MLS Callups Are Only A Good Start.By: Ben | December 21st, 2010
Word has now spread that USMNT coach Bob Bradley will be including 20 rising MLS stars in his 24 man January camp. Aimed at preparing the Nats for their coming friendly against Chile, the camp is the first to have such a heavy MLS presence. As could be expected with such an announcement, the MLS blogsphere immediately erupted with praise and assertions that this reflects an improving league. Simply put, the idea is that more MLS presence at the National level shows that the league is producing superior young talent. Really, this is only half true.
First of all, this team is one preparing for a post World Cup friendly against Chile, not a World Cup semifinal against Spain. Chile may be three spaces ahead of us in FIFA rankings, but it is clear that Bob Bradley doesn’t consider this group to be anything near his best players available. Rather, this squad is something of a “baby USMNT”, where budding stars will have an opportunity to show off and build a relationship with their coach. By 2014, these players will be in a much different place in their career, and will be ready to lead the USA into Brasil looking for success. Until then, such matches as these serve simply as a way to nurture our baby Yanks. Thus, while MLS callups may be nice to see in terms of the improving state of youth development, we cannot declare our development system to be a complete success until it consistently pumps players into the US’s overall starting 11.
Further, there is no guarantee that any of these twenty stars will still be in MLS come 2014. In a recent interview, RBNY defender and US callup Tim Ream stated that he sees himself “over in Europe” within five years. Such a future seems possible not only for Ream, but for any of the twenty. It may be pessimistic to say so, and our league has surely improved in recent years, but when the only American which the league has been able to hold on to with the smallest bit of consistency throughout his career is Landon Donovan (who has seen time in England and Germany), it can be said that MLS isn’t known for retaining its homegrown players. Perhaps this won’t be true, perhaps Edson Buddle (the only other Nat to have gone to South Africa and remain in the league) will stay with LA for his whole career, and perhaps all twenty of the MLS callups will do the same. However, before praising the League as having turned a corner, it is imperative that we reach a place where we can retain our improving homegrown talent.
In all, 20 of 24 is a very good set of numbers, but really doesn’t mean anything if these players don’t continue on to represent the USA on the true First Team and continue to stay with MLS in the process. We are clearly improving, but shouldn’t jump the gun in saying so.
What do you think?