Why Landon Donovan Should Stay in the MLS

Jeff Kayer@thereal_kmanCorrespondent IJuly 16, 2010

CARSON, CA - JULY 04:  Landon Donovan #10 of the Los Angeles Galaxy warms up before the game against the Seattle Sounders FC on July 4, 2010 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.  Donovan is playing in his first MLS game since returning from the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.  (Photo by Jeff Golden/Getty Images)
Jeff Golden/Getty Images

Nearly a week has gone by since the World Cup has concluded and all soccer news is already back on the back pages of most sports sections.  One piece of news that came out today was Major League Soccer's (MLS) intention to not entertain any offers on Landon Donovan, thus temporarily ending any speculation that America's best player might be heading to Europe. 

After reading numerous blogs, and talking to a lot of my soccer fan friends, many are irate at the fact that Landon Donovan is being denied the opportunity to play overseas. He would most likely go back to Everton where he found great success last year on a ten week loan.  Many are saying that the MLS is stunting the growth of American soccer by not allowing Donovan to showcase his talents in Europe. 

Allow me to be the first to completely disagree with this statement!

On the surface, I can understand why people may feel this way.  They just saw Landon Donovan score one of the most important goals in American soccer history in a moment that will forever be captured in advertisements featuring our most patriotic moments in sports.  They saw Donovan almost kick the ball through the netting en route to a tie against Slovenia.  If Donovan were a stock right now, it would be buy buy buy!

Another point is the fact that any new soccer fan in the past decade, and let's admit, that's many of you (me included mind you), you have grown up watching Landon Donovan.   It's only natural to believe that this player, the unquestioned best American soccer player ever should be allowed to blossom in Europe and show the rest of the world that American soccer is on the rise.

But it is this last point exactly about why he should stay right here in the US of A.  Consider the fact that Landon Donovan is now 28 years old.  While that's still quite young age amongst us fans, that is teetering on being known as a wily veteran on the world soccer stage.  He will be 32 years old when we see our next World Cup in Brazil.

So I ask, does the MLS's decision of not letting a 28-year-old veteran soccer player really stunt the growth of American soccer?  I argue, that his staying here has far greater potential to positively influence the game!

When you have a hot commodity like Donovan right now, the MLS is rightly keeping him here, so he and the LA Galaxy can attract fans in any city they play in.  With Thierry Henry signing with the New York Red Bulls, the MLS now has two legitimate superstars in their two biggest markets.  That is a big deal for this league and they have every right to take advantage of it.

The ratings for the World Cup this year were at an all time high, with a final between two European nations generating a rating that nearly bested Game 7 of this year's NBA Finals.  Think of how many young soccer fans know who Landon Donovan is now.  And just think how many can convince their parents to shell out $50, go to their nearest MLS team's stadium, and see his new found hero in action?  

You never know, that 15-year-old kid, who has to decide between soccer and football now may side with the beautiful game, and play alongside Donovan in World Cup qualifiers in 2013.  It was that way in 2000 and 2001 when young kids like Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley came onto the American soccer scene.

And while fans are riled up about the fact that Donovan might not play in the English Premier League, it shouldn't be him you worry about not playing in Europe.  While I believe Landon should stay in the U.S., the same should not be said for numerous other stars you saw on this World Cup squad.

Players like Jozy Altidore needs to stay relevant in the European Leagues so that in four years, he will be a 24 year old player beginning to fully fulfill his potential.  Benny Feilhaber should find himself on a better roster in Europe to keep perfecting those through balls like he did so well in this World Cup.  Maurice Edu needs to crack the lineup in Rangers and stay there. 

And don't forget Charlie Davies, the forward who nearly died in a car accident last year and was kept off the team due to those injuries.  He is currently playing for Sochaux in France, and it's imperative he stays there so that he and Altidore can become a fearsome duo in Brazil.

Last but certainly not least is the real breakout star of South Africa, Michael Bradley.   His solid performance in every game, not to mention his highlight reel goal against Slovenia turned a lot of heads in this World Cup.  At the young age of 22, Bradley could become the team's new leader moving forward.  And if there was any athlete that needed to get playing time in the English Premier League, it is him, not Donovan.

As I conclude this little rant, it should be said that I have nothing against Landon Donovan.  He did a remarkable job this year, and exorcised any demons that he may have had from the disappointment in 2006.  I surely believe he has the talent to hang with any team in Europe. 

But when you talk about how he can best help American soccer, it won't be in the British isles, or the Bundesliga or Serie A.  It's going to be right here, making the MLS more relevant so more star power players like Henry will want to come play here.  The more marketable players you have on this continent, the more people come to see the games and the more they watch on ESPN.

The more people who watch these games, the more coverage it will get by the media and the more sponsorship deals the athletes and the league will get.  And the more attention the league gets, many more children will grow up wanting to follow in the footsteps of those players they see.


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