So Much for it Being An American League... But Does It Matter?

Discussion in 'MLS: News & Analysis' started by VioletCrown, Sep 17, 2007.

  1. VioletCrown

    VioletCrown Member

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    In another fabulous scaryice post, he updates the SI/YI list for all teams: http://usasoccer.blogspot.com/2007/09/siyi-lists.html

    A while ago, I was getting the feeling that MLS was becoming a league of foreigners. With all the talk on expansion threads of 'MLS is becoming like the NASL, expanding too fast', I find it interesting that no-one has expressed any concern about how few Yanks play in MLS. (And, as a side note, how many, even myself, have recommended upping the number of foreign players allowed on a team to keep the level of play up during the upcoming expansion).

    I had started to write a post about this a while ago, but then something kept me from doing it. I don't remember specifics, but someone posted something about how many Yanks were on some team other than Dallas, and I realized that my perspective was probably skewed because Dallas is the one team I follow closely.

    But now, with scaryice's post, there's ammo.

    Here's the maximum foreign players each team can currently field:

    Chicago: 7
    Chivas: 9
    Colorado: 9
    Columbus: 11
    Dallas: 10
    DC United: 9
    Houston: 5
    Kansas City: 3
    Los Angeles: 6
    New England: 7
    New York: 9
    Salt Lake: 8
    (Toronto: 10 Not really relevant to this discussion, and not sure how green cards relate)

    Excluding Toronto, that comes out to 7.75 foreigner players per team. Meaning that at the worst, we only have an average of 3.25 yank starters per team.

    So much for MLS being a league to support the growth of the American player.

    Yeah, there's all those other players, substitutes and the reserve squad. And, yes, not all foreign players will see the field simultaneously.

    But still, with green cards, it's getting harder and harder for an American players to make an MLS team. This actually makes me even happier that USL-1 is around, as that gives American players a few more places to play.

    Which brings me to the 'But Does It Matter?' part of my post.

    American players have plenty of opportunities to play and grow. According to the Yanks Abroad thread, there are over 100 Yanks playing overseas somewhere at some level. That's approaching the number of Yanks in MLS.

    Long gone are the days where Yanks had to scrounge for good playing opportunities, so I don't think the number of foreign players in MLS is a problem, necessarily.

    But, like the other concerns that have been expressed about MLS overexpansion and the risk of becoming the NASL, I think this also needs to be looked at critically. MLS is a long way from the NASL where it was hard to find an American in the league at all.

    But as an FCD follower, I'm a little sad to see the dearth of home-grown boys on the team.

    And as a fan of the US National Team, I'm inclined to take back the 'increase the SI/YI' solution to a possible drop in the level of play with the addition of a few more teams.


  2. Autogolazo

    Autogolazo BigSoccer Supporter

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    How many young South American and African talents did the NASL bring in?

    It's guys like Toja, Ricardinho, Oduro--perhaps even Doe and Eloy Colombano in the near future--who will prove in increasing numbers to be the sort of attacking talents that will improve the league. Young, hungry players who see the MLS as a chance to further their careers.

    Young U.S. players will have to learn to compete with these players. They'll still have the youth national teams to show their wares (Szetela, etc.), but if they don't put in the hard work, they won't play in MLS.

    The FCD analogy: Abe Thompson is forced to become a better player because he has to compete not just with an established player like Ruiz, but with Oduro and Ricardinho, as well.

    That huge falloff between starters and bench players that was characteristic of the league for 10 years is now cushioned somewhat by the YI players.

    I'm still not convinced that many owners will splash out for Blanco-Beckham types, and Denilson's scant return (how many nutmegs-for-obstruction-fouls are worth $750K/2 months?) will make them more wary, so the influx of these younger foreign-born players (from Soumare to Holden to Ngwenya), whether they have a green card or not, will keep being a major factor in league-wide improvement.

    Daily competition will make the American players better.
  3. touch line

    touch line New Member

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    I am not prejudiced. I just like good soccer so to me, I don't care.

    If Americans can cut it, I am really not interested in seeing them play. Simple as that. If you guys are honest with yourselves, you probably wouldnt either.

    In the end though, the better MLS is, the better Americans will become. That interests me much more than just seeing Americans in the line up just for the sake of it.
  4. PhantomTollbooth

    PhantomTollbooth New Member

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    Keep in mind though, that just because they are on the team, that doesn't mean that all of the foreigners are starting. For example, if you look at Chicago, Bruno Menezes and Osei Telesford have not started many games (I'm not even sure if Telesford has played in any games.) So for most games you're looking at five foreign players and six Americans (if everyone is healthy.)


