NEW YORK, June 26, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — They make up the core of the defense, the midfield and the attack. Major League Soccer players comprise nearly half of the U.S. World Cup roster and occupy key positions in Jurgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup, front to back.
True to its intention, the birth of MLS in 1996 has led the United States from a country that didn’t qualify for the World Cup for 40 years before 1990, to one that has qualified for every World Cup since. Now, MLS has helped push the United States beyond the first stage of the World Cup in two consecutive trips for the first time in history.
“It’s hard to say where (the U.S. team) would be without (MLS),” former U.S. national team and MLS goalkeeper Tony Meola said. “I can say they wouldn’t be as good without players from MLS. They’re depending a lot on MLS players at this World Cup.”
Even among those who don’t play in MLS, most of them started out there.
Of the 23 players selected for the World Cup, 10 play in MLS, including defenders Matt Besler (Sporting KC) and Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), midfielders Graham Zusi (Sporting KC), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) and Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), and forward Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), who has half of the United States’ four goals.
Five other players — including starting goalkeeper Tim Howard and defender DaMarcus Beasley — began their careers in MLS.
And it’s not just the United States. Besides the 10 MLS players on the U.S. roster, 12 more are scattered throughout the rest of the 32-team World Cup field.
The 22 players are the most MLS has ever sent to the quadrennial world championship, ninth most among leagues in the world, and can be found on world powers such as Brazil (goalkeeper Julio Cesar, Toronto FC) and on surprises such as Costa Rica (Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis, Columbus Crew; Roy Miller, New York Red Bulls). And Australia’s Tim Cahill (New York Red Bulls) arguably had the goal of the tournament with his strike against the Netherlands.
It’s part of MLS’ strategy to become a “league of choice” — one which attracts the world’s elite players at the peak of their career. Last year MLS lured Dempsey, who played 2 1/2 seasons with the New England Revolution before moving to Europe, back to play at Seattle. Earlier this year, Michael Bradley, who also began his career in MLS, joined him by signing with Toronto.
Part of MLS’ plan is to keep its best players from leaving for the allure of Europe, explaining the efforts to re-sign Gonzalez, 25, Besler, 27; Zusi, 27 and Beckerman, 32, all within the last year and a half.
“During the last 12-to-18 months our owners made a significant investment to bring home key players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, and also re-sign players such as Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Kyle Beckerman and Omar Gonzalez,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “These players have formed the core of our national team that has inspired and excited an entire nation.”