Americans Return From Europe to MLS. But is the League Better?

On the eve of MLS’s 20th season, more and more high profile players join the league for glory
by Katherine Rupp   |   Thursday, February 19, 2015

Major League Soccer (MLS) 2012 Season Preview

The exodus has begun and some people may be wary of the decisions that were made to come to this point while other soccer fans are beaming with pride and satisfaction at the moves. The exodus that is at hand is that of American soccer players in Europe making their way to play in MLS.

While a few of the biggest US men’s national team players – namely Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey – arrived on North American shores in advance of the 2014 MLS season. With the arrival of Bradley, constantly one of the most well regarded USMNT players with consistency and leadership, and Dempsey, one of the most well-known soccer players for Americans, to the MLS fold, so has the increasing skepticism of the desire for many players to be at the highest-level.

However, with the rise of the American league – and especially the fact that lower levels like the NASL and USL are growing as intelligently as they can – that thinking is going more to the wayside. MLS is certainly becoming, year after year and game by game, more mature and more appealing to soccer players – American or not. Even with the influx of American players from abroad, there are still a handful of Yanks holding down the fort including Geoff Cameron at Stoke, Brad Guzan at Aston Villa, Tim Howard at Everton, and Alejandro Bedoya at Nantes.

Not only are the big guns like Dempsey and Bradley coming to some of the bigger clubs – Seattle Sounders FC and Toronto FC, respectively – are some other quite notable Americans such as Mix Diskerud to NYCFC, Sacha Kljestan at New York Red Bulls, and Brek Shea to Orlando City SC.

However, with many Americans coming back – or moreso building up their resume with MLS clubs – there’s a different wave of players that’s also interesting for the world football culture: global stars. David Beckham coming to American shores nearly 10 years ago was just the first wave of the high caliber stars in MLS. Recently, with the likes of Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Frank Lampard, Frederico Higuain, and Thierry Henry playing – or about to play – MLS, the appeal of the league is ever-growing.

So with international players and US men’s national team players in MLS, is that making the league better? It’s most certainly a possibility. And with that possibility of a better American league, with more US players centralized in one country where they play with and against each other, can lead to hope that the US Soccer teams – the men’s national team as well as the U-23 and younger – will increase their stature in world football. Although that fact could be a boon to MLS players, on the opposite end of the spectrum is the question: if most American players play in MLS, does that diminish their talent when many could play in bigger leagues or competitions like the Premier League or Bundesliga, or the Champions League? Unfortunately – but maybe fortunately – we won’t know now, or possibly ever. And is the exodus from (mainly) Europe and the influx to MLS for American and international players a good thing?

We’ll have to wait and see but for the immediate and foreseeable future, Major League Soccer is looking bright.

Katherine RUPP

Drake University
Club Domestic:
Sporting KC
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Unabashed Minnesotan by birth. Tried reliving the glory days of collegiate intramural soccer championships but an ACL tear dashed future hopes of adult recreational greatness. Covering a city’s team that’s too big for one state: SKC.