New England Revolution forward Adam Buksa has described MLS as a ‘launching pad’. As teams are increasingly understanding, this is the ideal sales pitch of the league to prospective new signings.
This offseason, the New England Revolution rounded out their three Designated Player slots. Having signed Carles Gil last offseason and then Gustavo Bou midway through the year, they added Polish centre-forward, Adam Buksa, to the mix this winter. They finally, it was believed, had a retooled attack that could rival the best in Major League Soccer.
They played just two games before the 2020 season was postponed due to the coronavirus. The Revolution lost to the Montreal Impact before drawing 1-1 with the Chicago Fire. Gil missed both matches through injury but Buksa got on the scoresheet in the latter, the first goal of his Revolution career.
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The 23-year-old came from the Polish first division, the Ekstraklasa. As he exited what would be considered his formative years and looked to find a springboard for his career ahead of his prime years, Buksa knew he needed to leave Polish football. He had to find a higher level of competition to improve his play and needed a league that more clubs paid closer attention to to advertise his game. He chose MLS.
“For me personally, comparing MLS to the Ekstraklasa, MLS is surely a better league,” Buksa told MLSsoccer.com. “Performing well in MLS brings bigger opportunities than performing well in Ekstraklasa. That’s my point of view. I’m sure that MLS is a launching pad. MLS has been changing throughout the years. There are many young, talented players here from all over the world. I’m sure European clubs keep watch on MLS.”
Describing the league as a ‘launching pad’ is the perfect way to describe how teams are beginning to sell themselves to prospective signings. This path — signing young and improving players, allowing them to shine in MLS for two or three years, attracting the eyes of European beholders, before then selling them on for significant profit — is what the league can master.
“We need to become more of a selling league,” commissioner Don Garber said famously in his State of the League Address in 2018. “We all need to get used to the fact that in the world of global soccer, players get sold.”
Garber raised the example of Alphonso Davies, who the Vancouver Whitecaps sold for $22 million to Bayern Munich after developing him through their youth ranks. But the logic extends to potential signings, too. The likes of Diego Rossi, Miguel Almiron, Pity Martinez and many others made the switch to MLS in search of the eventual European move, knowing that the league is closer watched by European clubs than its South American counterparts.
“I know there are Mexican players that definitely think about that in terms of European teams watching them,” new Sporting KC striker Alan Pulido told MLSsoccer.com following his club-record arrival this offseason. For him, Buksa, and others, MLS is a ‘launching pad’ for the rest of their careers. And their arrivals in the league, while only short-lived and somewhat temporary, help provide gravitas, pedigree, and raise the standard of competition.
MLS, then, must become a market, a shop window, a ‘launching pad’ for young players around the world who use the league to secure a move to a major European club. Buksa signed with New England precisely because of this. The more teams recognise it and exploit it, the better they and the league will become.