FT 2019 Preview: Will MLS teams have to adjust to a new era?
It came as a surprise particularly to outsiders as quite a number of the Major League Soccer groomed players began to make inroads to some of the perceived best leagues in the world, or at least being linked with such moves. Soccer in the United States is yet to be celebrated as much as in other territories and continents but the effort put by organisers, extra hours shifted in by players and the passion contributed by the most passionate of fans is starting to pay dividends.
As opposed to the previous state of affairs where the MLS was just a resting place for the super stars who were winding down their careers, its fast becoming a reliable source for budding talent. We are seeing young soccer players from communities which were never really known for the game, coming in and stealing the show. Individuals from the Caribbean Islands, Africans and the CONCACAF in general are fast using the MLS as a platform to grow and even possibly transiting to the “soccer capital of the world,” which in my opinion is Europe. We saw individuals such as Venezuela’s Josef Martinez who has apparently gotten his big break at a later age but doing so with much grace and elegance. The 25-year-old banged 35 MLS goals and registered 6 assists in only 39 appearances, that kind of record stands out anywhere around the world. He is just annoyingly prolific and capped the year by winning the MVP award, ahead of the heralded Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Wayne Rooney. Martinez is not the least of them, other players such as the 24-year-old playmaker, Paraguayan Miguel Almiron who was his partner in crime has since been linked to a host of premier league clubs including the Arsenal. Two 18-year-olds namely Canadian footballer, Alphonso Davies of Ghanaian origin and USA’s Chris Richards have already escaped the grasp of Vancouver Whitecaps and FC Dallas respectively, captured by German champions in Bayern Munich.
For the most part, the MLS had been used to receiving stars and now they seemingly have to quickly adjust to giving out. It will be interesting to see how that pans out. If you ask me, it’s a very much welcome development.