Landon Donovan: Stay Over There
Landon Donovan is a marquee player. I wouldn’t say he is world class, but he is certainly a good player in the top league in the world. World Class, to me, means someone who instantly affects the game he is in. A game changer, a Rooney or a Crynaldo. Landon Donovan is neither of those.
But he is a good player in the English Premier League, and a poster boy for American soccer.
So if he is a good player in a vastly superior league to Major League Soccer, and a poster boy for American soccer, why should he stay abroad?
The answer is quite elementary and is both good for himself and American soccer (and MLS is not synonymous with American soccer).
Right now, Landon Donovan will gain nothing in terms of skill from playing in the EPL, contrary to some claims that his fans make. No, Donovan has probably already peaked. His personal gains will be found in better pay and the opportunity to test himself against the other players in the league
And his benefits for American soccer can be found in the same way. A consistently strong Landon Donovan can erase stereotypes which are held against American soccer players abroad. Instead of seeing American players benched (or playing reserve football) when they make moves overseas, we could see an era of where the American player is treated equally with those of soccer majors. Benefits can also be found at home. In Major League Soccer, his salary money can go to bringing up an American potential, or several American potentials, for that matter. Essentially, a Donovan move opens spots for younger players, who haven’t peaked yet, to play higher division football.
However, a permanent Donovan move to the EPL is probably bad for Major League Soccer. Unlike some authors, I have no illusions about the so-called “Good For Major League Soccer because it will attract other players here” argument. The reality of the situation is MLS will still be looked down upon with disdain. Treated as a private joke, perhaps, but not viewed as a place to develop your game. The main negatives that will be found will be with the fact that the United States’ best player is no longer playing in the league and this is no longer a TV or attendance draw (although the ‘metrics of it might show that he never was in the first place).
But what is best for American soccer is more young players playing a higher tier of football, with the mature, developed players, playing abroad, and not taking up spaces for Americans on teams that are below their [the players] calibre.