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The bigger U.S. national team picture: What Geoff Cameron’s possible MLS exit might signify

Jul 15, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT

us soccer

Who knows if Geoff Cameron’s move to Stoke City will happen, or if it will tumble into the waste basket of failed moves abroad?  That’s all about larger MLS financial philosophy, asset protection, player valuation and slide rules that help determine all that critical sell-point information.

Either way, we inch ever closer to the day that U.S. national team matches come and go without MLS having anything to say about them. Cameron’s graduation from the Houston Dynamo into European soccer would move us further down the line.

Over the last couple of years, plenty of U.S. games have featured only two or three MLS men, but they have almost always been part of the proceedings. Now it’s fair to ask how much longer that might be the case?

As it is, Landon Donovan is the lone, remaining MLS man who can be considered a starter.

As more backups or sometimes-starters like Cameron, and peripheral U.S. figures in the player pool (think Robbie Rodgers) move abroad, the days of U.S. international contests regularly playing out without Major League Soccer representation are nearly upon us.

Not all of them will, of course, because there will always be a Brek Shea in the pipeline, a young man ready to contribute, but whose interest from abroad has yet to reach critical mass.

Check out the lineup from the last U.S. match, the recent World Cup qualifier against Guatemala:

Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Clarence Goodson (Geoff Cameron), Carlos Bocanegra, Fabian Johnson; Maurice Edu, Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones; Landon Donovan (Kyle Beckerman), Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez

The only MLS men among that group of 13, of course, are Cameron, Donovan and Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

None of this is a bad development. MLS is what it is in 2012 – a lower rung on the global game’s ladder, where players will be developed and sold for financial gain, as well as for the player’s overall betterment.

Irony is, as Major League Soccer has improved, it’s become more of a “seller’s league,” not less of one.

  1. tylerbetts - Jul 15, 2012 at 12:03 PM

    On top of this trend, it leads to another path – we’re not all that far from it being a regular occurrence during CONCACAF matches to have the opposition have more of their squad from MLS than the US. We’re not far off from a US squad featuring a single MLS player playing against a Jamaica squad featuring a half dozen, a Guatemala squad featuring a handful, and the list goes on with Costa Rica, and so forth.

    I guess the larger question is – does it matter?

    It’s good for the USMNT that their starters are being scouted and desired by the top European leagues. It’s one thing if US talent is leaving to play in the Danish Superliga. It’s another when it’s Spain, England, Germany, and Italy. It’s also good for MLS. The league is still in relative infancy. The money they generate from friendlies and transfers means they can reinvest that in academies, training facilities, scouting, and so much more that will grow the league and the capabilities of domestic players. It’s good for the players. They will all make more money in Europe than they’re going to in MLS. That would even be true for Donovan, the lone DP among them. It’s good for the next wave of US players, who can be the next Brek Shea because they get more opportunities to play earlier in MLS.

    So who is it bad for?

  2. sluggo271 - Jul 15, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Show me the MONEY!!!!!!

    • Steve Davis - Jul 15, 2012 at 12:46 PM

      I guess you mean they are chasing the $ … and they are. But it’s also more than that. Playing in Europe represents a higher level. It means testing yourself against the best, and making the choices that (generally speaking) will make you a better player.

      • joeyt360 - Jul 15, 2012 at 3:21 PM

        Yeah, the ‘big stage’ means big crowds, more intense competition, higher competitive level, more fame, as well as bigger paychecks.

        I will say, though, that my gut tells me that if we hit “the day that U.S. national team matches come and go without MLS having anything to say about them”, that itself might be an era that doesn’t last that long, because I also think MLS is inching closer to the day when the regular salary structure (not just a handful of DPs) is going to go up significantly. First-tier, lock-starter type players will probably continue to go to Europe, but I think a lot of second-tier, squad or rotation players will flow back to MLS before too long.

  3. tackledummy1505 - Jul 16, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    I believe a lot of these overseas Americans are overrated. I’ve seen plenty of good players in the MLS who should easily make the pitch but since the MLS is still looked down upon they don’t get the call. So is it motivation for American players to leave our league so they have a chance on the U.S. team? At least that’s how I would view it. Some of these foreign leagues are overrated as well and with the MLS getting better every year, I see our league being right there with the rest of the world by 2014.

  4. tackledummy1505 - Jul 16, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Also remember, U.S.A. Is one of a couple countries who can insure our contracts. Other countries like Spain, Germany, Russia and almost every country below Mexico don’t have a guarantee on contracts. That’s why I think it’s funny when players leave for big contracts and end up getting nothing at the end of the day cause the owners don’t sign the paycheck. Also America is huge in the advertisement money. A whole lot more than almost every country out there.

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