Outside of the major leagues, there are other leagues that more American players could ply their trade
As the United States Men’s National Team undergoes a makeover in its player pool, fans are beginning to consume more information about youth players from MLS to the third division in Germany. And when talented youth players are coming up through the ranks, the debate over the league they should move to cultivate and develop their talent is a contentious one. Many fans consider one of the big 4 European leagues—the Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga or Serie A—where players should go to develop. Others think a second division European league, like the English Championship or 2. Bundesliga, is the way to go. Some stay in Europe in leagues like the Danish Superliga (Denmark) or the Allsvenskan (Sweden). There are also those that feel that staying in MLS or heading to Liga MX is the right move.
However, there are some leagues that fall under the radar that could be a nice proving ground for young Americans looking to develop and improve as a player. Some of these leagues are known for breeding young talent to be sent elsewhere, and others can be leagues that Americans can play against some of the best players in the world. Let’s take a look at just a few of the leagues that more Americans should consider:
The Primeira Liga in Portugal is a league that has a similar playing style to La Liga, and has some teams that are widely regarded throughout the world. Teams like Benfica, Sporting Clube de Portugal, and Porto are regularly competing in European competition, and while it’s a top heavy league (those three teams have won 81 of the 83 league titles), they are known for developing many great players. Currently, young American midfielder Keaton Parks plies his trade for Benfica and has done well thus far. More young players should add the Primeira Liga to their list of possible career destinations.
Some of the best talent in the world comes from Brazil, and the Brasileiro is a league that Americans could improve their technical ability and the drive to be the best. Players like Desmond Armstrong, Cobi Jones and Freddy Adu have had stops in Brazil, but when people think of the best places for young Americans to develop, Brazil is rarely on their lists. The best footballing nation in the world deserves more credit for the cultivation of young talent, and if you can make it there, the world is your oyster. The history of teams like Corinthians, Santos, Palmeiras, Vasco da Gama, and Flamengo is top notch. How great would it be to have more Americans feature into some of those teams?
This is basically one step off the Big 4 in Europe, but there are so many examples of American players (and coaches—shoutout to Bob Bradley) making it in Ligue 1. Currently, the American carrying the flag is 18-year-old Timothy Weah, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, one of the biggest clubs in Europe. Alejandro Bedoya, Charlie Davies, Carlos Bocanegra, Freddy Adu, and Greg Vanney have also played in Ligue 1. It may not be England, but Ligue 1 is a major league that could help players develop and perform well for the national team.
Another league that is under the radar to most Americans is Liga Aguila in Colombia. Clubs like Atletico Nacional, Millonarios, America de Cali, Deportivo de Cali, and Santa Fe have had a ton of success in Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana, South America’s regional competitions. And secretly, Liga Aguila has become one of the better leagues in the entire world. Some fans enjoy the flair that South Americans play with on the international level, so this may be an option for getting some players to play with some of the best young talent in this hemisphere, and it would definitely improve our player pool if that happens.
There is a long history of Americans playing in the Eredivisie, from Earnie Stewart to DaMarcus Beasley and Oguchi Onyewu to Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. Currently, Matt Miazga is on loan with Vitesse and Andrija Novakovich is on loan with Telstar in the 2nd division, but there aren’t many other Americans of importance who have played in Holland recently. It’s not the best league in Europe, but one that can develop young players and send them on to greener pastures when they’re ready. It’s probably time to redevelop the pipeline of American players calling the Eredivisie home.
River Plate. Boca Juniors. Independiente. Racing. Newell’s Old Boys. The teams that make up the Superliga Argentina are some of the most famous in the world. The River Plate-Boca Juniors rivalry is unparalleled, and some of the very best to ever play the game have started in Argentina’s top league. Could some Americans try to make it here? Currently, Joel Soñora is on loan with Talleres Cordoba from Stuttgart, but more Americans should definitely attempt the leap to Argentina to advance their careers.
We all want young American players to get playing time on the field and develop their games against the best competition possible. However, the path isn’t always to Germany or England or Spain. Sometimes, you have to take the road less traveled by. With some of these leagues and others that fall under the typical American radar, that road could lead to a successful career for club and country. It could also spark more American interest in these leagues as they watch American talent test themselves against top level competition.
