MLS vs. the Bundesliga: Will Prodigal Americans Return?

The MLS All-Stars beat a preseason, and understocked, Bayern Munich team yesterday 2-1 in a meaningless game. MLS is clearly not within spitting distance of Germany’s Bundesliga, but how far apart are they? I am a relatively new soccer fan, and the only league I religiously follow is MLS. Often I need to defend myself to the Eurosnobs who say I’m keeping to the shallows of the sport. Some may say I am silly for not indulging in a better vintage of the sport I’ve come to love, and I think they’re pretentious for supporting a team in a city and country they’ve never lived in. Regardless of your ideological position on this divide, it is true that only following MLS keeps you from knowing every American paying their rent playing soccer.

The world’s soccer leagues are full of Americans. But I rarely know or recognize any Yank over in Europe. When Jurgen Klinsmann collected 23 men to represent the United States in Brazil, a third of the roster was a mystery to me. If they don’t ply their trade on native soil, they are off the map. I was suspicious of the players Klinsmann rostered for Brazil, wondering how much better John Anthony Brooks or Julian Green were than our boys? But both German-Americans proved their mettle.

And after the revelation that was Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones (German-Americans whose accents don’t remind me of John Wayne), I was intrigued by those who chose to forgo a career in the States for the Bundesliga. Luckily, the German league’s official website recently published an article highlighting some Americans playing in Deutschland to keep an eye on”

An incredible 21 million people across the USA watched Jürgen Klinsmann’s side lose 2-1 to Belgium after extra-time, with stars such as Tom Hanks, Justin Timberlake, and even President Barack Obama watching on with interest. Despite the defeat, fans across the country found pride in the heroic display of the USA team, which included a number of Bundesliga regulars.

Fabian Johnson, Timothy Chandler, John Anthony Brooks and Julian Green aren’t the only Americans currently plying their trade in Germany’s top flight, however. bundesliga.com presents six players who could yet make a name for themselves in the Bundesliga in years to come…

Caleb Stanko: Born in Michigan, Stanko joined SC Freiburg from Vardar Soccer Club in 2010. After a three-month trial at the MAGE SOLAR Stadion, the defensive midfielder joined the club’s youth setup and quickly became accustomed to life in Germany. “It’s great here,” he said. “People’s lives in Freiburg are all about soccer. I really like that.” Now 20, Stanko is eyeing a place in the first team after reaching a half-century of appearances for the second string last term.

If MLS becomes a destination league by their stated goal of 2022, how many American-born players will return to MLS? In the near future, MLS should significantly raise the salary cap, as has been discussed and is expected, and we should see a lot more native sons back home. The best domestic leagues employ their athletes. And I’d like to see more players who sound like they grew up eating hot dogs, not frankfurters, returning to MLS.

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