football league on the planet and more recession/depression proof than any professional sports league in the world, but it doesn’t help the USMNT at all.”

    I don’t know man, is it really good from a business perspective? Don’t you think that Jozy being back would bring more fans in to the New York games, as well as all of the away games he was playing in? Especially after he hung a hat trick on T&T. And sticking Freddy back at RSL might take them from a contending team that can challenge for an MLS cup to a team that can potentially do some damage in the continental competitions.

    Theoretically, it would make the large American contingent that follows the national team more interested in following MLS, it would make the MLS teams better and more competitive in the continental competitions, and that would not only give these players more time in a truly competitive setting, but they would get experience playing away games in Mexico and Central American countries.

    It seems like this could end up being something that the teams who start to take advantage of it first will have a significant competitive advantage over the rest of the league. Kind of like when DC United figured out how to scout in South America before everyone else.

  8. I know its a nutty idea but I could see an American businessmen with ties to the MLS buying a team in Europe in a 2nd division and try building a team in Europe using American talent. Of course the idea would be blown to smithereens if Platini has his way with the 6-5 rule.

    But what is to stop an American Businessmen buying a team in Holland, the German League 2, the Championship, Belgium, or Spanish Second Division and bringing in top American players from MLS and guys playing in Scandanavia and cultivating the national team that way? Sure the club might lose some local support because fans may not relate to the players but at the same time if the players win the fans will follow because fans root for the badge and the shirt not the players in the shirt if the team wins. If the players get successful and other clubs from Europe come calling with money willing to pay for the the players they can sell and then they can always bring in another up and coming American player to fill in the roll

    If the guys have EU passports or fall under the rules that they can get work visas because they fit the criteria to get one why not try that route to build a team that is European based and will get to experience the futbol culture that just isn’t there in our country yet?

  9. Another thought … let me start by admitting that I may be biased on this one, because my wife is Russian. The Russian Premier League is an underrated league, I’ve spent a lot of time in Russia and have gotten to watch quite a bit of it. It’s a rapidly developing league and I would love to see some Americans go there to play. They would make decent money and play in a league with sufficient quality. Also, there are only a few Russians who play abroad … Arshavin and Pavlyuchenko come to mind. While the majority play at home … and look how well Russia’s national team is doing (semi – finals in the Euro). This model could be a nice parallel to what I was saying about MLS.

  10. Ryan : Yeah, it’s kind of like the situation in Ireland. As far as I know, every single player on the Irish National Team, plays in England or Scotland. Can you imagine how much better the Eircom League would be with their top domestic talent. And having a lot of these guys would help tenfold in the CONCACAF Champions League.

  11. I agree totally we must have our americans who are in Europe playing, otherwise MLS is where they need to be. More than 1 year of riding the bench will be devastating in the development and mentality of our top American players. I Love the idea of a primary american team playing on a european team as suggested by CFTV. That team would surely have lots of American support. That is why I have become a Fulham supporter!

  12. I follow the UEFA & EPL quite regularly and I have become a Fulham fan also because of Clint Dempsey. He is the most successful field player for the US abroad right now IMHO. I am very disappointed with Jozy’s and Freddy’s lack of playing time at Xerez and Monaco. I would love to follow be able to follow their careers, but they are both floundering at the moment. I like CFTV’s idea about creating a USA influenced European team. I would follow a team such as that religiously. I don’t follow Rossi’s career at all…he’s like the child who went to work for his father’s business rival. Disappointing he didn’t suit up for the USA. I’m planning to attend the USA vs Costa Rico game in October and I’m hoping to see both Jozy and Freddy on the field. Let’s hope the MLS continues to improve and perhaps throw more money at desirable players.

  13. I have to agree sitting on the bench doesn’t help the likes of Adu and Altidore, but these guys made the decision to move to Europe. There’s going to be bias against non-natives in domestic leagues. If you were a Spaniard watching La Liga, you want to see a fellow countryman over an American with the same ability. The only reason you would want to watch an American is if he’s better, but clearly American players aren’t at that level yet. Basically Adu and Altidore chose Europe because they make more money and receive better training/coaching, but risk not playing much. The only solution I see is to continue MLS’ improvement by paying and training players better, but that’s not going to happen overnight. MLS is still several years away where America’s best players move to Europe only to play against the very best, not because of money or training/coaching issues.

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