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Donovan calls signing a “tipping point” for MLS and USMNT

DonovanHonduras (Getty)


When the Los Angeles Galaxy announced on Wednesday that they had signed Landon Donovan to a new long-term contract, it not only sent a message to the world of the financial power of Major League Soccer, but it also sent a message to members of the U.S. Men’s National Team that MLS is a plausible option.

The 2013 calendar year has been a crucial and successful one for MLS, in terms of keeping their American talent while reeling in foreign-based stars. In the last eight months alone, Sporting KC and USMNT starters Matt Besler and Graham Zusi have signed multi-year contract extensions with their club, while the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez two-weeks ago became the first American to earn a designated player contract.

Add to that the additions this summer of Clint Dempsey, Clarence Goodson, and USMNT pool players Carlos Bocanegra and Charlie Davies and you have a league that high-profile American players want to continue their careers in.

“I think it’s a fantastic statement by our league and by our players,” Donovan said during his contract-signing press conference on Wednesday. “I think it’s a tipping point and I think you’re seeing things change. All my career I’ve been here (in MLS) and it’s helped me and enabled me to play well with the national team.”

Added Donovan: “When you have a guy like Clint Dempsey with all that he’s done, the player that he is, wanting to be in our league, it makes a big statement. When you have a young defender who has a plethora of options, and Omar (Gonzalez) wants to stay here, it makes a big statement.”

Despite enduring plenty of criticism throughout his career, Donovan has remained in the league every year since he made his debut for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2001, and he has no qualms with his decision based on how his career has played out. And although he had a number of overseas options, Donovan made clear during the press conference that he was more than happy to remain with the Galaxy.

“For all the people who are so excited to talk about Europe and playing in Europe, there’s a handful of players that go to Europe and never play or go to Europe and their careers don’t go as well as players in the states,” Donovan said.

Donovan figures to be in the squad for the next batch of World Cup qualifiers, where he’ll likely join MLS players like Zusi, Besler, Gonzalez, Dempsey, and Goodson in the U.S. squad to face Costa Rica and Mexico.

As MLS continues to strive towards being one of the best leagues in the world by 2022, the fact that a large chunk of the contributors play week in and week out back home is a sign that they’re moving in the right direction.

“This league has improved every year I’ve been here,” Donovan said. “When you watch games in our league now, they’re real soccer games. You see many comments from players who come from Europe and say ‘Wow, I didn’t realize how hard this league is, I didn’t realize how good this league is, I didn’t realize how talented the players are in this league’.

“We’re trying to build that and I’m proud to be a part of it.”


  1. MLS lookin good.. I would be more concerned if we didn’t have JK as our backstop and a guy who can set off the alarm if national quality looks to be downturning…but, rather, it seems to be on an upswing, and with a lot of MLSers.

  2. I think the salary structure will limit MLS until they increase the financial rewards for the 23rd guy on the roster. MLS has avoided being dominated by one or two teams by (more-or-less) limiting what the players can earn so a couple rich teams cannot simply destroy all competition. I think at some point, MLS will have to increase salaries for not just the top-earners, but for all, and eventually become more like the NFlL, MLB, and NBA with teams controlling their own salary structure (and probably with a salary cap, but a much higher one than is the case at present).

  3. So much negativity in this thread. I love the Champions League, Bundesliga (Eintracht Frankfurt), and MLS (LA Galaxy). When I look at the LA Galaxy and the younger home grown players signed and playing on the roster right now I see a good mix of youth and veteran players that will be around the next 3 years or so. The LA Galaxy have players in place to create a dynasty in the next 3 years. Should the LA Galaxy manage to keep 80% of the roster intact every year you will see a VERY GOOD team. 20% wiggle room for DP or trades. However, I see Bruce Arena playing the same empty bucket formation with no playmaker. I’d like to see Bruce retire and go fishing. I’d like to see the LA Galaxy get a more progressive minded coach similar to Caleb Porter. Secretly I have been following the Portland Timbers too. I love to watch that team play.

    • no playmaker? watch what the Galaxy do, it’s definitely not that. what’s your opinion on how the team has adjusted to life after Beckham? after Magee? the team plays quite differently now eh? still the same old 4-4-2, but it’s different

      what are Portland’s tactics when they play on the road under Porter? you thought the game in Seattle on Sunday night was a good game?

