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Why European Loans Could Help USA's World Cup Chances

Dempsey may not always have loved life at Spurs, but it almost certainly made him a better player.
Dempsey may not always have loved life at Spurs, but it almost certainly made him a better player.Ian Walton/Getty Images
Phil KeidelContributor IINovember 13, 2013

To most international football fans, Major League Soccer is little more than a punchline for "The Fiver" column in the Guardian.

It's great fun to poke at the Americans with cutesy jabs like referring to the league as "Major League Soccerball."

Right, because American football is played with helmets on, et cetera.

No sentient fan could confuse the level of play in MLS with the brutal beauty of the Barclays Premier League or the elegant stylings of La Liga.

But there is a lot to be said for the best American players plying their trade on their home soil. Particularly when their efforts to do so abroad have met with mixed receptions.

For every success story like Tim Howard, there are a handful of American players like Jozy Altidore—who as of this writing cannot regularly crack the XI at relegation-threatened Sunderland Athletic Football Club.

Try telling that to United States men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, though. His take on this seems to be for his MLS stars to try, try again overseas.

"If you get a chance to go on loan to Europe, do it," Klinsmann said recently, per Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times. "Compete there with good players overseas. It is very crucial for us that the players understand that everything they do now, today, has an influence on Brazil 2014."

Klinsmann is not mincing words about how he wants his players to spend the winter months.
Klinsmann is not mincing words about how he wants his players to spend the winter months.Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Klinsmann even named names: "If a player has the option -- maybe in the case of guys like Clint Dempsey or Landon Donovan or Graham Zusi -- go to Europe...and compete with the guys overseas."

Klinsmann's design behind urging his players to play in Europe in advance of the 2014 World Cup has two prongs. Aside from the obvious step up in competition, international loans for his players mean that they will not acquire competitive rust once the MLS season ends in December.

You might think a player like Chris Wondolowski, who in 2012 tied Roy Lassiter’s MLS all-time single-season scoring record with 27 goals, would be a lock for Klinsmann's United States team. The man they call "Wondo" knows better.

“I am definitely interested in going on loan in the offseason,” said Wondolowski recently, according to Graham Ruthven on “I want to do everything I can to give myself a chance to make the World Cup roster, so I will be looking for opportunities.”

Wondolowski doubtlessly recalls Donovan's terrific work at Everton Football Club in past seasons. More recently, Clint Dempsey was a mainstay in the Fulham and Tottenham Hotspur rotations before recently coming home to play with the Seattle Sounders.

Any USMNT hopefuls (and even the seeming sure things) would be wise to heed Klinsmann's not-very-subtle advice.

And go somewhere beyond the sea


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