The MLS Needs To Let Landon Donovan Go To England, for America's Sake
Last week, MLS commissioner Don Garber said that Landon Donovan was not for sale, meaning that America's indisputable best player would be staying in the domestic league. On paper this makes sense — a league wanting to grow has its country's best player.
But if Garber really has the interest of soccer's growth in America, he should let Landon leave and go join the growing number of Americans playing significant roles on European club teams.
While in the short term it may help boost ticket sales for the LA Galaxy—Donovan's current team — and the sides they visit, this plan won't stick.
Watching number 10 in person last week when the Galaxy visited DC United, it became apparent that he was exponentially better than most everyone on the pitch. Even Edson Buddle, also a member of the national team and Galaxy teammate, seemed amateur in sequences where Donovan sped past MLS defenders.
Letting Landon go to England, where multiple managers have expressed interest in him, will let him develop further as a player, which will help the national team and ultimately help the MLS.
Sure, many of America's best players got their start in the MLS, including our second and third-best players (at least by most people's opinions), Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey. Howard and Dempsey both played significant parts of their early career in the USA, but now play for legitimate premier league sides in Everton and Fulham respectively.
In international play, those two, along with Donovan, have proved to be our best players, likely because they are playing against the best club competition during the year.
Let's look at the Brazilian national team, unquestionably the best group of players year-after-year.
Of the 23 that went to this year's World Cup, only three played in Brazil's underwhelming domestic league.
Only one, Robinho, could be considered an elite player, and the reason he went back was because his playing time at Manchester City in England was limited. Brazil has proved that to be a soccer crazed nation, the national team success is more important than a domestic league.
Lastly, as an American, I inherently want my countrymen to succeed.
Although I follow Aston Villa as my premier league side, I always check the Fulham box scores to see how Dempsey did. And last season I looked at the Hull City lines to see if Jozy Altidore was able to net a goal.
Donovan is a first for American soccer. After his goal against Algeria, he instantly became the most recognizable American soccer player ever. And I guarantee scores of people would be curious to see his games against the English elite, hoping he can slice through the likes of John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. I know I'd watch.
For a young league (just 16-years old), MLS has done things right so far. The league has conformed to FIFA rules, eliminating regular season overtimes. The league has expanded to the right places, going to soccer friendly towns such as Toronto, Philadelphia, and Seattle. The league has smartly marketed to the flux of Hispanic people in the country as a large part of its audience.
But for once, the league needs to give something up. Donovan going to England would help the national team, Donovan himself, and ultimately the MLS by generating even more interest in soccer.
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