Which leagues do you think Americans should consider that aren’t typically on the radar?
It’s all, almost all, free - for now. MLS Live, the streaming service run by the league, is gratis until ESPN takes over a $5 a month service for the league later this spring. For now, there’s free soccer - and some of it is even watchable! If you’re written off MLS as a league that focuses on hoof and chase tactics, that isn’t quite the case anymore. Not every team plays a fluid, attacking style, but not every team in La Liga is Barcelona either. All of this is to say that MLS is getting better and this can only be good for American players and soccer in the country as a whole. Case in point, two of the best LigaMX teams getting waxed in Concacaf Champions League by MLS teams. Plus, IT’S FREE - you don’t even need your parent’s cable log in to watch most of it.
Anyway, here’s the Americans at Home...
An ImPRESSive Performance: The New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC are both through in the Concacaf Champions League. The Red Bulls were led by a standout performance by Tyler Adams who not only scored, but the youngster so thoroughly dominated midfield for New York that Club Tijuana was actively avoiding going through the center of the pitch while trying to mount a comeback in Harrison, New Jersey. Don’t take my word for it:
#RBNY goal came on a swift counterattack off a #Xolos corner, and Tyler Adams started at the edge of his own box. He then made a lung-bursting run to the other box, arriving to finish Murillo's cross. Great goal that exemplifies his non-stop engine. #NYvTIJ#CCL#MLS#USMNTpic.twitter.com/cggwRKGqfU
If you like a team that presses and want to see one of the most exciting young Americans in the game today, checkout Adams and watch Red Bulls matches.
Meanwhile in Monterrey, Mexico - Toronto FC lost 3-2 but went ahead on aggregate 4-4 thanks to the two away goals. Marky Delgado went 75 minutes in the match as the 22 year-old was called into the USMNT by American Manager Dave Sarachan to join the team for their friendly against Paraguay next week.
Perhaps feeling the effects of their midweek matches, both teams lost away on Saturday with Montreal beating TFC and NYRB losing to Real Salt Lake - both by a scoreline of 1-0.
San Zusi’s Day: Sporting Kansas City is good at soccer again. Not just good at defending, they’re playing nice looking, fun soccer and are intentionally trying to score. This is a big departure from last year. After routing the Chicago Fire 4-3 on the road last week they came back to Children’s Mercy Park and hung 3 goals on the San Jose Earthquakes. Graham Zusi put the go ahead goal in the net with this beauty.
Suburban DC Rally:Paul Arriola and Chris Durkin had themselves an afternoon in a snowy game played at the Maryland Soccerplex. DC United was borrowing the Washington Spirit’s home venue while Audi Field is being completed, much to the chagrin of DaMarcus Beasley (Beasley might be overreacting a touch, but imagine what he’d think if he was a World Cup champion and was enduring those conditions). Durkin checked in at the 70th minute, coming in for Venezuela national teamer Junior Moreno, and made an impact with his distribution. Arriola also came on as a sub helping DCU to come back from 2-0 down to draw with the Dynamo 2-2.
Every touch from Chris Durkin, who (along with Paul Arriola) turned the game around for DC in the second half. Excellent 20 mins from the 18-year-old. #DCvHOUpic.twitter.com/taYEszLBcQ
Finlay Flashback: Minnesota native Ethan Finlay added his first assist of 2018 following his two goal performance last weekend. The Loons winger sent a cross into the box that was headed home by Sam Nicholson to beat the Chicago Fire.
Cleansheet Show: The Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union played a 0-0 draw in Chester, Pennsylvania over the weekend. While that seems completely un-noteworthy - and MLS perhaps did viewers a small mercy by letting MLS Live crash during the broadcast - it was a nice game for some American defenders. Zack Steffen for Columbus and Keegan Rosenberry and Auston Trusty of the Union keep the game scoreless. Meanwhile, Wil Trapp shielded his backline and Alejandro Bedoya got a yellow card.
