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Holden offered improved MLS contract as transfer window nears

Stuart Holden 2 (Reuters)


After enjoying a dream year for club and country, Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden is largely considered to be the next player in the U.S. pipeline to make the jump from MLS to Europe during the upcoming winter transfer window. But that potential move seems to be in jeopardy after MLS made an unexpected move.

According to reports out of Europe, Holden has been offered ten times his current salary by MLS, and could snub a move abroad to stay in the U.S. This report claims MLS commisioner Don Garber held talks with Holden last week in an effort to keep him from going to Europe.

"I was pretty flattered," Holden told the Evening Times. "It shows the commitment the MLS has in keeping me in the league. I know this decision is going to impact my career."

Holden is still considering overseas offers, and even though MLS has offered a raise, the MLS offer is still considerably less than what Holden could make in Europe. Scottish Premier League clubs Rangers and Aberdeen have been linked with the U.S. national team midfielder.

Holden enjoyed a career season with the Houston Dynamo in 2009, scoring six goals and assisting on three others in 26 league games. Holden also made his national team debut this year, playing in 12 games.

(SBI-So what's my take? While MLS is offering a major salary increase in MLS terms, it is still not a Designated Player salary, and closer to a max non-DP offer in the $320K-$400K range. While that is good money from an MLS standpoint, it is well below what Holden can make in Europe from teams that can offer olarge signing bonuses for a player who is effectively a free agent. I would still put Holden's chances of staying in MLS at slim.)

What do you think of Holden possibly staying in MLS? Think Holden will decide to play abroad anyway?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. He’s 24. If he wants to improve and have a significant career in Europe he should pack his bags right now. If he waits a couple of years he doesn’t get tougher games regularly and doesn’t develop further. He hits his MLS peak and goes to Europe at 27. He fights for playing time in Holland for few years (on loan in Belgium for season 2013-14)and makes a MLS comeback at 31.

    Your February 2014 Questions Answered 2/4

    Jeff: “Hey Ives, great site! Who should Klinsmann start next summer in Brazil?

    What’s Freddy Adu’s situation in Benfica? He hasn’t played since that friendly in 2011 but I feel he’s one of the most talented Americans. And why doesn’t Holden get PT at Genk? He was one of my favorites in MLS. When do we get relegation/promotion?

    Cheers, Jeff”

    Ives: “Well, first of all, Holden should have gone to Europe in January ’10 when he was offered a deal…

  2. Let’s look at the math:

    Earning potential in Europe: 500k – 700k USD
    500 x 3 .. 700 x 3 = 1.5 M .. 2.1M

    350 x 3 = 1.05 M

    Opportunity Cost: 500k to 1M

    He will lose 500k to 1M by staying in MLS for next 3 years.

    Would you be willing to lose that much knowing the impact?

  3. I think Stu could use another 2 years in MLS before making the move – so a 3 year deal with the 3rd year at his option (not the leagues) would be ideal. Plus, if he signs this deal, has a strong World Cup, then both he and MLS could make some serious cash in the summer transfer market!

  4. Make the money while you can, i.e., go to Europe now.

    Avoid SPL, cause you will get hurt and may have
    career-ending injuries.

    If you fail, you can always come back to MLS. e.g., Convey, Kirovski.

  5. He should go to a decent, 2nd tier Euro league where he gets time on the pitch and won’t be bludgeoned (NOT the SPL). Something like the Dutch or German or French 2nd div or 1st div lower table team. MLS is a dead-end for an up-and-comer like Holden (Lando should jet out ASAP and never look back, until the end of his career, ala Becks).

  6. EDB said in reply to EDB…

    oh and wait until the collective bargaining agreement is done

    Maybe the best post I have seen in this discussion. If the MLSPA decides to go on strike, he wouldn’t be getting playing time in MLS, would he?

  7. As a Dynamo fan I’d love to see Stu stay, but as a National Team fan I’d really like to see him go abroad and improve his game. He hasn’t outgrown MLS yet but I really want to see him reach his full potential.

