September 2, 2012
Foreign-based players are vital for the success of national teams, just ask U.S. and Jamaica
An interesting fact about the U.S. and Jamaica rosters for their upcoming World Cup qualifying series:
The Reggae Boyz have more players (nine) based in Major League Soccer than the Americans have (five). And out of those five, two players are third- and fourth-string goalkeepers.
But it just goes to show the difference between those two rivals. At the present time, MLS is a great pipeline for many Jamaicans, especially younger players, to get playing experience. The best performer might be able to go to Europe to further develop their skills (their latest departure is Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Dane Richards, who will join Burnley in the English Championship in January).
For years, MLS was home to many of the American National Team players before they improved and received an opportunity ply their trade across the pond.
U.S. national coach Juergen Klinsmann wants every one of his pool players to play at the highest level possible.
With all apologies to Horace Greeley, his unofficial mantra could be something like this:
“Go east young man, go east.”
As in east to Europe (although some players are based in Mexico, another proving ground).
More and more players are heeding his words.
That doesn’t mean MLS is bad or going downhill. The league has improved by leaps and bounds since its inception in 1996. But like it or not, MLS is still a springboard league for many American players who wish to challenge and get the best out of themselves (and earn more money) by playing in Europe.
Until proven otherwise, the greatest challenges for American players, by in large, lie in the leagues in England, Germany, Scotland and Scandinavia (although U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra was loaned to Racing Santander in Italy and Michael Bradley is calling AS Roma in Italy his home team these days).
Someday Klinsmann or one of his successors will choose a roster for an international friendly, CONCACAF Gold Cup match or World Cup qualifier that will be entirely from outside the United States.
That will not be a black mark on MLS, but a major statement on how much American soccer has progressed.