Monday, January 14, 2013

Why don't more players make the jump to America?

         For years the question of bringing major European stars to play in the Major League Soccer in America has been a hot subject. This questions brings up interesting debates, because for such a hot topic, it hasn't really materialized. What I mean by that, is that very few international stars have come abroad to play in America, and none in their primes. David Beckham has been the biggest name to make the switch, and although you could argue whether or not it was a success or not, others have not followed in his footsteps. However, the question that many fans are asking, is why it hasn't happened, and whether or not is a good thing in the first place. Major League Soccer has faced criticism from from FIFA and international fans for not abiding by the FIFA calendar, which is the standard fall to spring format; Instead Major League Soccer has always gone by the Spring to Fall format, which causes many of its top players to leave during the season to participate in the World Cup, and other FIFA sanctioned international competitions held in June and July. This has been one of the concerns for players coming over from international ball clubs, who are simply not used to this particular format, and has made the adjustment for them that much more difficult. Another issue that Major League Soccer has faced in trying to bring international stars over is the question of money. Granted, La Galaxy paid a tremendous amount of money in bringing Beckham over here, but Beckham was a rare exception. Beckham was brought over here to sell shirts, and perhaps pave the wave for other "top" stars to do the same. David Beckham was a celebrity because he was a brand, not necessarily because he was a great footballer. Sure, he was a great footballer at one point, but by the time he came to America in 2007, he was no longer seen as a top level footballer. There have been other great international stars who have come over to the States, starting with Pele in the mid 70s, to Hristo Stoichkov and Carlos Valderrama during the inaugural seasons of the MLS, and recently with players such as Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg coming over. The idea behind bringing Beckham to America, was perhaps other stars would be willing to follow in his footsteps, and it just hasn't happened. But the most important question that some are asking is if it even a good idea at all. David Beckham's stay at La Galaxy has brought some level of success, perhaps not the kind Galaxy had hoped, but it did bring some more attention to the MLS. The hope that more "international stars" would arrive and bring some kind of spectacle has not happened, but my question is why would the MLS really need all that anyways. It's an unnecessary waste of limited resources, and not really the right message MLS should be sending. The time to go after "big name" stars past their primes has come and gone. No longer are fans enchanted by the idea of watching some past his prime star make a spectacle, because fans are now smarter than that. They cannot be tricked by gimmicks anymore. What the MLS really needs to be doing is bringing up young talent, domestically, and in South America, and Central America to try to compete with the stars internationally. By wasting away money and time on one or two year gimmicks is just another reason for fans to look down on MLS. Instead, the MLS should get create and reach from within.

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