  4. I know this is a Donovan thread but Freddy Adu got his first start in Brazil for Bahia in the return leg of their Round of 16 Copa Sudamericana clash. Positive Reviews so I can smile a little more. 🙂

  5. The problem isn’t Eurosnobbery, it’s MLSnobs…if somebody wants to support NASL because they are actually thinking and doing things differently, then it’s their choice.

  6. MLS is making strides, but let’s be clear about what these players have chosen. All three have chosen to play where they won’t be fighting for playing time in advance of a World Cup. Two of them have chosen to solidify their place on the American professional scene — in MLS — as they begin planning for retirement, in much the way Keller did, and Reyna attempted.

    It’s neat — and new — for American fans to see our best players on a regular basis, but it doesn’t mean that the league or American players have arrived at the top level. If Spurs were playing Champions League and coveted Dempsey as a key starter, he’d still be there — because the glory and the money would be irresistible. Ditto for Donovan. MS has proven that it can serve to raise the level of the USA and other CONCACAF teams, but that is still a long way from being the kind of place where talents like Altidore and Dempsey and Chicharito can develop into near world-class talents

    • so what about Besler, Zusi and Gonzo for example…what did they choose? Like what El Paso tx says? I don’t think so. They are choosing to build our domestic league I give them a ton of credit for it.

      • Don’t be so sure on the younger ones, I bet they just wanted to make sure they are getting playing time before WC. Let’s see where they are after the WC.

      • sure, and I think we’ll see all 3 try it over there in time, but preparing for the WC and supporting MLS are not necessarily mutually exclusive

  7. Donovan Donovan Donovan………. What can we do with u. MLS teams can barely win against ligaMX teams and most of American players or MLS players RATHER stay in MLS due to high COMPETITION from players all over the world in European leagues. American players are barely starting to grow in Europe, just like mexicos and Colombians and Donovan rather say this and kill our American players confidence…… sad.
    For example, Dempsey sounded like a wussy saying European players don’t get along with American players in the practice field and that one was one of his reasons, besides his family.
    So now it’s up to altidore to teach Donovan and Dempsey how to make it in Europe, besides Howard.
    Another question, so will joe corona, Hercules, chandler, Howard, Torres will listen to Donovan’s wonderful wisdom words of MLS and come to America.

    • sounded like a wussy? Ha! I like his guts calling them out. A wussy would pretend it wasn’t that way and bend over and take it. Instead he overcame every year and stuck it up their collective a$$es

      seems much more wussy to hide behind a computer and call people wussy

    • nobody ever talks about the financial crisis in europe. the way some of these teams spend is unsustainable.

      you want a real tipping point its Salary caps in europe

  8. to be honest MLS won’t be taken seriously as a league until it dismantles this single entity farce, allows club autonomy, free agency, and dumps the MLS Draft (lol). Then get rid of the salary cap that is designed to weaken quality all in the name of fairness. Put in financial restraints that allow clubs to reach their potential while not harming quality (something similar to FFP). Allow clubs to sign their academy players to whatever contract they choose (so they don’t get poached from other leagues) And finally separate the MLS Cup from the regular season title and go to one league table. Everything I’ve listed the majority of American soccer fans want in this country.

    until that happens I’ll be watching European soccer on the weekends and avoiding MLS at all costs.

    • Jack… I have to tell you… for a guy avoiding MLS at all costs….. you sure do read a lot of articles and post heaps of comments about the league.

      • i come to this site because of its comprehensive coverage of football. The national team and the NASL specifically.

      • Coming to this site is a good choice, I think it is one of the best. Just seems curious that you have then read and commented on multiple articles about the league that you say you avoid at all costs…. that’s all.

        OK… I suppose that you seem to rate NASL above MLS is a bit puzzling too, but I’m glad you are at least willing to support that domestic league. MLS is far from perfect, and even they acknowledge they still have lots of work to do. Hard to deny they have made significant progress in a short period of time.

    • MLS is here, and an important piece of football in America, so I’ll be taking it seriously and investing in it. I can pay attention to several leagues, and competitions at once, and don’t feel the need to ignore the local pro team because they aren’t MUFC.

