Monday, March 9, 2015

World Cup Roster Forges Promising Path in MLS

The cleat is on the other foot.  The 2014 U.S. World Cup roster is helping grow MLS in a significant way.  A majority of the roster is now playing in MLS.

MLS teams have signed 13 of the 23 man World Cup roster for the start of this season.

This is the right combination now for soccer in the U.S. and MLS.  The World Cup team is the most popular American team.  To have these players play in MLS will definitely have a positive impact on the league.

In recent years, most American sports fans only knew of Landon Donovan from the U.S. Men's National Team and World Cup fame.  There really wasn't any connection to other National Team players.

After attracting compelling designated players to the league, the second most important element for MLS to be successful is to sign the best American players.

The impact was immediate this past weekend, as Jozy Altidore and Mix Diskerud, the newest transplants from that roster, both scored for their respective teams.  Altidore scored twice (one penalty) as his visiting team Toronto FC won 3-1 over Vancouver with the help of another roster member, Michael Bradley. Diskerud scored NYCFC's only goal versus Orlando City in a 1-1 tie.

Clint Dempsey had one assist and scored twice (one penalty) for the Seattle Sounders in their win, 3-0, over the New England Revolution without their roster member, Jermaine Jones, who is out for a time from hernia surgery.

Soccer fans are looking forward to Dempsey and Bradley providing Seattle and Toronto with better performances than the average ones they gave last season in their first seasons in MLS as they prepped for WC. With an MLS season under their belts and the pressures from WC behind them, expect both of them to excel this season.

Roster member, Nick Rimando, had a clean sheet in goal, as Real Salt Lake, with Rimando's fellow roster member, Kyle Beckerman, went on the road versus the Portland Timbers and tied 0-0.

The Houston Dynamo, behind the efforts of roster members, Brad Davis and DaMarcus Beasley, won at home, 1-0, over the Columbus Crew.

Sporting KC, behind roster members, Graham Zusi and Matt Besler, tied the New York Red Bulls at home.

Roster member, Omar Gonzales, was an integral part in the LA Galaxy's home win, 2-0, over the Chicago Fire. Another roster member, Chris Wondolowski, got one shot off on goal as his team, the San Jose Earthquakes, fell on the road to FC Dallas,1-0.

A big discussion in soccer circles in the U.S. for years has been about whether U.S. players must go to foreign leagues in order to reach their potential.  Jurgen Klinsmann, the USMNT head coach, thinks so.

The ability for a player to fulfill his potential really depends on the circumstances with that foreign league/team and how much playing time they receive.

Some foreign leagues and/or foreign teams are overrated, while others are underrated.  One player may play a lot for an underrated team in an underrated league and another may play just a little on an overrated team in an overrated league.  Of the hundreds of possibilities, it's hard to determine the best route in a player's development when they are not a break-out star type of player, like a Messi or Ronaldo.

The choice by these players to play in MLS could cut their careers for the USMNT short according to the logic of Jurgen Klinsmann.  Of course, MLS disagrees with this and is thrilled to have them.

All these players have a multitude of choices on where to play, but they are choosing to do the LeBron (come home) and play in their home league.  It is a courageous decision of sorts (giving up the allure of the foreign leagues and the chance they won't make another USMNT roster), but not necessarily a hard one to make.

The adulation at home and the convenience of being here was waiting for them.  Now, the challenge to raise the profile of MLS is their burden.  They can do it as a collective force of 13 along with all the other talent in MLS.

It's a win-win for them and MLS.

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