How Can USA Keep Star American Players at Home to Play in MLS?

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistMay 17, 2013

TORONTO, CANADA - MARCH 30:  Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy defends in an MLS game against the Toronto FC on March 30, 2013 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Los Angeles Galaxy and Toronto FC played to a 2-2 tie. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

The American soccer scene, at its highest level, is obviously and clearly not up to the level across the Atlantic. The elite players find their way to the European leagues, and that leaves MLS searching for other marketable athletes to fill the ranks.

Without question, MLS has improved over the years, but it was predicated on getting past-their-prime Europeans and young stars before they were discovered by larger clubs.

Keeping top-level American talent at home will not necessarily help U.S. soccer immediately. After all, iron sharpens iron. Having the stars of tomorrow stay at home will help MLS continue to grow and that could pay dividends for U.S. soccer down the road.

So, how do we keep them at home?

There are two big obstacles that leap off the page.

First, the paydays. Top-level talent has the best chance to make a big paycheck in the elite leagues. Those opportunities are not plentiful in MLS. Second, is the players desire to challenge themselves against the best in the world.

The second is harder to convince anyone of at this juncture. It's a hard sell.

How can MLS and U.S. soccer offer top-level American athletes more money to stay? MLS cannot simply skew contracts to the American players.

Are there opportunities to give them sponsorship kickbacks or more sponsorship opportunities? That is a realistic option but not ideal.

Call me a pessimist, but the odds of convincing the best homegrown players to stay is extremely low. The USA is fighting a losing battle in this one right now. The options at the fingertips of those who can attempt to talk the players into staying are slim.

That does not mean we should not try.

There can be creative solutions to the problem. If a solution is fixed, it will help MLS and American soccer in general.

If MLS is to continue its growth and become a top-tier league, it needs to keep its top players in its domestic league. It will make the league more marketable and help enthuse the youth about U.S. soccer.

The residual effect will help U.S. soccer in the future. All positives, but we must solve the riddle to keep players playing at home.


Take to the comments with your thoughts and ideas of how to keep homegrown American talent stateside, or argue that it is better they go across the pond for their careers.