Daily Archives: January 6, 2015
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
Frank Lampard and Steve Gerrard are big signings for Major League Soccer (MLS). Make no mistake about that. However, the seismic shift that will catapult the still youthfully optimistic MLS (turning 20 years-old this year) is, quite literally, youth. This constitutes early 20-somethings born and raised in the United States and (equally and possibly more importantly) early 20-somethings from Europe. The latter are highly-talented players who are groomed in the reserve/youth teams of top clubs for future picking onto the grandest pitches in the world. One of the best at discovering and elevating players through a club’s system is Louis Van Gaal. Ever heard of Xavi Hernández and Andrés Iniesta? How about Thomas Müller and Bastian Schweinsteiger? Yeah, Van Gaal discovered them before they were household names/global stars/World Cup winners. And his track record will continue for years to come, as the aforementioned names are just a few of his stellar sightings. There’s not enough space to get into detail about his successful tenures with some of the top clubs and world-class players, but his instincts for future success is the focus in this post.
Then there’s the modern tactical genius Pep Guardiola. Bayern Munich announced last Friday that Pep had signed the fresh-faced, yet deeply talented 19 year-old German national Joshua Kimmich worth millions. He’s a defensive midfielder who some have reported could be positioned as the future of Bayern’s stout midfield. The point is that there is value in serious investment of youth that requires vision and patience. MLS team have youth teams, but not anywhere close to the level of Europe’s giants. Admittedly, there is a major cultural and financial difference between the U.S. and Europe when it comes to soccer/football. True. But still, until individual MLS teams partner with said European giants who have similar tactical dynamics that includes 1-3 year loans of their youngsters for non-reserve, competitive matches who are not-yet-ready for their first team, the obvious barriers will remain between the United States and its competition (so to speak) across the pond. Most clubs may predictably refrain from moving their players to a foreign country and system from their own, but this is just a suggestion. However, it seems to be the most practical for realistically earning the ear of at least a few future (and unknown) stars.
The next big, truly transformational moment for MLS will be the signing of future household names from here, but especially abroad. Lower the risk for European clubs in these partnerships with the profitable United States soccer market (see Bayern Munich for their insistence/establishment of an American headquarters in NYC) and increase the rewards for MLS teams, fans and investors alike. A majority of these investments will all but certainly be short-term, but it will undeniably take the league to the necessary next level for discovering, training and producing indisputable world-class talent. There is a genuine attraction to living in and playing in the United States. This country is a central piece in the future of global soccer, despite FIFA’s oblivious rejection of a future U.S-hosted World Cup. Plus, it’s clear that David Beckham came here for reasons beyond a substantial paycheck.
U.S. soccer doesn’t have a ceiling, which is an amazing asset to have. The excitement is palpable, particularly during the World Cup. Only time will tell if this hypothesis will ever come to fruition. And to the naysayers out there who openly laugh at this idea, I say why not? The best coaches and clubs view their youth as vitally important future investments. Why not MLS? Dream big for goodness sake! Note that some of these players could be current and/or future members of the USMNT.
If MLS can just get the next
Arjen Robben (LOL, sorry about that) young stud (like Julian Green) to turn his head and attention towards the crashing waves of the U.S. for his league play for a couple years before returning back to Bayern Munich, it could be the first wave in something really big on the foreseeable horizon in the United States.
Don’t merely mind the gap…bridge the gap.