  5. DrLudicrous

    DrLudicrous Member+

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    I agree. The better the league the better American soccer will become. If the games are entertaining kids will want to play and have something to look forward to. If it's the quality on the field is better more fans will support teams and they'll make more money, some of that money will be invested in the youth academies, leading to better American players. The American players that can cut it now will benefit by playing with and against better players.
  6. Emile

    Emile Member

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    A lot of highly-regarded young Americans have, this year in particular, chosen to go to play in second-division and reserve leagues in Europe. That's their prerogative of course, but there are plenty of young, hungry players from other countries who will happily take the spot, and the good that comes with it (enhanced media profile compared to the skill level, especially with Beckham - high level of play). If Colombians appreciate the opportunity more than Americans, then I'll happily watch Colombians.

    The problem right now for less-talented American players is that it is becoming harder for them to make the league. Excellent college players are being left behind because MLS is improving faster than the college game, and superior athleticism is becoming more and more important. The USL can still groom the late bloomers and hidden gems, and expansion should help as well to make sure that enough players at least get an opportunity to show what they can do.
  7. Sachin

    Sachin New Member

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    That's a total of 93 players. I don't know how to count American slots? Do we count develomental players in this analysis.

    By comparison, there is a thread in the Yank Abroad forum that breaks down EPL players by nationality.

    There are 152 players from England in the Prem. There are 135 non-English players, at least from the top 10 foreign countries, which means there are probably more. There are 11 Americans. BTW, this includes Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh players.
  8. Steve Holroyd

    Steve Holroyd New Member

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    I was going to post something like this a few months ago, after an FCD/RSL match which involved primarily foreign lineups.

    While I would prefer to see more Americans playing, I have no problems with the current MLS practice. The problem with the NASL was that American kids, no matter how good, were always ignored in favor of "experienced" veterans--often, English Third Division (the equivalent of League One today) journeymen. There were situations when an American would get a spot start, score a hat trick, and then benched the next game in favor of "experience." Another memorable example involved Hall of Famer Arnie Mausser, who won the 1976 North American Player of the Year award tending goal for Tampa Bay. Naturally, the next year he was shipped off by the Rowdies and replaced by (a not yet naturalized) Paul Hammond, an "experienced" (read: English) goalkeeper.

    With MLS, it appears that if a Yank performs, he will play. That's good enough for me.
  9. touch line

    touch line New Member

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    For me it is pretty obvious, the less restrictions you put on a club the better the product will be.

    A club needs to find players that will reasonate with their fan base AND win.

    Let clubs do what they have to do to satisfy both of these concerns without making rules that shackle them. As we see this season with the influx of foreigners, the soccer we watch will benefit.
  10. equus

    equus Member

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    It's a tug of war. You want to attract fans (especially Eurosnobs) to the games and to the broadcasts, and more often than not they won't tune in to see a young American player who has yet to make his mark, but they will to see a Denilson, Angel, Beckham, etc.

    It interesting to think that Clint Dempsey might return to MLS one day in the future and fans might flock to see "Premier League and Fulham star Clint Dempsey" when they could have seen him as "New England Revolution's Clint Dempsey."
  11. kpaulson

    kpaulson New Member

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    That is interesting information. There are other ways to look at this though. Teams are actually fielding mostly Americans-- and they're not fielding anywhere near the maximum number of foreigners that they could. Below are the number of non-US players teams fielded in last week's games, compared to scaryice's interesting numbers:

    Chivas USA- 5 (cf 9)
    Colorado- 4 (cf 9)
    Houston 3 (cf 5)
    Gals - 1 (cf 6)
    RSL - 3 (cf 8)
    Dallas 4 (cf 10)
    NE 4 (cf 7)
    Cbus- 4 (cf 11)
    KC 2.5 (Mosink is dual CR-US) (cf 3)
    NY 6 (cf 9)
    Chi 4 (cf 7)
    DC 3 (cf 9)

    Furthermore, I think the number of Americans playing needs to be looked at globally. I'm willing to bet that as many Americans are now playing in MLS year as any year in the past (expansion, even to Canada, creates more opportunities). And while spaces for international players have increased, the number of roster spots overall increased more. And, then you add to that the number of Americans playing first division soccer in Europe, and frankly, I think opportunities for American players have never been better.
  12. THOMA GOL

    THOMA GOL GB chibi

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    Interesting how this topic has been a decade or so long discussion in such leagues as England and Germany. If I were to have an issue, it would be if the top stat leaders were all foreign players. Seeing at least a few American names, especially in the top goal scorers stats, is a positive thing.
  13. Etienne_72772

    Etienne_72772 Member+

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    I find it interesting that the same day that this thread comes out, another thread called "Resurgence of Creative Midfielders" is started.

    Better players lift the league like boats in a rising tide. Better and more competition for American players and the quality trickles down. I still think foreign limitations need to be there, to ensure that Americans play the sport at the highest level. However, we need to have the creative and wily foreign players to help raise the quality of the American player. The balance feels right, now.
  14. touch line

    touch line New Member

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    Here is the tough question though.

    I don't know who you support but I am Red Bull backer. If someone asked ANY of our fans if we would rather have our backline as it stands now OR ditch any of our American back line for an upgrade from overseas.

