MLS

Arsene Wenger Is Right, MLS Is A “Retirement League”

On a positive note, MLS is in the periphery of Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger, but not because he is a fan of the league. No, Wenger believes that MLS should be reserved for players who are ready to be put out to pasture.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has been fighting for his league trying to convince the non-believers that it is a top-tier place to play soccer. But not only is Garber yet to convince US Men’s National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, it appears that he is losing the battle on an international front as well. 

On Tuesday Arsene Wenger said,

“You have two steps. Being completely at the top… After that, you have different leagues like the MLS and the Indian league. I encourage players to play as long as possible if they really love it.”

No one can be quite sure why Wenger chose to single out MLS along with the Indian League, but history shows that MLS has been a destination for many players in the eve of their careers. Besides the US internationals, MLS has yet to attract a star player in the high point of his career.

In the past handful of years MLS has grown its international footprint and has attracted players from all around the world. Two of the league’s top forwards, Dom Dwyer and Bradley Wright-Phillips are English internationals who are making their living in MLS while still young in their careers. But is this by choice?

Even with their success in MLS, neither player has moved the needle for team’s in their home nation. But I am sure that if given the opportunity, either would gladly make the move back to England. 

All three of the big name signings coming over to MLS next year are heading into the sunset of their playing careers. Frank Lampard, David Silva and Kaka will each join MLS clubs next season after long careers over in Europe.

The biggest European names to make the move to MLS, players like David Beckham, Thierry Henry, Jermaine Defoe, and Robbie Keane, all did so as their careers dwindled down. They all still had something to offer, but none were still playing on the same level they once had while in Europe.

For MLS to shed the stereotype of a “retirement” league, they need a world-class star to come over to the league during the prime of his career. Until the day when a non-US player picks an MLS club over a team in Europe who gives them an equal contract, MLS will continue to be known as a place for the old boys.

I would love to see MLS grow and someday compete with the top leagues in the world. But until a handful of players choose to make their living in the US while still at the top, the league will continue to be viewed as nothing more than a retirement community in the eyes of superior Europeans.