    • You’re so wrong. Quit thinking of the MLS in terms of a soccer league and start thinking of it a major American sports league. MLS doesn’t compete with the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, etc. It competes with the NFL, MLB, and NBA. American sports revolves around TV. The league will grow to 32 teams because you need more games to offer 3 or 4 time slots with flexible programming. As for the salary cap, it doesn’t matter. Once MLS figures out TV, it will be the richest league in the world because TV contracts here dwarf TV contracts in the rest of the world.

      • I thinks it’s more “when TV figures out the MLS” & I think you are right. The MLS is competing not with Europe and their leagues, but with the NFL MLB, and the NBA.

        The Donovan signing is good fro the MLS and good for US Soccer in general. The MLS is fast closing the gap and soon, you will not have to go to Europe to improve your game or to make more money.

        But while the MLS now can afford to keep their best players, thanks to the DP rule, The next big thing, the next big leap and as some have said the” MLS 2.0″ does not come with the DP rule, it comes with Television.

        The EPL is arguably considered the most competitive in the world, and there is a lot of argument as to whether it is the best, but it is the RICHEST and it’s due to the generous TV rights paid to the EPL from not only the UK but around the world.

        It bothers me that NBC paid over 200 million for the rights to the EPL season and the MLS gets about 40-50 M for its rights. But you only need to look at the talent comparisons to see the disparity.

        The MLS is taking the right steps, You need American stars for American Television, and you need those stars and excitement to sustain US TV viewership. With increased viewership come greater TV rights fees and more money for the teams and, of course, with extra money comes even better players.

        The EPL may have the biggest rights fees for football in the world, but the US has the biggest and richest TV market in the world. The MLS is hoping to tap into that market and reap those big bucks and the signing the likes of Beckham and Henry and now Dempsey and Donovan are keys to doing just that.

        It may, to the football purest in us, be better to see a Donovan or Dempsey play in the EPL or La Liga, as we all know they are capable of fine play and even stardom. But the bigger picture for US Soccer and it’s success, idoes not lie in Europe , but here on TV and the stadiums in Seattle, LA , KC and Chicago. and the current and future teams and their stars that will make US soccer grow..

    • troll harder buddy. BTW, plenty of leagues out there that have play-offs or finals of some sort, but yes, Europe knows best. Go check how much money most of those teams make.

    • Jack, you could not be more wrong, especially about the salary cap, but also the single-entity thing. Other leagues actually are trying to come up with a way towards the MLS model…to control costs, to ensure that they won’t lose a fortune and to give each team a shot at glory..and even to ensure each teams slot in the top flight.

    • Definitely wouldn’t say “everything you’ve listed the majority of American fans want…”
      #1. The majority of American fans want a Team that represents their city. Just like any other sport. So my guess is you don’t have a team in your city?
      Single entity is not a farce. In fact, without this single entity business, you would not have seen great World Cup runs like in 2002 and 2010, and probably would have missed a few entirely, because this league would not have existed. Is it the long term plan? No. It will and is slowly fading.
      Yes, free agency needs to be implemented and the draft should go, soon. But there is nothing wrong with the salary cap. And playoffs are awesome, always. You can’t tell me the Champions League isn’t the most exciting? The English Championship playoff is awesome as well. Without playoffs, why would anyone watch their team sitting at 5th overall or worse from about August on? Only reason the Euro’s do it is because they’ve done it for 100+ years and their team is part of the city (also note: they have no other real team sports to draw their attention from their mediocre team). Certainly, it’s not wise for business. For those who say the best teams don’t always win: True, somewhat. But you don’t think Barca, Madrid, United, and Bayern aren’t the best clubs in the world? They continuously win the Champions League in playoff format.
      And how about the World Cup? Should we just have 32 teams play each team twice and whoever has the most points at the end wins? Boring.
      And I’m sure when you say you’d rather European soccer that your probably not talking about Fulham, Wolfsburg, Celta Vigo, or Udinese…and certainly not after Feb/March, unless there’s an American on the team or you have some tie to them.
      But keep on thinking the MLS isn’t taken seriously. There’s 18k plus in almost every stadium every weekend and it’s growing. I was once you…

    • Jack, I hate everything about MLS you just mentioned too..

      but inside the lines its the best club soccer this country has ever seen.. and for that im in.

      hopefully over the years it gets bigger and stronger and moves in the direction we all want it to be

    • Jack, I have no idea how much you watch MLS, but I watch it A LOT. That being said, I think you are correct that the league will need a different structure to become the NHL (for example) of Soccer. I think a lot of your ideas of merit. Now, if you don’t watch MLS, then pick a team, follow it, and become a fan. The league and USA soccer needs you. If your problem is that there are not enough games on TV, don’t worry about it. I watch the mini versions of games on all the time. You can easily follow any team on the site.It’s much easier than finding EPL highlights. =)

      • i was perhaps a bit hyperbolic. If i did live near an MLS team i would follow that team.

