In most years, the winter transfer market in MLS mode usually brings one or two surprises, but normally on the purchasing side. This made sense because MLS has never been seen as a "selling league". That is, up to now, like a huge $ 45 million Transfer revenues went into the league's coffers in January alone, in addition to the $ 45 million for 2018.
Some of the best-known names in the league are suddenly sold to the biggest leagues and clubs in the world: Columbus Crew goaltender Zack Steffen has signed a preliminary contract with the champions of the Manchester City Premier League, the Vancouver Whitecaps Alphonso Davies young and promising FC Dallas Chris Richards now wear the red of Bayern Munich, emerging star of the US national team Tyler Adams was snatched from the New York Red Bulls by RB Leipzig while Atlanta United midfielder Miguel Almiron broke the MLS transfer fee record in join Newcastle United for $ 26 million.
There is more. The last hours of the European winter window saw the match of DC United Luciano Acosta almost join the French giants Paris Saint-Germain, but an agreement will fail at the last moment. Nevertheless, the fact that a candidate for the UEFA Champions League has shown his interest in Acosta is remarkable.
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"Given the resources available to PSG, watching an MLS midfielder is impressive," said former MLS player and US national team Charlie Davies over the phone. ESPN FC. "I do not think anyone in the league saw him as a Champions League qualifier, did DC United even know how talented he was? they can find quality players in MLS. "
Although no world league wants to see its best players leave, it's the kind of buzz and activity that can fuel growth. For years, MLS fans have seen by far the Deadline Day offers in Europe attracting all the attention. Broken fax machines, Harry Redknapp's critics in his Land Rover media and Peter Odemwingie's ill-advised QPR all evoke good memories, but they are now similar. dramas are played on these shores.
In the end, such dramatic deals will help and the league is also convinced. MLS commissioner Don Garber said in his speech on the state of the league in 2018 that it is vital for the long-term growth of the league. "I've always thought that it took players who resonate in their market to become aspirations for young kids who are looking through the barriers when they seem to be training," Garber said at the conference. eve of the MLS Cup. "We all have to get used to the fact that in the world of football, players are sold."
Major League Soccer has had many identities in recent years, starting with the creation of the designated player rule that paved the way for the arrival of David Beckham in Los Angeles. Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo, to name just three – or undeclared imports looking for a home, this latest version in which are introduced stars and eventually shipped to major European clubs could help ensure its long-term growth.
"I think it was early that the goal was just to develop the teams, to make the correct infrastructure with each team," said the guarding Sporting KC. Tim Melia. "Now they're looking for a little younger players, buy them a little cheaper, then sell them more and take advantage of them."
"MLS is behaving like most leagues in the world now," said Richard Motzkin of Wasserman Media Group, representing Richards and Steffen. "The MLS is developing talent and adhering to the idea that they can move players abroad, which makes it more attractive for players to join the league. and progress, make a career here.
"We now have a league where, at all levels, there is interest coming here, which makes it more diverse and more attractive to international players."
The sale of Miguel Almiron marked a turning point for MLS, as it showed how young players can develop in the United States before this great European movement. Serena Taylor / Newcastle United
The sale of Almiron to the Premier League was particularly interesting. It can be said that Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez, the River Plate star and the new man of Atlanta United, might not have plunged into the MLS if Almiron had not opened the way. Almiron's success was certainly a decisive factor in MLS's decision of Martinez, the hero of the Copa Libertadores in 2018 announcing to Radio La Red, of Argentina, last month that MLS would be his "trampoline" "to Europe.
All in all, it's not bad for a young player from South America or elsewhere: go play and enjoy life in the United States and Canada for a few years, then cross the course of pond. This "re-routing" of South American players to Europe via MLS allows European clubs to know that they have already left their home country, thus facilitating adjustments on the ground.
"I think this just reflects the growth of the league but I also think it's pretty cool that young guys come here to use it somehow as a platform," Portland said. Timbers GK. Jeff Attinella said ESPN FC. "Before, you did not see that, it used to be older men coming here and returning at night, but if young talents want to come here and use it as a platform, that means just that all the other players in the league are: will get more visibility, which, in my opinion, is pretty good. "
These deals also improve the quality of league football. It is no coincidence that teams that have adopted the model of the young South American player, such as FC Dallas, Portland Timbers and Atlanta United, have all won equipment over the past five years. Similarly, the enthusiasm of MLS fans is immense, as they have the opportunity to see some rising football stars up close before making this decisive step towards Europe.
There is also the positive impact on MLS revenue and the spin-off effect of higher transfer fees.
"What better way to produce even more revenue and revenue in the league and in the clubs for that they even invest that money in other players, younger players, academy players and development, "said Philadelphia Union MF Alejandro Bedoya at ESPN FC. "So I think it can only be a good thing."
Taylor Twellman agrees. "I love the fact that teams are now confident enough to go out and find better players while developing their players within their own system," he tweeted. "This is a great time at @MLS re: its growth and ability to compete on the" global market "."
But there are still some things that MLS could do to improve its approach to such big deals. Total transparency on the selling price of a player would be warmly welcomed. It would be nice if fans who pay for tickets know how much their team receives in return, which helps to understand the decisions made by the team when the money is reinvested or not in the academy, coaching or new signings.
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Of course, the foregoing works subject to the fact that the sold readers are under contract. There has been a good deal of trading under the radar this winter in the form of players from MLS development academies who were not Homegrown players. Alex Mendez comes immediately to mind. After playing alongside LA Galaxy II and the US U-20 team, scoring twice for the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship final against Mexico, Mendez chose to not sign Homegrown contract and signed with SC Freiburg Germany, the galaxy receiving nothing for its role in its development.
(At present, the US Football Federation does not apply the FIFA Young Player Compensation Rules, as it was Mendez's first professional contract. Freiburg was able to sign it "for free" in the same way that FC Dallas received nothing in return. Weston McKennie when the US national team midfielder joined Schalke in August 2016.)
At one point, the logic must dictate that MLS will make a more concerted effort to get more young players to sign contracts with Homegrown, while respecting a player's future desire to play in Europe. This could also lead the United States of America football and MLS to rely on FIFA's training and solidarity allowance system, so that all the work done by teams like the Galaxy at players such as Mendez is financially rewarded. Imagine if Vancouver had not received the $ 13.5 million for Davies, which could become 22 million dollars before everything is said and done.
"I think the league will be more willing to move players if the opportunity arises.The best European clubs recognize that there is talent in the league, so it would be a good thing for everyone ", said Motzkin.
It's one thing to sell players to big European clubs, it's another thing for them to be impact players in these big clubs. But for the time being, we will remember the winter of 2019 when MLS realized that it was becoming more and more a selling league. This change bodes well for many upcoming transfer windows, especially with the launch by new teams from Miami, Nashville and Austin over the next two to three years.
Additional report by Chris Wondoloski