Dessert for Frosted Orange: After much clamoring from the fanbase and the media, Andrew Carleton got some time on the field for Atlanta United in their 4-1 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Carleton came on in the 75th minute and created a spark on the right wing. Oh, yeah, and he got his first professional assist helping Josef Martinez seal his hat trick:
Clint Dempsey trying s***: After getting thoroughly trounced in CCL by - yep that’s 15th place Chivas, the defending Western Conference champs got thoroughly trounced in Frisco by FC Dallas. Even without starting keeper Jesse Gonzalez, FC Dallas won 3-0 thanks to Dempsey being indelicate with Jacori Hayes and getting a red card - luckily this time Dempsey went off and the referee’s book stayed intact. Matt Hedges contributed to a clean sheet at center back while 18 year-old Homegrown player and USMNT U-20 camp invitee Paxton Pomykal played 22 minutes as a sub in midfield.
There’s more soccer leagues in America than MLS though, well, one less than last year but that’s another issue, unless Winston & Strawn has an rec soccer team... Here’s a few highlights from players in USL (which also is - FREE TO WATCH on YouTube).
Ulysses Llanez of LA Galaxy II played for 30 minutes in the team’s loss to Colorado Springs. He’s been called into the U-20 roster for the upcoming friendlies this month and this showcases why:
Got a few moments from Ulysses Llanez's 30 minutes with LA Galaxy II in a 2-0 loss to Colorado Springs in #USL. He's 16, and on the roster for the U.S. U20 camp in Spain. Nothing close to the finished product but he's a fluid wide attacker. Beats 2 guys and draws a foul here. pic.twitter.com/pCTbci88I2
Fellow US U-20 National Team player Aedan Stanley played left wingback for Saint Louis FC in a 1-1 draw with the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros. He played a key role in the play that led to the equalizer for SLFC:
Excellent run forward, combines, and wins a corner kick, which resulted in the equalizer for St. Louis in the 82nd minute. Good stuff. pic.twitter.com/T59Pnr7iEM
This shouldn’t come as much of a shock to anyone who’s been paying attention. Common belief surrounding the search for the next U.S. head coach has been that we won’t see movement until after the 2018 World Cup. That should be when coaching changes will inevitably have been made at the international and club levels, leaving desirable candidates available.
In February, it was reported by MLSSoccer.com that Sarachan himself is interested in earning the full-time job. Whether or not the 63-year-old is a realistic candidate for the position remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is that he’ll be in charge of the program through the end of the summer. He’ll have at least four more friendlies with the interim tag attached to his name.
We take a look around the globe as the USMNT makes call ups for camp in North Carolina
The Yanks Abroad got several goals around the world this past week with Andrija Novakovich getting three by himself amidst his first call up to the US Men’s National Team. But it wasn’t all good news as Daniel Williams went down for the season and Bobby Wood continues to be nonexistent.
Let’s get to all the highs & lows from last week:
Terrance Boyd Boyd went the first 65 minutes as Darmstadt drew with Nurnberg in the 2. Bundesliga. He scored the goal off a corner kick in the 18’ minute. The ball was bouncing around the box and Boyd finished it with the last of five headers on the play. VIDEO LINK
Joe Gyau Down in the 3rd division of Germany, Gyau smashed home a nice goal in a 3-1 win for Sonnenhof Großaspach over Fortuna Köln.
Andrija Novakovich The Telstar forward got his first call up for the USMNT and was also the goal scorer in a 1-1 draw with Go Ahead Eagles on Friday in the 2nd division of the Netherlands. That is in addition to the two goals he scored last Monday in their 3-2 win over Almere City FC.
Jorge Villafaña He was called up for the North Carolina camp and went 90 minutes for Santos Laguna in a 1-0 win at Puebla.
Matt Miazga Miazga was among those called up last week and is going to have to step up and anchor the back line for the Americans with Brooks out. He got in 90 minutes for Vitesse who drew 0-0 with Heracles.
Tim Ream The 30 year old center back went 90 minutes for Fulham in a 2-2 draw with QPR. The Cottagers sit in 3rd place in the Championship.
Manneh, 23, filed for a one-time switch to the USMNT in September 2016. However, due to a FIFA rule regarding maintaining residency in a country for five years after a player’s 18th birthday, he has had to wait a considerable amount of time to become eligible.
US Soccer’s release doesn’t clarify if that eligibility has officially been resolved or not. We’ll have to assume it has since he’s officially be added to the roster.
