United States national team players have come to Major League Soccer (MLS), either back again or being newly introduced, and it’s all part of the recipe for domestic success.
As these players sign various contracts with MLS teams, usually with many zeroes attached to the agreed salary, the discussion of whether this is positive for the national product is important.
Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Mix Diskerud, Sacha Kljestan and Brek Shea all have made their way to the MLS recently, solidifying the league’s presence within the United States national team and representing their most significant haul of American talent from abroad.
Will fleeing the best leagues in the world to ‘come home’ pay-off? This question begs for an understanding of who the beneficiary of this pay-off may be.
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann is an obvious choice.
He has made it abundantly clear that his preference is for his players to ply their trade in Europe and has condoned their transfers to MLS. Speaking on his captain Michael Bradley’s most recent career move, Klinsmann uttered:
There’s nothing I can do about it…Making that decision to go from Roma, a Champions League team, to Toronto, that now seems like they’re not even qualifying for the play-offs, it’s a huge disappointment.
But, he is practically cornered into this opinion; of course he wants every player of his playing at the highest level possible at every waking moment and he would be remiss not to. The outcry of public disdain towards this is honest in its defense of the American league, but it’s just a proud, involuntary reflex, at best.
Klinsmann will, most likely, not be able to reap the benefits of this recent influx nor his most significant work: the gutting and rewiring of the American youth soccer structure.
MLS might have the leverage to sway these players to play in the United States, but is it clear that they have drastically improved their league because of it? The enhancement in quality is incremental, but the league stands to eventually benefit.
Relative fortunes were offered to secure these transfers and eventually pay the salaries, so the league is hoping the dividends lie in the growth of the sport. The card played is nationalistic, attempting to entice the casual fan to play a hand at the MLS table.
The eventual champion will be the domestic, American soccer product. This is a pivotal time for United States soccer and the attention must be capitalised on.
What might be less obvious is the statement that these transfers make to the youth players of the country. Although nuanced now, if young players growing up witness their sporting heroes from their country, playing in their league, accessible in their city, the chances of American talent staying within the country inevitably increases.
If players are retained and guided with a more comprehensive professional track, it could prove to be a successful recipe. The pay-off will not be immediate.
The quality in MLS will not drastically improve because of it. Jurgen Klinsmann will continue to complain. But, these transfers stand as timely grooves, indicative of a plan to turn a corner.
Hidden amongst the demands of the American appetite for instant success, lies an unintended gesture to the youth of the country.