Does Orlando Have a Future Matt Besler?

Kansas City's hometown hero has opened new doors for American players
by Chris Kimball   |   Thursday, July 24, 2014

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

After several weeks of speculation, Sporting Kansas City announced on Saturday that Matt Besler has signed a lucrative Designated Player contract keeping him with the club for years to come. The Kansas City native reportedly fielded offers from European clubs including Fulham and Sunderland, but instead the international defender opted to stay close to home.

Besler's decision is not important just because it fortifies Kansas City's defense. In many ways it's a watershed moment for the sport that will reverberate across the country and may, in the not too distant future, affect the trajectory of Orlando City's own young players.

America's best soccer players have always proudly set off for Europe or south of the border to make their names in the sport, perhaps returning to the homeland only when their careers were quietly winding down. Take yesterday’s DaMarcus Beasley signing by the Houston Dynamo for example.

Last year, however, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley bucked the trend when they chose to return to MLS while still in their prime, an important step forward for the league. But Besler has gone further by foregoing Europe altogether despite serious offers from abroad.

It's increasingly clear that invitations coming from any but the most competitive European clubs are considered, at best, lateral moves. Staying in the USA often makes more business sense for American players. Not only will Besler be paid well in Kansas City, he'll also solidify his brand in a burgeoning, and potentially giant, American soccer marketplace.

Orlando City fans will hope that Besler has paved the way for their young players to do the same, in particular their own local prodigy, Oviedo's Tommy Redding. The Lions' young central defender figures to be a key part of the club's defense for years to come. He's already signed to an MLS contract as the club's first Homegrown Player (a special status which provides unique financial and contractual privileges).

At just 17 years old, Redding has already captained the US U-18 National Team and proved his mettle as a professional in USL PRO. He projects to be a solid player in MLS who, at his current rate of growth, could conceivably be in the discussion for the US National Team come Russia 2018.

Redding has previously turned away suitors from European clubs. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were reportedly interested in the young defender last year before he eventually signed with Orlando. But even then Redding made clear his dream of one day taking his talents overseas.

"It'd be nice to start at home," he explained at the time. "I'll have my family with me if anything goes wrong, make my mistakes here, learn, and then I can move on."

Until Saturday, "moving on" was the automatic choice for any young player. But Besler's announcement has shifted the paradigm. Now, young American players will have a model of how to forge a highly successful career in their home country and, yes, even in their hometown.

NEXT UP: July 27 - Orlando City SC vs. Rochester Rhinos, Sahlen's Stadium, Rochester, New York, 4:05 p.m. EST. YouTube live stream.


William & Mary
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Christopher is editor of Orlando Soccer Daily, covering the beautiful game for central Florida. A retired music exec turned soccer fanatic, he landed in Florida via Paris & Boston. When not working he's usually chasing after his 2 sons or suffering after