The Gambia-born winger moved to Pachuca this winter after spending five-plus years in MLS with the Vancouver Whitecaps and Columbus Crew. So far, he has appeared just once in Liga MX since joining the club.
Manneh was once regarded as one of the most promising young players in MLS. Unfortunately his stock has dropped considerably over the last few years due to injuries and inconsistent play.
It’s undeniable that the talent is there. Will the USMNT be able to uncover the gem that once shined brightly? It should be very interesting to see.
Welcome to Toxic Talk, where our resident hater tells you what sucks about soccer this week.
It’s spring time. The snow is melting. There’s a lot of soccer on the tv. The USWNT just won SheBelieves Cup, and the USMNT, despite the obvious disappointment that will be the entirety of 2018, released an exciting roster full of young talent, both faces we’ve seen before and newbies ready to take their shot with the USMNT, even (gasp!) young prospects that play right and left back. Things are looking up.
Which sucks for you, the dedicated U.S. Soccer fan, because we loooove being pissed off. And to that end, not to worry! I am here to provide the roadmap for you to be disappointed with soccer throughout the rest of March.
First of all, there’s the obvious, Route 1 highway to being an upset soccer fan:
Ahhhh yeah, hook it up to my veins. Americans finding out they didn’t have a God-given right to qualifying for the World Cup final has kind of been similar to them finding out the rest of the world wasn’t super cool with Imperialism. The whining has been tremendous, and I expect it will only continue.
However, maybe that doesn’t work for you. Maybe your still finding a little bit of optimism creeping into your disposition on a day to day basis. A little “positive, attacking” mental patterns. Tiki-taka of the neurons, if you will. Have no fear: here’s a completely possible lineup for USMNT vs. Paraguay that will give you the vapors.
I would have even more ammo if Tim Ream of Wheat got a call-up, but alas. We have no less than 2, count em, 2 players that were on the field in Trinidad when the U.S. bombed out of the World Cup. We’ve got a right back pushing 30 that currently isn’t making the 18 for his Championship side. We’ve got a holding mid that has been the Next Big Thing in MLS™ for the past half-decade that still can’t break into the regular senior team, his heir apparent who just got played off the field by Chivas, who have been doing their best Chivas USA impression as of late, a slumping Bundesliga striker, a European wash-out next to him, a benched keeper, and Tyler Adams on the wing FOR GOOD MEASURE.
I’m not saying it’s easy work being angry about a lineup you can create from this roster, but let the record show it is very possible.
And if you’re still not upset about everything, I don’t know, guy. Get angry about Pulisic not being here. Throwing Pulisic at the problem usually works.
Carleton also got a call up the U20 USMNT, in addition to Josh Sargent and a whole bunch of other favorites from last cycle’s U-17s. Cool cool beans. This was also the capping goal for Josef Martinez’s fourth MLS career hat trick, putting him one off the MLS record in his second season.
It was difficult not to feel something special happen in Ousmane Dembele’s goal against Chelsea to help send Barcelona through to the final eight in the Champions League. Lionel Messi’s run, pause, and pass to send him free. The thundering finish. It was a special moment for a Barcelona team with a La Liga record in their sights.
Deuce coupled the disappointment with being bounced from CONCACAF Champions League with a red card received by delivering a solid “DON’T TREAD” to Jacori Hayes’ nether regions. The WWE commentary of the play would go something like “AND THAT’S A DEUCE STRAIGHT TO THE PAIR.”
(Ok, maybe it was an elbow to the gut. Tomato potato)
This was the final week prior to the March International window. As other national teams convene to make final decisions and preparations for the World Cup, the USMNT will play a friendly looking to get some young fringe players International experience. This wasn’t a good week overall for Americans in Europe, but there were some standout performances this week.
Adams had undoubtedly the best youth performance of the week in New York’s 3-1 Concacaf Champions League victory last Tuesday. New York pulled off a shocking 2-0 win in Tijuana the previous week, and needed to hang on at home to advance. In the 10th minute, Tijuana scored the opening goal. The pressure was on New York with the Xolos needing only one more goal to tie the quarterfinal and potentially send the game to extra time. However, Adams stepped up and scored on a beautiful counter in the 28th minute.
