Weston McKennie recently earned a new contract offer from Juventus that would pocket him $2.7 million per season. The deal would tie McKennie to Juventus through the 2026/27 season. It is also a handsome raise for a player that certainly deserves it. However, the wages the club is offering are only marginally higher than what Major League Soccer gives to players. That prevents some of the top talents in the United States from traveling over to Europe and exposing themselves to better development from that level of play.

The top USMNT players in Europe are making anywhere between $2.5 million and $5.3 million per year. Folarin Balogun tops the list with Monaco in his latest contract. Timothy Weah, a teammate of McKennie’s at Juventus, is making $2.5 million per year. By comparison, the top American talents in Major League Soccer are not making as much as these players, but the gap in salaries is not as sizeable as the output on the pitch.

Yet, the bigger concern is the players who have the potential to take the next step. Players like Jesus Ferreira and Miles Robinson have shown their success in Major League Soccer. They are making comfortable wages in MLS. Ferreira pulled in $1.82 million in the 2023 MLS campaign with FC Dallas while Robinson earned $1.44 million. Miles Robinson is making more than players like Auston Trusty, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Mark McKenzie. Each of those three players moved over to Europe to expose themselves to different challenges. They did that at the risk of salaries that Major League Soccer would provide.

MLS contracts sapping American development

This is not meant to be a criticism of Major League Soccer, nor is it a comment on those who stay in MLS. It is a major risk for players to bet on themselves and move to Europe in a bid to better their careers. There are incentives Major League Soccer clubs have to promote home-grown talent. Therefore, MLS players would concede that potential growth for financial stability, which is well within their rights as athletes.

Also, it is good that Major League Soccer has high salary expectations. That entices players from Europe or South America to come to the United States to play soccer. Overall, that improves the quality of the league, which has seen a substantial growth in quality over the last decade.

It would be interesting to see how the USMNT could develop if some of these players were to go to Europe. Jesus Ferreira has been linked to moves across the Atlantic Ocean on several occasions. Most recently, Cadiz in Spain wanted to sign the American. Not only would that club have provided playing time, but Ferreira would have had the chance to play against opposition like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid. Before moving to FC Cincinnati after the 2023 MLS season, Miles Robinson was linked to PSV Eindhoven, Wolfsburg, and Mallorca.

Interestingly, PSV Eindhoven has provided strong salaries to both Ricardo Pepi and Sergiño Dest, both of whom joined this past summer. If Miles Robinson were to join, he could have rivaled the salary he earned while at Atlanta United. Instead, Ferreira and Robinson are hitting their peak with their MLS clubs. That may prevent them from selection in Gregg Berhalter’s United States Men’s National Team. Granted, Berhalter does seem to have an affinity for picking players out of MLS. For example, Walker Zimmerman is a regular in the USMNT squad. The Nashville SC defender made $2 million in Major League Soccer in 2023. He is the prime example of what staying in MLS can do.

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Visible progression among European talents

Still, if a young player is to leave Major League Soccer, the question remains over how likely they are to achieve success. Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio moved from Major League Soccer clubs to Venezia in Italy. Their respective market values have risen, despite Venezia falling to Serie B after one season in the Italian top flight. Tessmann is making around $600,000 per year while Busio pulls in less than that. If they can continue to develop, and Venezia can grow from their success, the USMNT may benefit from having players with experience in the European leagues.


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