Is MLS a Gift to Other CONCACAF Nations?

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

Concacaf logoThe chatter started immediately after the United States men’s national team managed only a single point from a possible six in the most recent round of World Cup qualifying matches in the CONCACAF region.

Major League Soccer, after having turned its attention south to acquire promising and inexpensive players, is helping other CONCACAF nations too much.

Yes it is.

No it isn’t.

First the U.S. dropped a 2-0 decision to visiting Costa Rica, then needed a late goal to draw at Honduras. Both countries field teams replete with players now plying their trade in El Norte.

On Sunday at Red Bull Arena, the Red Bulls played the Philadelphia Union. Each club has its share of important players from Central America and the Caribbean. The Union goalkeeper Andre Blake is quickly emerging as one of the top talents in the region. The Red Bulls have two Panamanian defenders — Michael Murillo and Fidel Escobar (though Escobar did not play in the scoreless tie) — not to mention Jamaica defender Kemar Lawrence.

Red Bulls Coach Jesse Marsch, asked about the assertion that MLS is being too good to players from other CONCACAF nations put it in perspective. In a nutshell … it’s business, strictly business.

“My basic answer is: I don’t care,” Marsch said. “We’re trying to use all the resources available to get the best young players from Central America. It’s a hotbed for young talent. Some clubs don’t have the resources to get them at a reasonable price. Young talent can bolster what you have in your team. We’re happy with our guys, we’ve helped them grow as players and mature. Ultimately it’s to our and their benefit.

“It’s really no different than Americans going to Europe. Is it about the national team? Again, I don’t really care. I want the national team to do well, but here we do the best we can to get the best players in our system.”

For his part, Blake, who is originally from Jamaica, played at the University of Connecticut and now holds a green card, it really is all about opportunity, good facilities, and assurance of payment.

For MLS — and for nearly every league around the world — it is about beating the bushes for the best players at the most inexpensive price. Should England’s Premier League not sign players from Africa. Most managers there, and in other European leagues such as Ligue 1 in France, will tell you, as Marsch did, that they don’t care. Their job is not to stump for their national teams. Their job is to work for the best interests of their clubs.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Ah, but the chatter on Twitter. Got to love it, then again, maybe not.