Premier League: Why Don't We See More Clubs Sign American Players?

Andrew Jordan@@Andrew_JordanSenior Writer IJanuary 20, 2012

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 23:  (L-R) Jozy Altidore, Stuart Holden, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard of the United States celebrate with team mates, the victory that sends the USA through to the second round in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group C match between USA and Algeria at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium on June 23, 2010 in Tshwane/Pretoria, South Africa.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

For years, the goal of many footballers has been to move to a Premier League side. To these players, a move to England is the pinnacle of their football career.

These players go to these clubs knowing that they could one day join a rich club such as a Manchester United or Liverpool and become global stars, or could become huge stars with a smaller club and remain there for the remainder of their careers.

No wonder the Premier League has such as large influx of foreign talent. Currently, out of the 546 players that are in the EPL, 348 (or 63.7 percent) of them that play are not English.

Out of those players, a staggering 24.4 percent of those players are either from Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

When you compare the Premier League to the other major leagues in the world, they all have a higher percentage of players that are domestic, not foreign.

In fact, out of Europe's top four leagues that are not named the Premier League (La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1), not one league has a percentage of foreign players that totals over 50 percent of the players in the league.

In fact, the largest percentage of foreign players in one of the four above listed European leagues comes from Germany, where 49.7 percent of the players in the league are foreign-born.

To put it simply, the Premier League is more accepting of foreign players than any other major league in the world.

Tim Howard and Brad Friedel have been full-time starters in the Premier League
Tim Howard and Brad Friedel have been full-time starters in the Premier LeagueStu Forster/Getty Images

When you go back and look at the numbers, you can notice another interesting stat about the EPL; nine players (or 2.6 percent) of the players in the league come from the United States.

But when you look at the players that are in the Premier League, you notice that 55 percent of these players are on either Aston Villa or Everton. Those players are Brad Guzan, Eric Lichaj, Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Marcus Hahnemann.

This number could increase to 60 percent if it turns out that Edson Buddle does well in his trial with Everton and gets a contract.

Yet this stat continues to be apparent when you look at the dealings of certain clubs with American players in the Premier League.

Altogether, since the Premier League era begun in 1992, 35 Americans have played in the EPL. However, out of all 35 of these players, 18 of them (or 51 percent) have featured for four clubs: Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham and West Ham United.

Now, all of these players spent their time with these clubs (in fact, many of them went on to play with other clubs throughout their time with England).

However, a simple question arises from this: why does the United States—a nation with over 312 million people and is an emerging power in world football—have just nine players in the best league in the world?

The answer to this question is complex, but it's one that is controversial.

Even though the Premier League has so many foreign players, it in fact has been a league that has discriminated against non-British isles players playing in its ranks for so many years.

Both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are goalkeepers in the Premier League
Both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are goalkeepers in the Premier LeagueKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

However, even with the recent opening up of the transfer window thanks to globalization, there have been only certain nationalities of players that have been targeted by major clubs in England that are not from the British isles.

These players are mainly Brazilian, French, Spanish and Argentine.

Of course, these players are generally conceived to be the best players in the world. Alone with the case of Brazil, we saw 135 Brazilians return home from international leagues during the summer of 2010, mainly due to the breaking of the perception that any Brazilian player will be the best footballer on any given side.

Meanwhile, the American player will be perceived to be less talented because of the lack of footballing heritage that has taken place in the USA. Due to this, clubs are afraid to pick up American players because they will get questioned over their decision.

Fans (especially ones from large clubs) want to have players from a nation that is perceived to be strong internationally. So if there is a Brazilian footballer (Brazil currently has over 1,000 footballers from their country who are playing internationally) and an American footballer (the USA has 19 players who are playing internationally) and a club has to make a decision over which one they are going to sign, that club is more likely to choose the Brazilian player.

The fans will be more happy if a Brazilian is joining because they are viewed as better footballers and their international heritage in football is stronger.

That does not mean that the Brazilian will work as hard, be as strong of a teammate or even be as strong of a player. But that Brazilian player is assumed to be better.

It will take years before Americans are perceived to be among the best players for foreign clubs to acquire
It will take years before Americans are perceived to be among the best players for foreign clubs to acquireJamie McDonald/Getty Images

It's a massive problem that has happened in the transfer market over recent years. Perceptions over these players is starting to change, but it will take a long amount of time before it does so.

In the future, we will see more Americans come into the Premier League. In the next week, it appears that Bolton Wanderers will sign New York Red Bulls defender Tim Ream to a contract and are putting another MLS player, Sebastien Le Toux, on trial.

Even though Bolton are in a tough relegation fight, American players could help to make a major difference in order to help the club survive in the top flight.

Right now, the goal for American players should not be to join Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool. Instead, they need to be on clubs such as Villa, Bolton and Everton in order to build up their legacy in the English game, which will allow for the next generation of American footballers to come into English football with the top clubs.

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