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No More Has-Beens Need Apply

Last week I asked whether the MLS was turning into a feeder league. Trading its best young up and coming players for over the hill European stars looking for a retirement home is not the way bets way for the MLS to proceed. Well it was good to see that the Toronto Star agreed with my assessment of the MLS.

As Cathal Kelley wrote in the Star:

The rumour mill is loaded with a host of other former stars looking for a soft, lucrative landing before they surrender to retirement – Luis Figo, Juan Sebastien Veron, Ronaldo, Andriy Shevchenko.

Who’s likely to head the other way? New York Red Bulls’ star Jozy Altidore, who at only 18 will be worth two Henrys in a couple of seasons. Or Maurice Edu, Toronto FC’s rookie of the year and, I would argue, best player period. The club is already resigned to losing him, though it won’t happen for a few years.

There are no 18-year-old future superstars currently playing in Europe linked with an MLS club.

This budding, not-yet-realized trend should be setting off alarm bells inside the MLS brain trust. Under their salary-cap regime, they seem to have insulated their league from the wild spending that sank their predecessor, the NASL.

The MLS probably believes that bringing these aging stars to America will help sell the game to the American public. But that is what Beckham is doing.

Beckham’s arrival last year made soccer mainstream. For the first time regular American fans were asking about soccer. They were even debating Beckham and his injured ankle on ESPN’s PTI.

A Figo or Veron are not big enough names to capture the imagination of the American public. Instead the MLS should put Beckham out front on all its marketing and then spend its money on the young, domestic stars.

Cathal Kelley’s idea of bringing back a local kid made good from overseas and making them the designated player is a fantastic idea. I would much prefer to have Clint Dempsey as my designated player in New England than Veron.

Going the Veron route has been tried before. It is called the NASL. It is time for a new approach from the MLS.