A generation ago, you could hardly find more than a few American soccer players in Europe, but now there are dozens playing in top leagues all over the world. Soccer, no matter what you call it, has always been a global game, and this generation of United States players is finally becoming an integrated part of that international community.
MLS has helped develop many of the top American players in the world, from Clint Dempsey to Michael Bradley to Tim Howard to Landon Donovan, with the list of American stars playing abroad growing in number and quality every year.
American players are no longer just on the fringes of the world's top clubs. The American game has come a long way, and it's really just getting started.
In the coming years, the game is expected to grow even more in the States, with a host of good, young talent hopefully poised to bring this country to even greater heights. Still, as talent-rich as MLS has become from where it started nearly 20 years ago, it isn't quite one of the elite leagues in the world yet. For the top American players to develop to a world-class level, they still need to try and succeed against the toughest competition in Europe.
Take a look at the video above for just some of the names you should see making the jump to Europe very soon. And yes, Landon Donovan is on the list.
Donovan has been a loyal soldier to MLS and U.S. Soccer and, if you pardon the rant, deserves another chance to play in Europe full-time before it's too late. Donovan's first attempt at playing in Europe did not go as well as he had hoped, but the MLS superstar has been every bit as good as advertised in his recent loan spells with Everton.
Following the MLS Cup, where Donovan led the Los Angeles Galaxy to another championship, he told reporters his gut is telling him to "get away for a while." Donovan has flirted with retiring from the sport, a decision that would take away one of the great American players of this generation and damage the United States' chances of not only thriving at the 2014 World Cup, but even qualifying for it.
The United States still needs Donovan, and if letting him play in Europe full-time for a few years will reinvigorate him, that's what MLS and U.S. Soccer need to help him do. Donovan was a spark at Everton in the past. Right now he needs to be—and find—that spark again.