This seems to be a topic of interest right now. At time of writing, 22 South American players have signed on with Major League Soccer teams ahead of its 2018 season.
The large majority of those players are aged between 18 and 22, and the assumption seems to be that by signing up talented youngsters, MLS can become a bridge between South America and Europe.
I was thinking about this topic while writing a feature on new Atlanta United signing Ezequiel Barco for Soccer 360. Personally, I’m not convinced. Here are a couple of tweets I published last week:
essentially, MLS clubs paying €10-15m already rules out subsequent move to big team in developmental EUR league (POR, NED, even FRA). And top-tier clubs aren’t going to learn anything useful about a player from a couple of seasons in MLS, so hard to see where sell-on profit lies
— Nick Dorrington (@chewingthecoca) 30 January 2018
This debate is not a new one. Similar things were said when there was a large influx of Colombian players into MLS following the success of Fredy Montero at Seattle Sounders.
Indeed, I wrote about that very issue for the now sadly defunct XI Quarterly back in 2013. It was my first attempt at a long-form article and benefited greatly from the patient help of my editors, David Keyes and Tom Dunmore, to wrestle some form of coherence from an overload of information and quotes.
Looking back on it now, it includes some of my pet peeves as a reader of long form (including quoted characters who appear randomly across various sections), but its central point remains relevant:
“The perceived financial and social stability available in the United States will continue to attract players aged between 25 and 30 for whom moves to Europe are improbable, but younger players have greater reason to pause before accepting moves to MLS. The league is growing in stature, yet needs to offer a clearer route to Europe and a better platform for call-ups to the national team if it hopes to continue attracting young talent.”