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By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Aug 20, 2021) American Soccer Players – Major League Soccer’s evolution as a “selling league” in the lingo of the global soccer market is a clear positive. For the first time in its history, MLS is fully engaged in the international player market. Long little more than a casual buyer of relatively cheap and / or overpriced talent, MLS is now a supplier of players to richer and more prestigious leagues in Europe.
“We’re in the big game now and there’s no turning back,” Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said earlier this month. “We are reaching out to the rest of the world. Buying and selling young players is part of world football. For a long time, MLS has existed apart from the rest of the world. This inevitably changes. We really rocked to embrace that.
Lagerwey’s comments came after the club acquired Leo Chu, a 21-year-old striker from Brazil’s Gremio. Seattle executed the kind of move that shows a new trend for MLS clubs to spend substantial sums of money, around $ 2.5 million in Chu’s case) to recruit precocious youngsters out of places like America. from South. The Sounders’ investment is all about winning games in Major League Soccer, but it’s also about turning Chú into a valuable asset that can be sold for profit down the road.
Chu’s decision reflects the growing respect that MLS is gaining in the European market. Gremio, who retains 20% of the rights to Chu, Chu’s representatives and Chu himself can see that interest in buying MLS-based players is on the rise across the Atlantic. New salary budget initiatives and the incentives created by MLS make the prospect of finding, developing and selling players more attractive than ever to MLS clubs.
While the focus is currently on academy-developed players leaving for seven- and eight-figure transfer fees to destinations in Europe, the league is engaged in all aspects of the transfer market. The pandemic has eerily helped the buy side of the equation, as MLS has used its more stable financial situation to snatch young talent from cash-strapped clubs.
The “promotion” of players sold to European teams over the past year, a dramatic increase from the past, is creating a wake-up call. The more talent MLS sells, the greater the pressure to replace that talent with the next batch.
It should be noted that a handful of teams bear the brunt of the overseas sales of players. Of the league transfers to European clubs over the past three windows, the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas are responsible for the majority of them. Other clubs sending players on important contracts include New England Revolution (after Club Brugge confirmed Tajon Buchanan’s transfer on Tuesday), Sporting Kansas City (Gianluca Busio to Venezia FC), Colorado Rapids (Sam Vines at Royal Antwerp) and the New York Red Bulls (Caden Clark at RB Leipzig).
Philadelphia and FC Dallas make player development a key part of their club’s identity. Selling a player overseas is a success, but bringing in the next talented young prospect from the academy comes full circle. He doesn’t have to be a one-for-one replacement. However, if MLS is going to be more than a flash in the pan in the international market, bringing in players who have the potential to eventually settle in Europe must become a habit.
The Union is now even introducing the next set of academy-created players. Paxten Aaronson, Brenden Aaronson’s little brother now at Red Bull Salzburg. Midfielders Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn, 17 and 18, have 26 league appearances between them this season. The Philadelphia roster also includes Anthony Fontana, 21 (eight appearances and four starts), goaltender Matt Freese, 22, defenseman Matthew Real, 22, and a few other local players biding their time with the first. team. .
Few, if any, of the local Union group will earn multi-million dollar interest from abroad. Development is a numbers game. Results across the squad will range from MLS bit players to potential stars. What matters to Philadelphia is that the program developed by Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie inspires players to follow in their footsteps.
FC Dallas’s embarrassment of the wealth of young players has cost the club big costs for Reggie Cannon, Bryan Reynolds and Tanner Tessman just last year. Their philosophy is even more tied to player development than Philadelphia’s, creating pressure to develop more marketable talent.
Enter Ricardo Pepi, the El Paso-bred forward whose scoring exploits have earned him praise and attention from the USMNT. Rumors surrounding Pepi’s possible move swirl daily, indicating that the FC Dallas talent train is not slowing down.
For MLS, there is no turning back. Academies that produce new players to add to the league roster will only have to improve in the league. Involving players like Chu helps strengthen the league’s reputation as a “stepping stone” competition. It will also help.
The more young people with high potential, the less pressure there is on a specific movement. LAFC has yet to take advantage of Diego Rossi, despite his excellent play in MLS. Atlanta United faces their own hold or sell situation with Ezequiel Barco. The interest in new initiatives and the focus on talent development should make these scenarios the league-wide standard.
MLS instituted the U-22 Players Initiative to capitalize on depressed prices and help fill the void left by transferred players. So far, the program is proving popular this summer. These players represent a new kind of investment for MLS teams, even as they try to develop players within their academies.
The benefit for MLS of producing players who are of interest to European clubs goes behind the revenue stream. Every rumor and eventual sale brings a buzz to the league. Player development is marketing, not only as a way to sell local fans to come and see locally developed players, but as a way to draw attention to the competition of those who have not yet invested. in MLS.
Developing and buying new young stars to replace the class of old young stars dispatched to carry the MLS development flag in Europe’s top leagues is just smart business. So far, so good.
Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM. Contact him: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter.
Filed Under: Americans Abroad, Featured, MLS, Top Posts Tagged With: 2021 mls saison, fc dallas, Philadelphia Union, seattle sounders, football business
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