How the USMNT and MLS Can Help Each Other

National team call-ups could mean more for MLS players than is seen at first glance
by Katherine Rupp   |   Wednesday, March 25, 2015

US Soccer Federation (USSF)

Captain Clint is out of the next two friendlies in Europe for the US men’s national team because of a hamstring injury, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not prime time to pay attention to some other MLSers who will be playing in Denmark and Switzerland. Fans of the national team should watch the MLS players who are currently overseas (Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, Gyasi Zardes, Brek Shea, and Nick Rimando) but also when they come back to the homeland.

Although most of the USMNT players on the roster this go around are based in Europe or Mexico, the handful of players from MLS who play on the team – even if it’ll make it more difficult that key members aren’t on their individual teams this weekend – bolster the league by playing on the national team in friendlies and during competitive matches.

During this past summer’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil, there were 13 players (counting those who currently in the 2015 MLS season) who play on MLS teams. Coming into the 2015 season for MLS, there were many factors that made the start of the season a success – among them included some new TV deals and a new CBA – was the impact of World Cup stars from the national team, for the US and others, coming into Major League Soccer for its 20th season.

Many MLS stars who are on the USMNT are younger or in their prime, whereas some other national team members (some that come to mind are David Beckham and Frank Lampard for England and David Villa for Spain) are a bit older. Does that matter? Maybe a bit. Younger players on the national team have a lot to live up to, but also can use the time on the national team to make a name for themselves.

However, with the mindset that many national team fans – and many aren’t as accustomed to watching MLS or are fans, per se, of any certain MLS team – have is that overseas leagues like the Premier League and Bundesliga are better quality soccer to watch. Although this is not the time or place to discuss or argue that (my opinion: the Prem and Bundlesliga are better quality but that doesn’t mean MLS shouldn’t have as much, if not more, attention being paid to it), having national team members like Bradley, Altidore, and Dempsey, and even young guns like Zardes, play for the USMNT means that more and more national team fans will – hopefully – watch the respective teams of those national team players.

And because many USMNT fans want to know about their favorite players – like Beckerman or Diskerud in the World Cup – maybe for their play on the field but maybe for their coiffure on the pitch, that means now those fans may start (or continue) tuning in to Real Salt Lake or NYCFC matches.

With more national team fans, especially of the US, tuning in to different MLS teams, that means the more those soccer fans are aware of the top league in the US and Canada. Additionally, if that happens, it’s a domino effect, even if it’ll take some time. The more national team fans that pay attention to MLS, the more people will start watching MLS on TV and in person, and the stronger the league will become. Although this all may be conjecture, and may put a bit too much pressure on one person’s feature in a national team call-up, but there’s always the possibility and dream that MLS can get the respect that it deserves.

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.