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U.S. Reaping Benefits of Exodus to Premiership

By John Nicholson

When the obituaries are written about the 2006/07 Premiership, aside from containing lots of jokes about West Ham United, they should reflect that this was the season when American footballers started to become regular, valuable and respected members of top flight squads.

It’s a quiet revolution, which is all the more ironic when you consider the fuss made over David Beckham’s move to LA Galaxy. It seems that the best American players are increasingly able to compete at the highest levels in Europe and that clubs are seeing American players in a new, more valuable light.

The USA should be able to become a major force in world football and has already achieved much in the last 15 years. The real test will be in coming tournaments when Premiership hardened players have a chance to deploy their new top flight experience at international level. It’ll be very interesting to see how well they perform.

Jay DeMerit, this weeks Podcast interviewee, is an excellent example. While Watford is set for relegation, Jay has been a stand out player for the side and I would imagine could find himself at another Premiership club next season and should make his international debut too.

There is some debate over whether not playing in the MLS hampers a players chances of playing for his country, but it seems to me to be a facile debate. You want your players playing at the highest levels possible. It can only be good for the national side.

A good player can look fantastic in an average quality league and then get found out at international level. The Likes of DeMerit will find international football easier having played against Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal than he ever would have if he’d played in the MLS. Marcus Hahnemann has gained vital experience in this successful season at Reading, and has gained many plaudits for some fine displays.

Brad Friedel remains easily one of the best keepers in the league. DaMarcus Beasley is turning out for Manchester City regularly too since arriving. Fulham’s Carlos Bocanegra is a regular first team player and Brian McBride continues to put in ball-breaker performances and may well be the hardest bastard in the league.

Ok we’re still waiting for a stand out, world beater to emerge from Uncle Sam’s leagues but surely it’s only a matter of time. Maybe if Freddy Adu can resist the birds, booze and bling on offer to a millionaire teenager in the Premiership he could be that player. If not him, then there will surely be others.

Others such as Rossi and Bobby Convey have yet to earn regular first team places they’re in there and fighting for places with other internationals. They are playing in more exalted company and their game will improve for it. This is all good news for the national side.

After a disappointing World Cup where many of the players under-performed, and as a confirmed Americanaphile (yes I did just make that word up), I look forward to seeing the national squad’s performances in the coming year. It’s a pity that so many international games are played against the likes of Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago and El Salvador who are hardly football giants. More severe tests against Argentina, Paraguay and Columbia lay ahead this year however and they will be the real litmus test of their progress.

Perhaps a tour of Europe could be organized for the national side at some point to get them experience of playing the top countries. Experience is hugely important.

The players that have so far made their mark seem to collectively have an excellent work ethic and by and large have integrated into the culture of the Premiership very well. Who’d have thought wealthy men in their 20s would enjoy a culture of birds and booze so easily?!

America is already at the top echelons of women’s international football; surely it can’t be long before their male counterparts step up to the plate too.

John Nicholson writes each week for Football 365 and EPL Talk. You can listen to John’s wonderful stories on episode 30 and 45 of the EPL Talk Podcast, as well as purchase his excellent Footy Rocks book and order one of his unique rock’n roll T-shirts.

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  1. Anonymous

    March 8, 2007 at 1:24 am


    oh and Rossi wants to play for Italy

  2. Oscar M.

    March 7, 2007 at 11:59 am

    Good points all aroun – its inaccurate to say Convey is still fighting for a starting spot. He was a starter for Reading all last season and at the start of this season. It’s been a persistent knee injury that’s kept him from playing more this season.

  3. Kartik

    March 7, 2007 at 9:57 am

    Excellent piece!

    The number of American players playing England will certainly help the National Team much like the exodus of young MLS players from MLS to the Bundesligia in the late 1990s helped set up the strong World Cup run of 2002 for us.

    The MLS has been good for the national side in the sense that it has deepened the player pool and given several youngsters a chance to play when they would have been toiling in the reserves or youth squads in Europe. However, MLS players who want to be strong internationals need to follow the example of DeMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Convey all of whom ditched MLS at a young age and went to Europe. Bocanegra has now become a much more savvy and accomplished player thanks to Chris Coleman’s work with him at Fulham and Convey has an agressiveness and confidence he never had when playing for DC United.

    I am glad that England and particularly the EPL has become the league of choice for American players who seek to go abroad. For years as I mentioned above the Bundesligia was the choice destination for Americans, and while that league was certainly an improvement on MLS (and helped US Soccer move forward) getting players in England, Spain and Italy is a prerequisite to any long term sustained success.

    Again, a great piece.

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