The path to the national team
The following players are in Germany getting ready for tomorrow's match:
|Tim Howard||Manchester United|
|Kasey Keller||Borussia Moenchengladbach|
|Gregg Berhalter||Energie Cottbus|
|Carlos Bocanegra||Fulham FC|
|Steve Cherundolo||Hannover 96|
|Eddie Lewis||Leeds United|
|Oguchi Onyewu||Standard de Liege|
|Jonathan Spector||Charlton Athletic|
|DaMarcus Beasley||PSV Eindhoven|
|Bobby Convey||Reading FC|
|Clint Dempsey||New England Revolution|
|Landon Donovan||Los Angeles Galaxy|
|Chris Klein||Real Salt Lake|
|Pablo Mastroeni||Colorado Rapids|
|Kerry Zavagnin||Kansas City Wizards|
|Eddie Johnson||Kansas City Wizards|
|Brian McBride||Fulham FC|
|Taylor Twellman||New England Revolution|
|Josh Wolff||Kansas City Wizards|
After looking over this list I wondered, who here started out in a college soccer program? After that some more questions came up we'll discuss.
- Does playing in College get you onto the National Team? This is a tricky one. While 68% of this team did play at an American university at least one season, the guys who didn't are the young up and coming stars. The guys who did were playing competitive soccer before the US residency program was created and before MLS was picking kids out of high school. So that makes me think the recently developing residency program and MLS are taking the best of the youth crop and bringing them into the professional fold before college. This is true for Landon, DaMarcus, Convey and EJ. Oguchi Onyewu played a couple years at Clemson before making the leap to Europe, skipping US but he did start at the residency program. To answer the above, I think playing in college was a prereq for the National Team but only because it was the only route available at the time. MLS, European Youth teams and the US residency program are all taking these kids out of the college mix. Their development is happening at a quicker pace and they can get onto the national team at a younger age. If MLS expands their youth development system and the US National program grows, it could be the end of college soccer as we know it.
- Does playing in MLS get you onto the US National team? This one is a little more convincing as 74% of the above players have played in MLS. Unlike our last question it is the older guys who haven't played in MLS. Guys like Kasey Keller, Gregg Berhalter & Steve Cherundolo all saw better options across the pond after college. They all started on our shores and moved over. Spector and Onyewu made the same jump but they're in the minority. Since the start of the reign of Bruce as the National team manager, MLS players have gotten a real chance with the full team. MLS has broadened the player pool for the coach and I don't think we'd see the success on the world stage we have seen.
79% of the above list has played on various youth national teams so it certainly helps to get into the player pool early. If you don't, you're going to have to depend on MLS success as Eddie Lewis, Pablo Mastroeni & Chris Klein did.
Good luck to the Nats over in Germany tomorrow. This squad could give you a very good idea of who is going to be in Germany in a few months.