Why MLS Signing Mix Diskerud Would Be a Watershed Moment for the League

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Why MLS Signing Mix Diskerud Would Be a Watershed Moment for the League
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Last Thursday, reports emerged that the Portland Timbers were preparing to sign young USMNT prospect Mix Diskerud.

Diskerud, at 22 years old, has already made three appearances with the senior national team and has some impressive highlights with the team.

In his first cap, earned in a November 2010 away friendly against South Africa, Diskerud showed an incredible amount of composure on the ball in assisting Juan Agudelo’s game-winner in the 85th minute of the game.

Then, in only his third cap for the national team, Diskerud scored the game-tying goal in last month’s 2-2 away draw with Russia.

Diskerud, who’s contract with Norway’s Rosenborg expires at the end of this month, also has familiarity with incoming Portland Timbers manager Caleb Porter, having played for Porter with the U.S. U-23s this past spring.

Regardless of whether or not the move is a good one for Diskerud or the USMNT, if Diskerud does sign with Major League Soccer, the move will represent a potentially historic moment in the league’s history.

Traditionally, MLS essentially has four types of American players.

First, there are the young up-and-comers just starting to get their feet wet in professional football. These are players who are looking to use the league as a stage to make the big move to Europe. This group would include players like Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea and Omar Gonzalez.

Second, there is the group of “average Joe” players who receive little or no interest from overseas and will spend their entire career in the league. This compromises the bulk of the league’s players.

Third, there is the group of players returning from failed stints in Europe. This would include players like Eddie Johnson, Edson Buddle, Freddy Adu and, perhaps, even Landon Donovan.

Last, there is the group of players who are aging, who are no longer top players in Europe and wish to come home. This would include players like MLS retirees Kasey Keller, Brian McBride and Eric Wynalda.

However, if Diskerud signs with the league, it would mark the first time a true up-and-coming American player, who still has a bright future ahead of him in European football, signs with the league.

Traditionally, the belief has been that for an American player to truly reach the top of their game, they must go to Europe to ply their craft, learn from a European manager and play against the “better” European competition.

But if MLS can get to the point where playing in the league and playing in front of MLS crowds for MLS coaches is attractive to rising stars, the league could be on its way from also-ran status to a real contender for the young footballing talent in North America.

Part of the draw of Portland, according to Diskerud’s father, is playing for Porter again.

At the University of Akron, Porter led the relatively small school to an amazing 124-18-18 record over seven years and two NCAA championship games, winning the title in 2010. With Akron, Porter also gained a reputation as a phenomenal recruiter while Akron became renowned for their stylish play and attacking 4-3-3 system.

If Porter and other young American MLS coaches like Ben Olsen and Jason Kreis can begin to convince some of the better American players to stay home, the league could make a rapid and marked improvement.

Imagine if the best up-and-coming players from the United States, Mexico, Jamaica, Honduras and Costa Rica all came to MLS. Now add in a couple of stars here and there and a pretty high-quality league would emerge.

This isn’t going to happen today or tomorrow, but even if the deal for Diskerud falls apart, one of the U.S.' top young stars is going to opt to stay in MLS sooner or later.

And when that happens, the stage will be set for others to follow. And maybe the U.S. will finally be on the path to developing home-grown talent to take American soccer to the next level.

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