So I had this thought Friday afternoon and I sent it out in the form of a tweet.
What if the MLS changed the format for their All-Star game. The whole point of the league was to grow the game domestically, that the United States could develop the players to compete for World Cups and Olympic Medals. The question that we need to ask is how does it really benefit the American players at this point?
A few hours previous to my tweet Grantlands’ Noah Davis published an article “Is MLS Making the Rest of CONCACAF Better at the Expense of the U.S. National Team?” It delievered some very interesting points but further more it it helps us realize that MLS, while certainly helping the local American player, its not nesscarily starting to go in the opposite direction.
The percentage of MLS minutes played by Americans drops nearly every year — down to a little over 50 percent of the available time in 2012 — but the number of Americans making 10 appearances in an MLS season could hit an all-time high….
MLS will help increase the depth of the U.S. player pool — giving an increasing number of young Americans a chance to develop — but perhaps not the top-line talent. A recent survey reported that 56 of the 100 American players call MLS home, but only three of them were in the top 20.
There are two different thoughts…well more there is more there, but only the two that I want to focus on.
Most people are mostly familiar with the asinine issues that are associated with the home grown player program. It’s a serious issue. The are many different articles out there on it and doing a real quick Google or Bing search reveals as much as you could really want to know on the horrific subject.
The real issue that we need to talk about is that Americans are getting less and less of an opportunity to play. That could be due to a few different factors and certainly tied into the issues with the Home Grown Player mess. But at the same time it’s a little tongue in cheek to say that it’s an issue when more and more players are getting looks at the National Team level.
I think the second paragraph helps explain everything a little bit better. The league itself is a little overly mediocre and maybe even a little bottom heavy. But that’s not to say there aren’t a few possible stars in the mix. Luis Gil, who the Sounders will be facing this coming week, could very well have a bright future. Brek Shea, if he can finally pull his head out, could be a vital cog for the future.
My point is the League needs to market it’s US talent better than what it is right now. Kind of a “Duh” type statement, I know. The divorce between Geoff Cameron and MLS wasn’t exactly pretty and I think we can all agree that Landon Donovan has been all but chained to LA despite his clear desire to head to England.
There are reasons why players like to stay here and there are reasons why they’ll want to leave. It’s not exactly the point or purpose of this post but let’s just go head long into it anyways. Guys like Chris Wondolowski shouldn’t be forced into making a “case” for pay raise. The guy is obvious having if not the best, one of the best, seasons of any MLS player ever. If San Jose didn’t want to or doesn’t have the money to pay him, an obvious solution would be to allow him to go on to a better league to get that money. But guess what there aren’t too many leagues that are really going to be that familiar with Wondo because the league hasn’t done much in the way of really marketing their players.
The suggestion of Wondo moving to another league could leave a bitter taste in a few peoples mouth but it was merely an example of where we are currently in the state of MLS and the American game.
One way of starting to repair that is to have an U.S. vs. World all-star game. I know it sounds a little cheesey, and maybe it is, but it start going towards highlighting the talent that we have here in the country, and not only that, but also towards the special international talent that teams have obviously worked hard to bring in. You aren’t eliminating the David Beckhams or Tierry Henry’s from playing in the game (God knows there really isn’t much more or rather few reason to have them in the game except for headlines)
This past year it did kind of help put Eddie Johnson back on the map but that’s more coincidence than anything. Wondolowski got a bit of head nod with the help of Henry and that was cool. But what about Luis Gil, what about Juan Agudelo, and Bill Hamid or Sean Johnson. What about Chad Marshall, Brad Davis or even A. J. DeLaGarza. They maybe not “stars” but they are very good MLS players that deserve to be highlighted within the league and should have the opportunity to play abroad if they so choose.
It shouldn’t just be the “stars” of this league that European teams are trying to poach. There are a ton of various swiss-army-type and piano movers (Hiya, Brad Evans) that could move on to a variety of other leagues and become skilled players and could even help grow their skills further.
Maybe, I’m just babbling. I just think that MLS needs to start doing something to highlight the U.S. accomplishments. I love the chances that guys from Panama, Columbia, Cuba and most recently Honduras are receiving by playing in this league and it’s certainly making the competition better. But, need not just to market MLS to the rest of the world, we need to market our domestic product too.