        I’m a fan of NASL though and i do support my local club.

        Just tired of being called a euro snob every time i say we need to get rid of single entity and allow free agency.

      • Jack,

        I’m a season ticket holder for the Galaxy but if I were in your shoes, without an MLS team nearby, I would watch the Sounders or the Timbers. Even before Duece showed up that was a quality venue to watch the game. I long for the day when stubhub has the 90 minute passion in every seat in the stadium for even the most meaningless games. I love my Gals but I watch every game I can that is in Seattle or Portland.

      • a couple of other suggestions would be to check out the Impact in Montreal, they have it going on up there, and KC at home too

    • That’s nothing but bull, if it was true England would win the World Cup more then once as they have the best league in the world. The majority of fans don’t want that, we love playoffs, it’s the true test of a champion. The World Cup is a playoff and it’s open to upsets which make it compelling.

  9. I will take MLS seriously when they dominate in the CONCACAF champions league and get rid of Chivas USA. Until then MLS and these websites can say whatever they want. The fact remains that MLS is a C level league at best.

    • I agree with the first sentence.

      Totally unrelated–what are the terms of the contract? HOW MUCH IS HE GETTING PAID, BIT*H? I wanna know if Dempsey or Donovan got a bigger contract.

    • Euro-snobbery at its best. I wonder how many of you have been to an actual “top flight” match. As a dual citizen i have spent plenty of time in Portugal and Europe, and hate to burst your bubble, outside of the large teams ( Exception being Bundesliga and EPL) all those “A” leagues look pretty crummy up close. Go watch a game between Osasuna and one of the other teams not named Barcelona and Madrid, and the stadium will be less then a quarter full, and the match will be hard to find televised. Go watch a match between Setubal and Naval in the Portuguese league, the turf will have the quality of a middle school field and the stadium lights will go out repeatedly, at best their might be 3000 fans there. I know because i have experienced it. I would rather judge a league top to bottom, then pretend that Barca and Madrid are good enough to forget how “amateurish” the rest of the league is run.

      • not true. it depends. there are stinkers and great games, like any league. biggest issue to me is when so many guys get called to their national teams, the league doesn’t yet have the depth to mitigate that effect

      • I was at the opening home Game for DC United against the LA Galaxy in 1996. I was grateful to have professional soccer in the US. Many were saying the league wouldn’t last and it was a real concern. I was lucky enough to see Donovan Play with San Jose during his years there. Now I live in Oregon and get to see live games in Portland. It is truly amazing how far the league and the fans have come. I think MLS is starting a new chapter and will continue to impress me in the years to come.

    • Agreed. the scheduling is an issue, and our region is corrupt and a joke, but remember the Galaxy won the CONCACAF Champions Cup in 2000, and so did DC United a couple years before that. How much does the average LigaMX team spend on their salaries vs. average MLS team? but I still agree with you, the real tipping point will be to win it again. LigaMX has dominated

    • Yeah, Jurgen clearly doesn’t rate MLS players…

      Zusi, Besler, Gonzalez, Evans, Davis, Beckerman, EJ, Donovan… No place for those guys in Jurgen’s team…

      Would you rather these guys end up abroad riding the pine or playing out of position (see Ream, Timothy)? It’s a World Cup year. Everyone needs to be playing and contributing at club level, regardless of geographic location. Next year is a better time for the younger guys to test the waters.

      • Great post.

        And don’t forget Dempsey, Goodson and Rimando in MLS and Parkhurst being invisible in Germany.

        Close to half of the WC squad next summer may be from MLS.

        Shame that some are still blind to the leagues growth automatically assuming anything in Europe is better no matter the situation.

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