Posted by: mdegeorge | July 16, 2010

Time for American fans to take notice of MLS

When it comes to soccer in America, the World Cup is a double-edged sword. Sure, it gets people involved in the game and interested in following the favorite star players beyond their emergence onto the game’s largest stage every four years.

But it also sets them up for disappointment when, after getting revved up for soccer at its finest, they find themselves less than pleased with MLS’ domestic offerings.

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=thierry+henry&iid=9361229″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9361229/sports-news-july-2010/sports-news-july-2010.jpg?size=500&imageId=9361229″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]

Even I fall victim to it. I’m an ardent fan whose third stop on the internet every day—after Gmail and ESPN—is Soccernet. And I’ll track down Champions League telecasts online from networks in the United Arab Emirates in unintelligible languages. But somehow, Thursday night telecasts of MLS Game of the Week rarely capture my attention. Even in the press box at PPL Park for the Philadelphia Union’s opener, I found my eyes drawn to the screens showing Mexico-Argentina just as much as to the events on the field.

Now, though, it’s time for the American public to show the kind of interest in MLS, the driving force behind the national team that has garnered so much affection, that the league is showing in creating a quality product.The prevailing verdict on the David Beckham transfer is that it has been largely a bust due to freak injuries and Beckham’s persisting European ambitions which weren’t being satisfied in Los Angeles.

But it appears as though posterity will paint that move as one of the first of many to bring players to the States. The MLS, under the capable and ambitious hand of Commissioner Don Garber, has made itself more appealing to teams in the European football ranks it hopes to someday join in terms of international profile and to the players it hopes to lure to its banks. Expanding the “designated player rule” to two instead of one has eased the process of acquiring top international talent. And the league has entered the consciousness of the European glitterati by inviting teams like Celtic, Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan, Barcelona, and Inter Milan to play exhibition in the States.

While Beckham hasn’t had the type of success you would expect from a player of his stature, guys like Freddie Ljunberg and Juan Pablo Angel, both guys who had their European career stagnate on the downside of the 30th birthdays, have experience renaissances in the States.

This week’s revelation that Thierry Henry would be the next to cross the Atlantic and sign with New York Red Bulls has been the latest boost to the league. Speculation has also linked Ronaldinho with an “imminent” move to the LA Galaxy, while stars of yesteryear like Raul and Ronaldo have also been reportedly courted by the league in the past.

It opens the door for conjecture on who could be next on the league’s wish list. Is it a player like Ruud van Nistelrooy, a recognizable name and entertaining player who will be just short of his 35th birthday when his contract with German side Hamburg expires next June? Or Michael Owen, a soon-to-be 31-year-old with 55-year-old legs whose hefty wage bill and potential hindrance of the development of young strikers like Frederico Macheda and Danny Welbeck could drive MLS-admirer Sir Alex Ferguson to allow him to leave Manchester United?

The ability to lure new talent over is crucial in the development of the national team. As American players develop the skills to play overseas—as competition of the national team in major tournaments dictates—there will be voids left in the MLS. More high profile stars shifts the nation’s attention to not only the headliners, but to the young rising stars of tomorrow.

It’s time for American soccer fans to realize that their duties don’t arise only once every four years. It’s time for them to take notice of MLS.

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Responses

  1. meh! United forever! do check up on my blogs at http://www.afuzzyrants.wordpress.com call this “shameless self-publicity”


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