With the USMNT formed around a core of the best group of young players that the country has ever had, a major factor can likely be identified as an increasing number of players opting to jump to European shores for their formative years.
USA International Antonee Robinson, who was born, raised and has played all of his soccer in England, recently spoke about this phenomenon and why he thinks it’s happening.
“Some of the most competitive leagues in the world are in Europe,” the American defender said, when asked about the migration of young player’s heading across the Atlantic Ocean.
“So that’s why a lot of the young, hungry players that we’ve got [on the USMNT], the talented players, they want to evolve to the next stage of their career and they want to break out from the MLS to go over to Europe.”
Just as many American soccer fans love to watch the best version of the beautiful game that the world has to offer, the players are also eager to reach that quality in their careers, even if it often means taking a risk in leaving a safe situation stateside.
“That’s the dream of every player, whether it’s to play in the Premier League or to play in the Champions League,” he continued. “That’s the sort of goals that these lads are setting when they leave the MLS to go to Europe.”
When the roster was announced for this new cycle of World Cup Qualifiers, 16 (as of now) of the player called were on the books of European teams with the most well-known names being Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig) and Sergino Dest (Barcelona). On top of that, even more Yanks have crossed the pond in this January transfer window, such as Kyle Duncan (KV Oostende), Daryl Dike (West Brom Albion) and Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), with several more likely to make the move in the last week of the transfer window.
Let’s face it; nearly all of our most prominent national team players are indeed plying their trade on the European continent and this trend will only continue to dominate, even with the increasing international profile and overall quality of MLS since its formation in the mid-1990s.
“That’s why we have such a talented squad that we do today,” Robinson insisted, in regards to this ever-increasing trend.
“Hopefully more lads end up developing, whether it’s in the MLS or they do go abroad to get that better development for themselves.”
It would be folly to think for even one moment that most of our young guns are not chomping at the bit to get their names onto a the team-sheet of a major European team, particularly with the current USMNT leaders showing that Americans can be valuable contributors on teams like Chelsea, Juventus and Barcelona.
Playing for a team in MLS can only bring a player’s development so far, especially when it comes to playing in a quick-paced game where time on the ball is not a given, and a momentary decision made at the moment of a one-touch pass is the difference between creating an opportunity and giving the ball away to the opposing team.
The USA cannot be the best that it can be if the players are held back from being the best. Young players moving to Europe to develop their game at an early stage has become the springboard for the national team’s upward trend, and Robinson summed it up, “And the team just keeps getting stronger and stronger.”