There was a time in the world of fútbol when interest from a European club meant an American player was long gone from whatever stateside team they were playing on at the time (other than King of American fútbol, Landon Donovan). However, over the last few years, as European legends, like David Beckham and Thierry Henry began signing with MLS for their last runs, and with Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley coming home as designated players, there seems to have been a bit of a shift in that thinking. Yesterday, two guys we got to know well at the World Cup, Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, spurned interest from the Premiere League and even the Bundesliga, and signed long-term extensions with their MLS squad, Sporting KC. That’s a huge coupe for Major League Soccer, and I’m glad the two decided to stay.
Zusi, a 27-year old midfielder from Longwood, Florida and Besler, a 27-year old defender from Overland Park, Kansas, will both become designated players with this deal, which was realistically the only way Sporting K.C. was going to keep the two. Both men were key cogs to the team’s MLS Cup championship last season, and then both made big impressions at the World Cup in Brazil last month. That led to speculation that the two were heading to Europe during the summer transfer season. The Besler chatter was especially hot, as rumors of as many as ten teams from all over Europe vying for his talents ran rampant across the dirt sheets. Sporting KC President Robb Heineman even admitted that the team would probably not be able to bring Besler back earlier this month.
Nobody would have blamed either player for crossing the Atlantic to make their bones in Europe. After all, that’s still where the best of the best competition plays. Jurgen Klinsmann himself said he prefers for his players to play in Europe for just that reason. Instead, the two decided to stick up for MLS and stay home–both through at least 2018. I think this is a great thing for the league, which is now showing that America’s best players want to play in America. It’s also a great move for Sporting KC, as they get to keep their championship team together (at least until the next collective bargaining agreement and when the team has to re-sign Benny Feilharber or Aurélien Collin). The move is also clearly great for Zusi and Besler especially, who will make millions from their respective contracts.
Said Zusi of the deal: “This is where I have always wanted to be. I have always respected players who have played their entire career with one team and I look forward to a long career in Kansas City.”
Besler, meanwhile, had his to say: “This is a dream come to true to know that I’ll be playing my whole career in Kansas City. A lot of factors went into this decision, but the ownership and the great fans played a huge part. Now, there is a responsibility to go forward to keep pushing this team farther and farther.”
Look out, people of Europe, Major League Soccer is ready to flex some muscle too.
Featured image courtesy of: Gary Rohman/MLS
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