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Why MLS Isn’t Ready To Develop The Next Great American Player

Christian Pulisic seems to be the name on the lips of every American soccer fan following his brace against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The young American soccer player is being described as a potential future great. Yet, for most USA fans, the likelihood of seeing Pulisic in action is slim to none — unless you’re planning on taking a trip abroad.

The 17-year-old recently became one of the youngest non-German players to score a goal in the German Bundesliga. While Pulisic took part in the U.S. Soccer Developmental Academy for upcoming players, he decided that his best chance for improving was to play abroad. Dortmund has a reputation for grooming fresh talent.

While Major League Soccer has tried to improve their talent development - and it’s come a long way - it’s still not up-to-par with more established clubs across the pond.

The Deeper Problem

Sending players abroad demonstrates a couple of things about U.S. soccer. First, it just doesn’t compare to playing for international clubs. MLS is a newbie with regards to the long history of the sport. While it’s trying to bring more well-known major players to its rosters, MLS doesn’t have the draw - or the talent - of the other big leagues around the world.

What keeps international players from joining MLS ranks? In the past, it was the bad rap that international stars gave to soccer in the states. MLS is starting to get some respect, but there are still some other barriers.

For one, we still don’t offer the advanced development opportunities necessary to groom new talent. In 2015, MLS made a requirement that clubs either have their own development team or partner with another USL club to develop talent. While it’s a start, success has been mixed. Some players have moved on to the MLS; many have moved out to international leagues.

Plus, no one can deny that MLS players are paid far less than their European counterparts. They’re even paid a lot less than other American sports.

This is on the player's side. What about the fans? American fans want to see fresh, young American talent in MLS. With soccer growing in popularity, the only way to keep that interest flourishing is by showcasing our home-grown American superstars. 

MLS needs to step up their developmental opportunities to ensure that we keep players like Pulisic playing in the U.S. from start to finish.

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