With Major League Soccer’s continuing growth and recent signing and re-signing of Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the time is coming when American internationals will no longer need or want to go overseas.
It may be a little early to think about Jozy Altidore coming home, considering he just signed with Sunderland this summer, but the Black Cats' precarious position in the English Premier League as well as the pressures of finding regular playing time in a World Cup year can make strange things happen in the transfer market.
Here are five scenarios that could lure Altidore back home to MLS.
Paolo Di Canio Gets Fired
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio is no stranger to controversy. As a player, Di Canio was repeatedly criticized for his use of fascist gestures while playing in Italy. He also has former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s nickname tattooed on his arm, in the past, Di Canio has proclaimed himself a fascist.
Taking over for Martin O’Neil late last season, Di Canio managed to keep Sunderland alive in the Premier League and avoided relegation. However, he still has much to prove as a manager, and should Sunderland be in relegation danger midseason, it wouldn’t be improbable that the Black Cats’ management would make a change.
Sunderland are currently winless in the EPL (they’ve only played two games) and had to come from behind yesterday against MK Dons, a League One side, to advance in the Football League Cup.
Di Canio has been a supporter of Jozy Altidore, but should the team struggle and Di Canio be let go, Altidore could find himself on the bench under a new manager and looking for a way out.
Sunderland Get Relegated
Similar to the potential situation should Di Canio get fired, if Sunderland were to get relegated at the end of the 2013-14 EPL campaign, Altidore surely would look to leave.
At that point, Altidore would only be one year out from his 31-goal season at AZ Alkmaar and still a hot enough commodity to avoid wasting a year in the English Championship. If an MLS team came calling, Altidore might be willing to make the jump and come home.
Money, Money, Money, Money…Money
MLS has proved over the last month that it has money to spend, and if Altidore’s situation at Sunderland doesn’t work out, he could be drawn in by a big-money deal.
On Wednesday, Sports Illustrated’s Brian Strauss reported that Landon Donovan’s new deal with the L.A. Galaxy will be worth $4.5 million per year. Earlier this month, new Seattle Sounder signing Clint Dempsey’s contract was reported to be somewhere between $5-7 million per year.
While these salaries are far above the average for MLS players, Altidore is a high-profile player, just like Donovan and Dempsey. But as a younger player and a pure striker, Altidore has a higher ceiling than Donovan or Dempsey both in terms of long-term development and goalscoring potential.
It is completely possible that Altidore coming back to MLS could generate the largest salary in league history.
Jozy Gets Ice Cold
Form is temporary, and should Altidore hit a cold-streak, as he did for the United States men’s national team for an 18-month period leading into this summer, he could quickly find himself out of Sunderland’s starting XI.
Were that to happen prior to the January transfer window with the World Cup looming and regular playing time a must, a change could happen.
Wait 10 Years
At only 23 years old and coming off his best season ever—and the best season ever for an American in Europe—it is extremely unlikely that Altidore is coming to MLS anytime soon.
Every USMNT fan hopes that he is successful in England this time around if for no other reason than it begets success for the U.S. next summer in Brazil. If Altidore were to become a big-time player for Sunderland, it also helps America’s soccer credibility rise.
Could This Happen?
It’s extremely unlikely considering that Altidore just signed with Sunderland this summer, but stranger things have happened. No one can honestly say they saw Dempsey’s transfer to Seattle coming, and when pictures of Dempsey in American airports began surfacing on Twitter while Spurs were overseas, many assumed that Dempsey was in the U.S. to talk to Everton, who happened to be in California at the time.
MLS has also shown that it is finally willing to do what it takes to keep young American stars at home through the recent re-signings of Graham Zusi, Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez.
Even Mix Diskerud flirted with the idea of coming to MLS this past year to sign with the Portland Timbers, according to Pro Soccer Talk.
The league is growing, and it is only a matter of time until the vast majority of American internationals are playing in MLS permanently.
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