    I’m quite certain that he’s got other offers other than just Scotland (he’s pretty much said that) and that he’ll only be leaving for a situation where he’s got a good shot to be playing significant minutes. I wonder if some sort of loan a la Donovan’s Everton deal would be a possibility? That would give him a chance to get some time and quality training then come back to MLS if things don’t work out.

  8. I definitely agree with your last point, but I’d reiterate that convincing guys to stay here will have a detrimental short term effect on the talent levels of MLS and the success of the MNT. I don’t envy the person who’s coach of the MNT during that transition.

    I think a lot of my circumspection as a sports fan comes from having grown up a fan of the Iowa State Cyclones. A successful season for the Clones was five wins a football season. Go bowling? Holy crap, the world is at your feet. Get into the NCAA tourney (apart from the Fizer/Tinsley golden years)? Commence celebrations.

  9. I think Aberdeen would be a terrible move. Granted, the money is better. But the quality of his team-mates and the competitation is hardly all that different from MLS. And the chances of him suffering career altering injury would be increased by orders of magnitute.

  10. Hey, I’ll give MLS credit for doing what they can to keep a good young player. We can’t always match what other leagues can offer but we can try our best. And at some point, some guys just want to leave for more lucrative and challenging pastures. At that point, what else can you do.

  11. That would be terrible.

    There is probably some Euro-lovers that are excited about it…”yay, now we can go to a single conference”…

    I thought the MLS was paying him huge money to avoid this?

  12. Garber is desperate to hold onto some quality for MLS. With salary cap, contract talks, and expansion all coming together for a perfect storm, Garber’s next moves or lack of moves could be a turning point for the MLS. Right now Garber’s running on expansion fumes while quality continues to drip away.

    Holden should refuse MLS for two reasons,
    1. Personal development (not to SPL though)
    2. Lack of commitment by MLS to improve league quality

  13. he should stay IF NOT I will take his gf away (GORGEOUS!!!)hahaha she is the daughter of our ex-US operations president for my company.

  14. Pachuca should not be mentioned with those two others teams.. they have competed in the fifa world club championship.

    take it easy!!!

  15. PR move to show people that are going to start at least “trying” to keep talent from skipping off to Europe at the first opportunity.

  16. I am well aware that 14 other teams lost, as my Sounders were one of them, being knocked out by Houston.

    That is quite the rivalry for only one year….

  17. And an easy riposte to this is that those clubs face a much more difficult task of qualifying for a World Cup than we do, as well as having much healthier leagues in close proximity that their players can go get experience in.

    I want to see MLS get better, and I dream of a MNT made up exclusively of MLS based world beaters, but that’s a LONG way off, and right now the easiest way for promising American talent to get better quick is to go abroad.

  18. Good to talk with you again Chris,

    It is definitely a difference between Europe and US. They did not win…anything.

    In England they would be considered a success. I have NO idea how they watch that league. Some of those teams haven’t won anything in 20 years+ and never will for another 20+ years either.

    Maybe in Holden’s case he might benefit the USMNT from joining Europe for a while, but for the long run of the USMNT they need to get players like him to stay in the US.

  19. Wow you are quite the fool. I don’t know much, but I do know this… There are a lot of European countries with whose entire national teams consist of guys not playing in MLS, who watching the World Cup on TV. If you got your head out of your Eurosnobb arse every once in a while you might notice that MLS is and has been producing some very nice players lately.

  20. To many comments to read for my time so I’ll just leave my own.

    While I’m glad MLS is “stepping up to the plate” to keep a quality young talent in the league, I just don’t see even DP money being enough to keep him hear. BUT, I think Holden’s smartest move is to take the MLS offer for a 1 year contract, dominate in MLS next spring so he gets a call up to the World Cup, have a steller World Cup, then he can make major money at a major club next campaign, and hopefully outside of Scotland.

  21. You are insane if you think Stuart is staying in the MLS unless he is getting paid significantly higher than what other clubs offer him period.

    His younger brother Euan, if you check his twitter, hes apparently signing with an english club… says he packed up his whole apartment in a day and got on a plane to England. Obviously you know what level Euan will most likely be playing at since he hasn’t grown as a player yet.

