Jürgen Klinsmann is not one to pull punches, partly due to spending his career in the very blunt world of German football where the media is not shy to say what they feel and most of the time neither are the players. Throw in the fact that Klinsmann has been managing in high profile positions for the better part of the last decade and his status allows him to say certain things that former USMNT managers, say Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena might not have.
That goes towards critiquing the United States domestic league as Klinsmann feels that if the USMNT is going to grow into a true contender that it’s players will have to play at an elite level with their clubs as after all players get most of their development through playing matches at a high level and training to maintain that high level of play.
In a Facebook message, Klinsmann addressed that the future USMNT players must play at a “World Cup” level of play more often if they want to improve. Indirectly suggesting that if the National Team is going to thrive and international players are going to remain in the domestic league, then the domestic league will have to get closer to the level of play that internationals for World Cup contenders get playing on teams in Europe.
Here is Klinsmann’s message:
We get benchmarked at the World Cup and there is definitely stuff we have to improve and get better in. It’s many things off the field and many things on the field. Playing at that kind of a tempo, at that kind of a rhythm every four days – this has to become the norm. So our job as coaches is how can we make it clear that in order to get further and further we need to add the work load, we need to add the competition level, we need to make them understand what recovery time means, what their life off the field plays a role in many things you can achieve in your career.
We have to continue to communicate that, to show them and especially start to implement that with our Under-17, Under-18, Under-20, Under-21, which will be the future Olympic team because that’s the next Generation that’s going to break in. The more we get that message to those kids, the more we will benefit a couple of years from now. When you go out in the Round of 16, clearly it gives you the message you have a lot of work still ahead of you.
After being outclassed for 120 minutes against a Belgium squad that had very little domestic players on the pitch, Klinsmann does have a point that if Major League Soccer is going to house the National Team’s players at the same time as Klinsmann attempts to build a contender on par with the world’s best that the quality of MLS play will have to increase in order to push those players as much as say Eden Hazard or Romelu Lukaku get pushed in the EPL.
Not every player on a World Cup contender plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world, but when you look at the rosters of the four remaining teams at the World Cup you won’t find many domestic players save for Germany who have the best domestic league of Brazil, Netherlands, and Argentina in the 2014 WC semifinalists. Playing for the brightest managerial minds in the sport and against some of the best clubs in the world being a common theme in most of the 44 players who will start in the semifinal matches, it is very hard to argue Klinsmann’s suggestion even if you are a diehard supporter of the league.
With the likes of Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey moving back to MLS play putting Klinsmann’s two most accomplished players back into the domestic league and many more promising youth players also playing in North America it is unsurprising that Klinsmann wants to see more quality play in the build up to Russia 2018. If MLS fans want to see the best and brightest of the country remain at home, the league’s quality of play must increase both in terms of talent as well as in tactics. Should that not happen expect to see more pressure on players from the National Team to move from playing for MLS clubs to jumping over to life in Europe, a potential necessary reality to improve the young players in the USMNT system even if fans of the league may not like to hear it.