With the close of the transfer window last week, we saw stars that shined at the FIFA World Cup sign with some big-name clubs. James Rodriguez from Colombia moved to Real Madrid from AS Monaco with Madrid spending around $108 million for the move. Luis Suarez moved to Barcelona FC despite the large suspension he was handed down for his biting incident during the 2014 tournament. These are just the major highlights, plenty of other players made transfers prior to the start of European leagues following a successful World Cup campaign.
Consequently, American soccer fans, and perhaps even US Men’s National Team (USMNT) head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, were probably hoping some of the stars from the US team this past summer would make transfers to more prestigious clubs as well. After surviving one of the toughest groups and advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup, many supporters of US Soccer were hoping that maybe standout players such as DeAndre Yedlin, Matt Besler, and Fabian Johnson would be offered better opportunities and make the next step up. Anyone hoping for the USMNT to advance further in the next World Cup naturally push for U.S. players to play at higher levels and improve once next World Cup cycle begins.
So exactly how many USMNT players from the 2014 squad found a change of scenery in the summer transfer window?
Of the 23 players on the World Cup roster, only five players have switched clubs. Timmy Chandler announced his transfer prior to the World Cup but after being brought on to the U.S roster. 19 year-old Julian Green was only loaned from German super club Bayern Munich while Jermaine Jones and DaMarcus Beasley both made their way to MLS clubs. Seattle Homegrown product DeAndre Yedlin will move to English club Tottenham following the conclusion of the 2014 MLS season. Not exactly what many U.S. fans had envisioned.
What pundits should keep in mind though is that the lack of transfer movement in U.S. soccer talent does not necessarily mean a lack of interest in U.S. players. Sporting Kansas City standouts Graham Zusi and Matt Besler decided to sign long-term contracts, making them Designated Players and increasing their salaries. They made conscious choices despite interest from abroad. Fabian Johnson is currently being touted as one of the strongest outside defenders in the German Bundesliga and surely received interest from other clubs.
Even if interest in U.S. players is not enough to prevent fans from citing a serious lack of value in the player pool, then surely a comparison of the transfers made after the 2010 World Cup cycle can help put things in perspective. Below is a chart of each of the USMNT players from the 2010 World Cup roster and when they made their transfers.
Only six players remained with their club between World Cup cycles, however, notice the transfer dates of the remaining players. Of the nine players who switched clubs either during the summer transfer window immediately following the World Cup or during the winter transfer window, only Brad Guzan, Clarence Goodson, and DaMarcus Beasley were seriously considered as viable options for the 2014 roster. The remaining players transferred not necessarily based on their excellent play at the 2010 World Cup as many U.S. fans had hoped.
Between the 2010 and 2014 World Cup cycles, the most important U.S. players that changed teams were Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Jozy Altidore. These three players changed teams more than once in a four year span. Dempsey’s move to Tottenham in 2012 made him the highest paid American soccer player at the time. Seattle Sounders paid $9 million for his transfer from Tottenham only one year later. After an unsuccessful stint in England, Michael Bradley signed with Italian club Chievo, followed by a transfer to Roma in July 2012 for $4.6 million. His play earned him a reported six-year, $40 million contract with MLS club Toronto FC. Toronto paid $10 million to Roma to acquire the U.S. standout. Jozy Altidore transferred to AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch league. His excellent play led to English club Sunderland paying a $13 million transfer fee to acquire Altidore in 2013, the most for an American player ever. The three most expensive and most important players for the USMNT did not make significant waves in the transfer market until long after anyone remembered their play in the 2010 World Cup.
This may confirm the fears of many U.S. soccer fans that American players are truly undervalued and have to prove themselves for a longer period of time before getting recognition. However, market factors dictate the true value of a player at any given point. It is also possible that the qualities that USMNT players have are not highly sought after by top teams in Europe.
American soccer fans can rest assured that U.S players still have transfer value. Only a few special players can get the sort of interest that James Rodriguez and Luis Suarez do after a World Cup cycle. Many great players will emerge and be transferred for large sums of money. In the meantime, U.S. fans should not hit the panic button yet. The big transfers for quality U.S. players have yet to come. But they will.