    He was with Stuart the night they got jumped… he may just be going back to England to find those guys since hes not 17 like he was when it happend. Just a very well thought out post that required no thinking at all, should mix in well with all the garbage people are posting about there really being a strong chance of him staying in the MLS. NO WAY IS IT HAPPENING.

    He’s looking at a club that hes going to get playing time on not just the best contract… thats the only argument for MLS… to be a safe environment for him to stay on pace for the WC team..

    THIS IS BIG MONEY TIME. If this wasn’t a WC year which requires playing time, whats the best team you think he could be a reserve on? Need to put on some muscle for that EPL

  22. I think this is a very shortsighted comment, and it’s one that bugs me more and more from US Soccer fans. I got this from Fire fans after I said I was pleased with this year’s season, despite Chicago not winning the cup. The Dynamo got to the Western Conference Finals and played an absolute cage fight of a game with LA, and they acquitted themselves well in CONCAChampions play. I’d say their season was very successful.

    Maybe it’s MLS parity that breeds this skewed notion of success in the States, or maybe it’s our sporting culture, but I don’t understand people who think that not winning the title every single year is a failure. I feel like this about players going abroad, too. Sure, playing at a mid-table Dutch team might not give Holden a chance to win trophies, but I do think that playing there will make him better. Michael Bradley grew by leaps and bounds when he went to Heerenveen, and he’s only getting better at ‘Gladbach. Sure, he’s not in a position to grab silverware, but he’s becoming a better player, which is making the MNT better.

    I’m open to the argument that paying American players enough to stay in the league will be better for US Soccer and the MNT in the long run, in fact I agree with it wholeheartedly. The knock on effect of that would be hurting the chances of the league and the MNT in the short run, which I’m not sure many people would be ok with.

    Is this the same Charles from MLS Talk?

  23. it is this simple. if you want the usmnt to be mediocre than feel free to hope that the most talented US players stay and ply their trade in the world’s minor league of soccer the MLS.

    if you want the usmnt to one day compete as a true top 10 nation in world soccer than you need to realize that will only be true when the ENTIRE roster of usmnt players are plying their trade as regular starters or stars at clubs of the Fulham level or higher.

    can the mls teams (and hopefully a strong academy programme and reserve league) be a good place for that young B+ talent that doesn’t get the chance to go straight to a european team’s academy as a youngster. yes, that is the hope. ideally should any of the 50 players in the usmnt player pool be plying their trade in MLS no. it would be like if spain, england, italy, etc had player in their team pools that plied their trade in FA League One or Serie C.

  24. He makes $34,000 a year or thereabouts.

    So $340,000 isn’t bad in MLS terms. Looking at the current salaries that would put him just outside the top 10 earners in the league.

    Still, Ives is completely right when he says Stu could make 2 or 3 times that at even a middling team (European wise) like Rangers or Aberdeen.

    Given that, it’s really not hard to see why so many guys go to Denmark or Norway or Sweden rather than MLS.

  25. JoeW, good point. He ould really become a leader for the fringe players and establish his case for the right winger, as well as prepare himself for South Africa. But I still think if he finds himself starting for 5 months, he’ll learn more than 3 months in MLS.

  26. I think this is too little, too late. MLS is losing out on this one with no transfer fee by letting him play out his original poor contract. He can make just as much money in Europe. He is in the drivers seat now. This is a desperate attempt to try and keep him. Stu is gonna head to Europe.

  27. It’s a World Cup year–that changes EVERYTHING. I’m not surprised that Holden appears to be staying “local.” In MLS he knows he can attend the January WC camp (which is CRITICAL for him). He knows he’ll have no problem being excused for any US camp or friendly (even if it’s not on an official FIFA date). With Donovan and Dempsey and Bradley not being quite so accessible, this is a golden opportunity for young Holden to see major minutes in the first half of 2010 in every US match. But if he goes overseas, he’ll have a manager who’ll release him only 2 days prior, he’ll miss the January camp (as likely will Donovan and anyone else moving to Europe even if only on loan), he’ll miss a couple of friendlies that aren’t on official FIFA dates, he won’t get to camp early and he’ll face pressure from his club manager about his absences and if he really wants to play for the club or not.

