8 Major League Soccer Players with Premier League Futures
Players making the move from Major League Soccer to the Barclays Premier League is nothing new. Many people forget that players like Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride and Brad Friedel once played in MLS.
But as MLS's track record of developing players has improved, it has become a more popular option for Premier League clubs to fill areas of need.
Players from North America often come at a discount compared to similar-quality players from Europe. This will become more important as clubs must comply with financial fair play rules.
MLS players such as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and more recently, Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron, Kei Kamara and Roger Espinoza will continue to find their way overseas. Here's a look at eight players who will likely be following the well-worn trail to the Premier League.
Sanna Nyassi, Midfielder, Montreal Impact
Having bounced around MLS, playing for three different teams in three different seasons, Sanna Nyassi has finally found a stable home. The 24-year-old had a breakout season for the expansion Montreal Impact last season.
From midfield, Nyassi was the second-leading scorer for the Impact with six goals in 28 matches. In addition, the Gambian international added three assists.
Nyassi, whose twin brother Sainey also plays in MLS with the New England Revolution, isn't afraid to mix things up either. He was one of the league leaders with nine yellow cards last season.
Nyassi has played four matches for Gambia and was part of the last round of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
Bill Hamid, Goalkeeper, D.C. United
At 22 years of age, Bill Hamid hasn't even entered his prime as a goalkeeper.
Despite his youth, Hamid has already become a fixture between the posts for D.C. United. Last season, Hamid set a club record with an MLS-best 77.9 percent save percentage while keeping eight clean sheets and compiling a 13-6-4 record.
In addition to his play with D.C United, Hamid was the No. 1 keeper for the U.S. U-23 National Team, playing all three matches in Olympic qualifying. The Virginia native also earned his first senior national team cap in a 2012 friendly against Venezuela.
With the success of American goalkeepers like Brad Friedel, Tim Howard and Brad Guzan in the Premier League, it wouldn't be a surprise if Hamid followed in their footsteps.
Chris Pontius, Forward, D.C. United
Just ask Chelsea if Chris Pontius has what it takes to play in the Premier League.
The 25-year-old scored a goal and had an assist against the European champions as the MLS All-Stars defeated Chelsea 3-2 in 2012. Pontius' performance earned him MVP honors in the match.
The California native scored a career-high 12 goals in 2012 along with four assists, which earned Pontius a spot on the MLS end-of-season Best XI in 2012.
While Pontius has been called into training camps for the U.S National Team in the past, he has yet to earn a cap for the U.S. That should change if Pontius can repeat his 2012 form in 2013.
C.J. Sapong, Forward, Sporting Kansas City
Kei Kamara isn't the only Sporting Kansas City attacker that could have an impact in the Premier League.
C.J. Sapong earned MLS Rookie of the Year accolades in 2011 by scoring five goals and tallying five assists in 34 games played. The 24-year-old increased his output to nine goals and two assists in 2012.
Sapong's performances caught the eye of U.S. men's national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who played the Virginia native in two friendlies against Venezuela and Panama.
George John, Defender, FC Dallas
Although he has yet to play a first-team game in England, George John has drawn the attention of English clubs for the past couple of years.
John spent two months on loan at West Ham United in early 2012 but did not get any action with the Hammers during their campaign in the Championship that ended in promotion to the Premier League.
Prior to that, the Washington native had drawn the interest of Blackburn Rovers, who had a transfer bid fall though.
At 6'3", John is a towering presence in the middle of the FC Dallas back four. In 2010, the 26-year-old helped Dallas hold opponents to 0.93 goals per match, a franchise best. Last season, his importance was illustrated by the team's 7-9-7 record with him in the lineup and 2-4-5 record when John was out with injury.
Matt Besler, Defender, Sporting Kansas City
Hardly a household name two years ago, Matt Besler has broken onto the scene in the past 18 months.
Besler earned his first cap for the United States national team in January and was a key part of the squad that earned a 0-0 at Estadio Azteca against Mexico in March.
The 26-year-old was named MLS Defender of the Year and Breakout Player of the Year in 2012 and was also named part of the MLS Best XI. Besler also converted a penalty kick in the shootout that gave his hometown team the U.S. Open Cup.
Besler is familiar with Premier League competition, as he was named to the MLS All-Star team that played Manchester United in 2011.
Graham Zusi, Midfielder, Sporting Kansas City
America isn't renowned for producing playmakers, but Graham Zusi is proving to be an exception.
The Sporting Kansas City winger led MLS last season with 15 assists, which in addition to his five goals, were good enough for Zusi to be named to the MLS All-Star team and the season-ending Best XI.
Zusi isn't just a one-year wonder. In 2011, the Florida native was named Breakout Player of the Year while scoring five goals and assisting on seven others.
The 26-year-old has become a regular in Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. squad, as Zusi has now earned 10 caps for the United States, including a goal in a friendly against Panama.
With wing play at a premium in the Premier League, Zusi should be on the radar for a majority of clubs.
Jack McInerney, Forward, Philadelphia Union
Jack McInerney may be the most exciting prospect in MLS today.
Last year as a 19-year-old, McInerney led the Philadelphia Union in goals scored with eight. This season, the Georgia native has taken the league by storm, scoring six goals in just seven games so far.
Now 20, McInerney has been a fixture on the junior national teams for the U.S., playing in the U-17 World Cup and also earning caps at the U-20 and U-23 levels.
At just 5'10", McInerney won't overpower anyone in the air. But that hasn't stopped some from dubbing him "The American Chicharito," comparing him to Manchester United star Javier Hernandez.