Five Americans who could leave MLS for moves overseas in 2014
On American Soccer: Projecting the next U.S. Olympic teamCall it the reverse migration of the Americans Abroad. It started slowly last summer, with Clarence Goodson making an unassuming return to MLS. Then came Carlos Bocanegra. Then Clint Dempsey returned in the shock move of last summer, setting the tone for a winter that would bring even more surprises.
Michael Bradley’s mega-transfer from Roma to Toronto FC earlier this month served as the bookend opposite Dempsey’s return to MLS in a seven-month stretch that saw a half-dozen current or now former U.S. national team players return to Major League Soccer.
While players returning home isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, the caliber of player, and point in their careers in which they moved made this period of time significantly different.
There is an understandable cause for concern among U.S. fans who worry that this reverse migration is capable of hurting the quality of the U.S. team. What must be understood about this recent trend is that it shouldn’t be assumed that it means American players will suddenly stop making the trek overseas.
If anything, the increased number of moves involving Americans to larger leagues in recent years suggests there is a more open acceptance of American players as transfer options. And no, we’re not talking about predictable places that clearly love signing Americans, like Stoke City. We are talking leagues like the Eredivisie, which just had FC Utrecht take Juan Agudelo on loan after the recent successes of U.S. strikers Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson.
You have Ligue 1 opening the door for the first American player there since Bocanegra in 2011 with the arrival of Alejandro Bedoya at FC Nantes. Two years ago, you saw Michael Bradley become the first U.S. national team player to ply his trade in Serie A since Alexi Lalas almost two decades earlier, and while Bradley left earlier than many would have hoped, there is no denying that he earned respect for Americans with his play in Italy the past three seasons.
These small inroads are inroads nonetheless, and as European scouts go searching ever more thoroughly for bargains, American players will soon become more reasonable transfer targets.
But just who are these next players to take the leap and replace the likes of Dempsey and Bradley as the standard bearers for the American movement in European soccer? it just so happens that Jurgen Klinsmann has taken several of them to Brazil this month. The trip isn't just designed to motivate them to keep improving, but also show them where they want to be this summer to have their best chance to impress European scouts.
So which of Klinsmann’s campers have the best chance of moving overseas if things go well in the coming months? Here are five who stand out as leading candidates:
He just signed a new deal with Sporting KC a little more than 13 months ago, but Besler’s star is rising at such a fast clip that it will be tough to keep scouts from pounding down the door at Sporting Park for a chance to buy the unassuming but supremely-talented central defender.
Besler will tell anybody who will listen that he loves playing for his hometown team, and we don’t doubt that, but a strong World Cup playing against as stacked a group as the U.S. will be facing could push Besler to the top of scouting wish lists from England to Italy.