    In any other year, I think Holden would be going across the pond. But not this year.

  28. I assume by “lost” you mean didnt win MLS Cup. You do know that 14 other teams “lost” also right? Not to mention that had Hainult goal in the LA game not been called by the the Don then Houston probably would have “won”.

  29. Ives, I can’t reply to users comments, after hitting the link it comes up blank…

    Replying to KlinsiGrinsi:

    Donovan is good not because MLS made him good, but he was born that way. He would be twice as good if he was playing in Europe the last 5 years. MLS has talent in the starting XI that can compete with some European clubs in top flight leagues, but they don’t have the depth those clubs have. The Championship and SPL have more money than MLS, hence, better competition for the players.

    To those saying he’ll go to Rangers, they don’t have the money to buy anyone. They need to make money in the transfer window to avoid going into administration.

    He’ll get murdered if he goes there, but he was born in Scotland, so I assume that gives him a European passport? At least a UK passport?

  30. Not true at all. He absolutely would have to stay with Houston unless Houston agreed to trade his rights or waived him.

    When anyone says “league negotiations” that means with the Dynamo FO

  31. I think it’s been pretty well-established that mid-level European transfers are a wash at best. More of our promising players have gone to Europe and struck out than those who have come back better than ever.

    Also, our top performing European players (Dempsey, Howard, Bocanegra) were all well-established in MLS and/or the U.S. national team before going abroad. I don’t think Holden has obviously outgrown MLS, as Dempsey had, and he doesn’t even have a great offer from Europe anyway.

    Good luck to him either way he goes, but I think a young player is better off gaining confidence in a league and position he is comfortable in rather than going to a completely new country, learning a completely new system of soccer (ie how the teams work, how the game is played, etc).

  32. I’m glad that MLS has offered Holden a contract to stay in the league. But I still feel MLS needs to do away with owning and negotiating all the player deals. What would Holden really get in the open market in MLS? I’d love to see that. More money? Less money? Either way…let’s see it play out.

  33. No more Yanks at Rangers, indeed. Beasley and Edu go to Scotland and disappear, and we want Holden to go there too? Great idea. Not to mention that incident where Edu was racially abused on his way back to his car by a Rangers fan…

    He should stay with Houston, maybe 1 or 2 more years. Wait until he gets a better offer. He still needs to establish himself.

    Situation is much different than Landon. LD only has a few more good years left in him, while Holden has his whole career.

  34. I think this is true, however, I have heard him say on MANY occasions that he does not want to play for any team in MLS besides the Dynamo b.c. 1) he grew up in Houston and 2) has strong philanthropic ties to city. I can see MLS offering a 4 year deal worth 1.3+ million and trying to sale him in years 3 and 4 with 3 being the year they try and really make a beneficial sale and 4 being a lets get what we can get for him. I think this will resemble the situation with Kenny Cooper where they tried to really get a big price for a year and then ended up sending him for a reasonable price the following year.

    I just want to see Stuart wearing the orange again next year. With him this team is a credible threat to win again. Mulrooney steps in for Clark at DM and the team keeps on rolling.

  35. God, no more Yanks at Rangers! Please, no more Yanks at Rangers!

    England would be nice, a strong Dutch team would be nice. I’d love to see him with a club like Sunderland or AZ Alkmaar.

  36. good to see MLS stepping up….but let’s let Garber and gang sweat a little. Stuart should hold out for more money and the opportunity to play in a better league.

  37. Its great to see that MLS is ready to pony up some dough to keep him, but I’d much prefer to see him playing in Europe. I just don’t think that MLS constitutes the challenge that playing in Europe does, and the league won’t provide an environment in which his game will grow like it has the potential to.

    Someone else up there said they like him to go to the Dutch league. I’d be in favor of him going to a league like the Netherlands where he’ll get the European professional soccer environment, but he’ll still be getting game minutes. It will set him up nicely for a move to a bigger league in a couple of years.


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