A report has come out linking Mexican international Javier Hernandez with a move to MLS when his contract with German side Bayer Leverkusen expires in 2018. MLS teams have been linked with the former Manchester United and Real Madrid man in past, but with the striker approaching 30, its becoming more of a plausible undertaking. However, the report has also linked the Mexican with a salary of $9 million per year, an astronomical salary for an MLS player. While the prospect of a move excites many involved in the league as fans and as executives, but it also signals a continued practice of no change in the league.
The MLS and the USMNT need to have a stronger connection. The MLS over the past 20 seasons has continually looked to sign older players from Europe who generally aren’t cutting it at the highest level anymore. While Chicharito could arguably not fit this mold as the forward has refound his form with Leverkusen and is scoring again, but it doesn’t solve the inherent problems in MLS.
MLS teams have put their money towards older, “washed up” players, or really even just foreign players at all, rather than focusing their typically limited funds on young Americans with high potential. Take a look at the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Whitecaps are by no means the only team guilty of this, but are indeed an example. According to the Players’ Union in 2015, Pedro Morales was guaranteed $1,410,900. While Morales is a decent player, the gap in salaries is incredible. Kekuta Manneh and Tim Parker are two of the most promising young players in the league, but are making substantially less than Morales. Manneh is guaranteed $112,000, while Parker was guaranteed $78,750. Of course, as with any profession, experience and quality will always play a large factor in salaries. However, in a league that is infamous for seeing its young players leave for Europe, we need to see more of this money going to players with potential- not only to improve the league, but to improve U.S. Soccer as a whole and the national team.
As long as the MLS’ best prospects leave for Europe, the league will never reach the levels of its foreign counterparts. We need to keep our best young players here, where other young players will play against them. This competition will help the league build a stronger base of American players. If the U.S. continues to be known as a country that fails to consistently produce high quality soccer players, the MLS will continue to be an inferior league. We need to put our money into the Christian Pulisics and Bobby Woods, not the Chicharitos, Gerrards, and Ashley Coles (or even the Moraleses and Kennedy Igboananikes). Keep the best young Americans here, not replace them with washed up greats and average foreign nobodies.
Could Little Pea come to MLS? Probably. But we hope not.