    I don't think there would be many fans lobbying for the American angle. It's easy to make the blanket statement that we want to see Americans; its harder to make that choice when upgrades are available that would make your club better that come from another land.
  15. jade1mls

    jade1mls New Member

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    Is Eddie Johnson not American? Ante Razov?
  16. KennyWoo

    KennyWoo Member

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    And don't forget goal scorer extraordinaire, Eddie Pope, who scored a game winner against the Galaxy just two Saturdays ago... [bangs head against desk]
  17. Roehl Sybing

    Roehl Sybing Member

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    I agree with this. We've had years of idiots saying that dumping all of the top American players on Europe will allow other Americans to develop and improve in their own right. That hasn't happened in nearly enough numbers as Europhiles want MLS fans to believe.

    Keeping the best American players ought to be a priority, and a lot of that starts with MLS getting the best players anywhere it can find them.
  18. okcomputer

    okcomputer Member

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    I agree with this. I don't think most people care what country players are from, they just want to see the best players possible. The American sports scene is far different today then it was in 1978. Every other sport is loaded with foreign players and nobody cares.
  19. FC Uptown

    FC Uptown New Member

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    SAF's opinion:
    "What you have got in the States is that a lot of kids are playing football in the States and there is nowhere to go," he said. "The best American players go to Europe very early, like Brad Friedel (at Blackburn), (Brian) McBride and (Clint) Dempsey at Fulham. That situation doesn't help the American game."

    http://canadianpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5h6NRyI5afGAZzK6gOAtYX5aY9y3g
  20. mbar

    mbar Member+

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    It is very important to me personally for the league to remain primarily American.

    The current levels of forigners are acceptable to me but I wouldn't want it to become any less American then it is now.

    Half the excitement for me is watching American's develop.

    I think MLS needs to tinker with it's cap and compensation models to allow for it to be a more attractive option to the 2nd and 3rd tier players we are currently losing overseas.
  21. touch line

    touch line New Member

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    That is another tricky question, many times it's not a matter of dumping top Americans on Europe but a matter of top americans wanting to go over seas.

    How to make them want to stay is another story all together. Quality, who else is playing here (star power), competitive games, crowds and support, media coverage and salary all factor into to an American players desire to play here. As those improve so will the Americans player desire to stay here. Hopefully more will do so.

    Even still though, Europe has the best leagues. Some Americans will still see the EU as soccers shangri-la, we can just hope to lessen that a little as MLS improves.

    Atleast thats how I see it..
  22. jade1mls

    jade1mls New Member

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    MLS needs to do two or three things simultaneously:

    1) Raise the level of competition (DPs, SuperLiga, getting MLS into Copa Sudamericana and Copa Libertadores) - this allow American players to get some of what they seek to get in Europe ie: playing at a higher level with higher level/more experienced teammates against high level, storied opposition in prestigious international competitions hostile atmospheres in soccer dominant countries. (See Mexico's league for where MLS should go in the next 10 years)

    2) Raise the salary cap and YI/SI slots- Allowing American players to stay if they want as well as paying and allowing for more quality foreign players like Fred, Emilio, Schelotto, and Toja for young Americans to learn from and be tested for playing time. The American player is good enough now that the training wheels can come off the bike. More foreign players of good quality will help clubs like DC United and Houston do well in international competitions and that will raise the status and stature of the league and help keep young americans wanting to play here as well as attract more quality foreigners.

    3) Support the development of real youth academies to leave no talent from any community unturned and help build as Don Garber likes to say, "A New Soccer Nation."

    MLS should be about providing a competitive league which is tested among world leagues, with some star players and some high level competition domestically and internationally.

    Development of the American player will happen as a result of the above but should not at this point be the sole purpose of MLS.
  23. DoctorD

    DoctorD Member+

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    I want to see MLS develop American talent. And it's fun to see countries develop their own individual styles - something that's going away in Europe.

    But there is a more philosophical argument.

    Every April Fool's day I want to start a thread about how the UN will ban international transfers of soccer talent from Africa and S. America as "slave trade".

    But there's a lot of truth in that assessment. Learning top level soccer takes a lot of hours of practice. These can be hours playing street soccer or on a youth team or on an academy: it's still hours out of the day. Are those youth hours better spent learning a trade or staying in school or getting a job?

    Youth in Africa and S. America feel sports is the only option to unemployment and violence. Why encourage that view?
  24. jade1mls

    jade1mls New Member

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    The same could be said of youth in parts of DC. Does that mean we all should stop supporting sports in general? I know people who are like that.

    As long as MLS is a player or wants to be a player among world leagues it must play the game the way it is being played regarding transfers, etc. It is not in a position to dictate anything or turn its back on the world in a global market place. The result would be ALL the decent american talent being cherrypicked by europe and no one replacing them from abroad (s. america, africa, asia, etc)
  25. superdave

    superdave Member+

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    Fine, but do you realize that other teams, too, wouldn't have nationality restrictions? It wouldn't be just RBNY. Your team wouldn't get any competitive advantage.

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