Here's his goal. Makes a trademark 100 yard run to finish a counterattack off a corner. (He was onside, barely.) pic.twitter.com/632IRXYlkA
The goal restored order to the match for New York. They went on to add two more in the second half to win the tie by a dominate 5-1 scoreline. Adams playing a vital role earned him the Man of the Match honor. Let’s hope Adams can keep it up.
Carleton received his first decent MLS league minutes on Saturday. Atlanta United went up 3-0 over Vancouver before subbing on the 17-year-old in the 78th minute. Carleton took a defender on, but gave the ball away at the edge of the 18-yard box. The turnover would lead to Vancouver’s only goal in the 85th minute. However, Carleton atoned for his error a few minutes later by delivering a brilliantly weighted ball to the back post for Josef Martinez to head home.
Carleton’s assist once again shows his immense talent and ability to generate high percentage scoring chances. Let’s hope he can earn more opportunities.
John Requejo - Left Back, Los Angeles Galaxy
Requejo has returned from Liga MX to sign with LA Galaxy 2 in the USL. Requejo is a Mexican-American fullback who has featured for US U-20’s in the past. Requejo had been in Club Tijuana’s system until January when he was let go. Let’s hope the 21-year-old can take advantage of this new opportunity.
Nicolas Defreitas-Hansen - Goal Keeper, Everton FC
Defreitas-Hansen is a 16-year-old who has featured for Everton’s U18 team 7 times this season as well as made the bench for the U23’s several times. The young man moved on from Miami area’s Weston FC Development Academy last summer. He is eligible to play for both Denmark and the United States. Defreitas-Hansen has featured 3 times for the US U-16’s and was part of the U-18 group at the USYNT Summit in January. While certainly very young, he’s one to keep an eye on for the future.
Wady is another very young talent in Chelsea’s academy. The North Carolina native reportedly has dual nationality with the US and England. The 16-year-old came up through the Capital Area Railhwaks Development Academy before moving on to Chelsea. Wady is yet another young American keeper to keep an eye on. The US has a pretty nice contingent of players in Chelsea’s system at the moment (Matt Miazga, Kyle Scott and Wady).
Matt Miazga - Center Back, Chelsea FC (On Loan at Vitesse Arnhem)
Miazga had a solid outing on Saturday in Vitesse’s 0-0 draw with Heracles. This was a pretty good response following the 5-1 shellacking they received the previous week. Miazga figures to be the number one centerback for the US for a good while with the injury issues that have plagued John Brooks. The 22-year-old has had a very nice year in Holland.
Sergino Dest - Fullback, Ajax
Dest has had a nice season for Ajax’s U-19 team. The 17-year-old has featured on the left as well as the right and has consistently been starting while playing above his age group. Dest has dual nationality with the US and the Netherlands which allows him to play in Europe before his 18th birthday. Let’s hope the young man can continue his rise through one of the most prestigious academies in the world.
Andrija Novakovich - Striker, Reading (On Loan at Telstar)
Novakovich continues his recent goal-scoring tear. On Tuesday, the 21-year-old struck in the 50th minute to put Telstar up 2-0. Seven minutes later, Novakovich added another and Telstar would hang on for a 3-2 win. In Friday’s match, Novakovich levelled the score in the 49th minute to help Telstar earn a 1-1 draw. He now has 19 goals in all competitions this year and now deservedly has earned his first USMNT callup.
Parks was in the news this week as it was reported that he would be joining the Benfica first team this coming preseason to fight for a first team spot. Parks has impressed while playing mostly with the B team this season, scoring 5 goals and assisting on 6 more. He also scored twice during Benfica B’s midweek 4-0 victory over Uniao Madeira. Parks was named to the first team squad for this weekend’s match but did not make the bench as has been the case on several occasions recently. Let’s hope he can see some more first team opportunities this season and win a consistent spot this summer. Unfortunately, Parks was not included in the roster for the March 27th friendly. I imagine American Manager Dave Sarachan wanted to let him focus on winning a spot at his club. Then again, Erik Palmer-Brown is in the same boat on a far worse team (and just like Parks, EPB is only eligible for the US), and he was called up. Hopefully Parks will be there in June.
