Latest transfer window shows MLS has growing global profile

Ricardo Pepi of Augsburg reacts during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Eintracht Frankfurt and FC Augsburg at WWK Arena in Augsburg, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreas Schaad)

Ricardo Pepi of Augsburg reacts during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Eintracht Frankfurt and FC Augsburg at WWK Arena in Augsburg, Germany, Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Andreas Schaad)


As the level of talent in Major League Soccer increases, so does the inevitable loss of young players to top clubs overseas.

For the fans, it may be disappointing, but it’s good for the league. Transfers can bring in a lot of money for MLS clubs, which can then be used to develop more players and attract new ones.

The international transfer windows that opened at the start of the year and closed on Monday for most European leagues have generated more fees for MLS clubs than ever before, the league reports.

Among the players moved were teenage phenom Ricardo Pepi, who left FC Dallas for Augsburg in the German Bundesliga with a transfer fee of $20m, and Orlando City’s Daryl Dike, who went to West Bromwich Albion for $9.5 million.

DC United winger Kevin Paredes has ordered $7.35 million from Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga, and New England goalkeeper Matt Turner is set to join Arsenal in the Premier League for an undisclosed fee this summer.

At the deadline, Atlanta homegrown George Bello was transferred to Arminia Bielefeld from the Bundesliga and Auston Trusty from Colorado was transferred to Arsenal – but he will remain on loan at the Rapids until July.

MLS’s contribution to the international market has grown in recent years as league teams foster domestic talent in their academies. Players like Pepi and Dike aren’t as rare as they once were – there are more international prospects waiting in the wings.

“We always want to retain and keep our best talent. This is always the #1 option for us. But we also recognize that we are in a global market, player transfers are part of the business and then, in order for us to continue to invest and continue to improve product quality, one aspect of that is revenue generation of transfer. said Todd Durbin, MLS executive vice president of competition and player relations.

The signing of Canadian Alphonso Davies by Bayern Munich in 2018 marked a change in the way MLS talents were viewed on the international stage.

At the time, MLS had a reputation as a destination league, with big names – albeit aging – like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney venturing to the United States to start or even conclude their careers. But commissioner Don Garber said MLS was moving away from that “buyers’ league” image with the rise of the league’s academy system.

In his annual state of the league at the MLS Cup championship in December, Garber said the idea now was to strike a balance.

“We are still buying more than we are selling, but we are reaching the point where we are able to create value for the players we invest in, the facilities that train them and become a league that is involved and engaged in the international market, no different than any other league. We are on track to achieve our goals on this front,” he said.

The league started the current trend by investing in academies and implementing the Hometown Player Rule in 2008, which allowed MLS teams to sign academy players directly to their first team without an attribution process.

Pepi, 19, is one of the local transfer window players. Named American Football Young Player of the Year, Pepi has also become a fixture on the national team as they seek to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar this year.

Bello, 20, is also a local player, while Dike, 21, went the college route, drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2020 Virginia draft. Turner, also currently with the national team, was not drafted.

Emerging MLS talent is also set to be boosted by the launch of MLS Next Pro, a developmental league that will link Major League Soccer’s youth academies with its top-flight squads. All 20 teams, all affiliated with MLS clubs except independent Rochester, begin play this year.

“We have a very vibrant and significant talent pool in this country,” Durbin said. “And, over the last four or five years, what you’re starting to see is kind of a collision between our ability to identify that talent, our ability to integrate that talent into a high-level development environment, and the ability to transition this talent from a high-level development environment into a professional environment.


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