When people think of the MLS, they think of a poor excuse for soccer. I’m sure after asking more than 15 people, some might not even know what it is. Cue the NASL.
“What is that?” , “What league is that?” , “There’s more than one league in America?”.
Not many people know about the NASL and not many people care to tune in every weekend to see who is playing, but is that a bad thing?
You here it all the time: the MLS is growing and American players need to play in the MLS to exercise their American right and create more visibility for the league. But here’s a crazy idea … the NASL and USL are where America’s next talents will come from.
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The league is fresh off their original appearance in 2011 and still growing (much like another league), but does that play any part in development and growth of players? Clint Dempsey once said it doesn’t matter where you play, as long as you are playing regularly and consistently.
Okay, the competition and pace of the game is not up to par with the MLS, but to put it simply, it is still a place where teams and players play. The argument for that is NASL teams have beaten MLS teams once or twice before in U.S. Open Cup play, much like the FA Cup in England.
Something to keep in mind is that Jurgen Klinsmann gave Miguel Ibarra a call up in 2014 when he resided with Minnesota United FC of the NASL.
Although it isn’t related to the MLS or USL in any way except for cup competition, the NASL can be compared to any second tier division in Europe. For example, three big countries that come to mind are England, Italy, and Germany. Their systems of relegation and promotion differ from the American style of league play, but the idea is there to run with.
I always thought to myself, that the Championship in England was the breeding ground for England’s youth and if you were lucky, as an international manager, you could watch a Championship game and potentially find a hidden gem to add to your squad. But a lot of managers don’t do that. A lot of managers get tunnel vision and focus solely on the EPL, Serie A, and/or Bundesliga.
If you want to go by the numbers, the NASL has around 120 American eligible players who could potentially be called up just like Ibarra. Granted, some of those players are goalkeepers or outfield players over 30, if they are in good form, why not call them up?
The point is, there is talent in those lower leagues and tiers, but the questions that come to mind are: are managers willing to spend their time trying to fit those “2nd tier” players into their system and will the risk pay off on game day?