Ali Mohamad Khatoun - Attacking Midfielder CD Leganes
Khatoun is a left-footed 19-year-old attacking midfielder who features for the Leganes B team in the Tercera Division in Spain. Khatoun is a Lebanese-American who was born in Ivory Coast. He was loaned to 4th division side Santa Ana FC in September, but his loan was cut short in December to help the struggling Leganes B. He scored in his first match for them in early December. He is well known for his outstanding technique and skill on the ball. Khatoun is yet another talented but not well known talent in Europe that we should be keeping an eye on. Here’s a highlight video of the young man from several years back:
Ali Khatoun Skills Highlights ( USSDA 2014/2015 Season) - YouTube
The United States will bring the kids to Carolina. American manager Dave Sarachan today named the 22-man roster that he will employ for the USMNT’s friendly against Paraguay on March 27th in Cary, North Carolina. Dominating the roster release is the surprise omission of American phenom Christian Pulisic, who many fans expected to be in camp for the USMNT with it being an official FIFA international window where players must be released. Still, it will be a young squad with an average age of 24 that takes the field against La Albirroja.
A question that is almost as old as time - should young American players sign with MLS or go abroad? It was a topic of conversation often when Jurgen Klinsmann was manager of the USMNT where it was a low simmering controversy throughout his tenure. It also certainly boiled over after the USMNT failed to reach the World Cup as exemplified by Jermaine Jones going in on Jordan Morris:
More nuanced opinions about the topic might point out that this question should be answered by recognizing that players should do whatever is best for their specific situation and that they should find playing time regardless of where they go. Indeed, Europe and Mexico may offer a higher level of talent and better coaching, but without playing time youngsters can hardly be assured that their skills will develop just by the mere fact that they are on the roster of a non-MLS team.
Still, many are willing to take that risk. Recently a wave of youngsters have elected not to follow Morris’ lead. Weston McKinney, Keaton Parks, Shaq Moore, Chris Gloster, and Jonathan Klinsmann have decided to bypass MLS in favor of playing in Europe. At this point he is almost a veteran journeyman, but 22 year-old Rubio Rubin started his pro career in Europe and then signed for Club Tijuana after receiving interest from MLS teams following the USMNT January camp.
If there is one reason why so many promising teenage Americans are electing to go to Europe or see Mexico as an option rather than try and earn playing time in MLS, it is neatly summed up in this tidy chart:
Tabulated how many minutes each MLS team gave to U-21 American and Canadian players in 2017. Totals include pre-birthday minutes played by players who turned 21 during season.
There are a maximum of 3,060 minutes a player can record in an MLS season - only one team exceeded that number with their entire roster in 2017 for U-21 players. While that seems troubling and indicates that managers are reluctant to give minutes to young players, including talent outside of Canada and the US tells something of a different story. Including Anton Walkes for Atlanta United would push them to 1,710 minutes and Jack Harrison at NYCFC would move them to 3,122 minutes. So while the chart is telling, it doesn’t necessarily show that MLS managers are averse to giving young players minutes.
A recent example of how this is influencing players is shown by Josh Sargent who elected to delay signing a professional contract until his 18th birthday - a sacrifice he had to make due to European Union immigration regulations. The striker would have been eligible to sign with Sporting Kansas City as a homegrown in MLS, however with Dom Dwyer on the team it looked like Sargent would be fighting for minutes with SKC. Ultimately Dwyer was traded to Orlando City and Diego Rubio, who has never been all that promising and seems destined to be replaced, has been given the starting job.
Werder Bremen might have been the best choice for Sargent, but he will still have to prove to his coaches that he should start for the team. The choice American youngsters seems to have is - try to stay in MLS and compete for playing time against international and domestic players - or be an international player abroad and try and compete for playing time against international and domestic players. Neither situation is a clear path to competitive minutes but one could have a much greater payoff albeit with a much greater risk involved. Andrew Carleton, for example, has watched as his US U-17 teammate Tim Weah made his debut in Europe. Atlanta United gave minutes to Brandon Vazquez last season, but Carleton has seen just one minute in two games in 2018 for his club so far this year.
