July 03, 2014
Does The Successful Economics Of MLS Portend Doom For The USMNT?
Posted by David Zaring

After the US exited the World Cup, many of the wrapups have evinced optimism about the future of the team. Here's one reason why not: our best players - Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey - have found that they can make more money as designated players in MLS than they can in the European leagues.  Indeed, MLS has been actively pursuing the best American stars with big paydays.  Perhaps for this reason, the national team has more MLS players now than it did in the last World Cup.  As the league gets stable, there's some risk that American stars will have to choose between getting guaranteed starts in a country they know well for the same kind of money they would make in a foreign land where they might not prosper.  For the leading soccer leagues - England, Germany, Italy, Spain - the interest in national team players staying at home is not so important for the health of the national team, as those players that do stay home (and this includes the vast majority of them) face elite competition when they play for their native clubs.  For countries with only okay, but well-heeled leagues - Mexico, Russia, and now, maybe, the United States - the fact that the best players can make the best money if they stay at home arguably retards progression, rather than encouraging it.

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