Still, not all opportunities are created equally. While it is impressive that Weah is seeing the field for Paris Saint-Germain, it is perhaps more impressive that the New York Red Bulls have shipped off Felipe and Sacha Kljestan in order to give the midfield over to Tyler Adams and Sean Davis. Adams helped New York completely shut down a very talented Club Tijuana team in Concacaf Champions League and seems poised to make an impact for the USMNT - and he did it without having to move abroad. Jordan Morris’ teammate Cristian Roldan similarly seems set to be a fixture for the USMNT and helps anchor a team alongside Uruguayan national team player Nicolas Lodeiro despite not having been groomed in a German academy.
Oddly MLS seems to be ineffective at developing young American players to sell to clubs internationally. Between wanting to keep interest in the league by attracting more developed players and a rule that was only changed this year that stopped teams from getting full transfer fees for Homegrown players, MLS is only now - in it’s 23rd season - seeing the value in developing players to sell abroad. This has been much to the league’s detriment as Will Parchman noted about the habit in this pithy and extremely accurate tweet:
Between Olosunde, Gloster and Miazga, the Red Bulls are putting together one hell of a Phantom Lost Prospects back four. At least... they got paid for one of them?
This exemplifies MLS practices that exist to protect owners but are incongruous to how soccer has developed in other countries where selling young players and treating them as a resource is standard practice. That may be finally changing in what is a bit of a shocking admission from MLS Commissioner Don Garber from a recent interview with Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald:
“Is the principle of selling more of a virtue to you now than it used to be?
That one word probably speaks volumes about why there has been such a lack of minutes given to young American players in MLS.
In the end though, the deeply unsatisfying answer to the question of if players should stay in MLS or go abroad is - there is no one right answer. Players all develop at different rates and will succeed or fail in different conditions that are subjective to their particular situations. Christian Pulisic, the current best American player, managed to go abroad and develop in a German academy while still finding himself fighting for playing time against the likes of Marco Reus.
Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, the best players of the last generation, followed a different path. Donovan thrived in MLS and with the national team while floundering abroad as his counterpart Dempsey went from college to MLS to a successful career in Europe and is now back in MLS. As their career paths illustrated, there is no question that the quality of training and competition is higher in Europe or Mexico, but a player needs to be comfortable in the situation he finds himself in and have his eyes open to the challenges and difficulties that playing abroad presents.
The debate being focused on individual player decisions is probably not as consequential as resolving pay to play, solidarity payments, and giving MLS teams incentives to play their kids when it comes to finding the best conditions for players to reach their full potential. These are deeper and thornier systemic issues that have a greater impact on player development as a whole and focusing on individual choices tends to miss the forest for the trees leading to conclusions based on limited successes or failures. That said, the emergence of players like Roldan and Adams getting big minutes for MLS teams is encouraging, almost as encouraging as the recent wave of players electing to start their careers abroad.
16 teams will participate in Copa América next year. 3 from CONCACAF and 3 from AFC. Mexico and USA are in. Qatar, South Korea, Japan, Australia and China are the most likely candidates from Asia to have a go at being crowned the Champions of the American continent pic.twitter.com/mWVzM6f1lY
The report also claims that the Copa field would consist of the 10 CONMEBOL teams, 3 teams from CONCACAF, and 3 from Asia. Mexico and the USMNT are reported to be definitely in, with a 3rd team from CONCACAF joining them. The teams from Asia that are rumored to be under consideration include Australia, China, Japan, Qatar, and South Korea, of which 3 would be selected. Obviously, Qatar is the odd team among that group, but with the nation soon officially being on the clock to hosting the 2022 World Cup, a chance for strong competition to help prepare their squad is likely appealing to them.
For the United States, it would be a chance for competitive matches ahead of the 2019 Gold Cup, which is expected to take place next July. More opportunities for the young players in the MNT pool to play against top competition and improve will be welcome for a federation trying to keep fans interested with the team not qualifying for this summer’s World Cup. It’s unknown whether a decision has already been made or whether it will be finalized once U.S. Soccer hires a permanent MNT coach.
For now, mark your calendars. With the 2019 Women’s World Cup scheduled to take place at the same time as Copa America, American fans could have a lot of soccer to watch next summer.
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