By FRANCO PANIZO
EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Count Jurgen Klinsmann among the people firmly in the corner of having a promotion-relegation system in the United States.
Klinsmann made comments that perked up plenty of ears on Thursday during his U.S. Men’s National Team pre-game press conference when asked if he thought that NASL is a lower level than MLS. The U.S. head coach refrained from directly saying that MLS is the top division despite U.S. Soccer categorizing it as such, stating that it was not up to him to give the leagues labels and that he wishes there was a true promotion-relegation system that could identify a superior league.
“I’m a deep believer in promotion-relegation systems,” said Klinsmann a day before the Americans face Ecuador in a friendly at Rentschler Field. “It’s not up to me saying there should be MLS, and there should be second division (that) is NASL, and there should be promotion-relegation.
“I just wish that we would have a system in place where all the young players and all the players in general know that there’s the next higher level and there’s a lower level (and think), ‘If I play a bad season, then that lower level is waiting for me. If I play a very, very good season then there’s the chance to go up and play at whatever you describe then as the highest level.'”
The topic of implementing a promotion-relegation system – which is used in much of the rest of the world – in the United States and Canada has been heavily discussed in recent months and years. There are plenty of people who support both sides. Some believe it is vital to implement the system to further player development in the U.S., while others point to MLS’s increasing success over its first 19 years as proof it is not necessary.
Klinsmann seems to be among the former.
“I’m not there to judge their work,” said Klinsmann. “I’m thrilled where MLS is today and within the last 20 years what’s happened is absolutely amazing. But from a national team perspective, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to connect the dots. We’re talking to the college coaches, I talk to NASL coaches, I talk to MLS coaches and I talk to all the different coaches overseas and see where all of our guys are.
“If I watch things half-a-year kind of closely – sometimes a bit closely, sometimes a bit more from distance – a little kid called (Miguel) Ibarra or a striker called (Christian) Ramirez, they’re playing in NASL then we watch them. I send the coaches out there – that’s why we have scouts out there – and have a look at that kid.”
Klinsmann did just that recently, calling in the 24-year-old Ibarra of NASL’s Minnesota United. The move was a extremely surprising one given that no U.S.-based professional player plying their trade outside of MLS had been summoned to the national team since 2005.
The 50-year-old manager, however, called up Ibarra in yet another move to leave no stone unturned when it comes to players who can potentially contribute to the American cause.
“Maybe there are a couple of other guys that just didn’t go through that (traditional) pathway. They didn’t go this pathway,” said Klinsmann. “Our job is to identify the talent, figure out how good he really is.
“We’ve got to weed a little bit where could he go (on) his path, what consequences does it have then he’s now with us for him personally, but also sending out that signal to all the other players out there saying, ‘You know what, we understand there are so many different directions because the soccer landscape is what it is. It’s so different to the rest of the world.'”
MLS has maintained recently that promotion-relegation is unlikely to happen in the near future, with one official even going as far as saying that it would never happen. But that has not discouraged some fans in American soccer circles from continuously making the argument that the system should be implemented, and now they have Klinsmann backing their sentiments as he searches for more talent in the U.S. player pool.
“It’s not up to me now saying that MLS is higher level than NASL because I’m not every weekend around either of those stadiums,” said Klinsmann. “What we’re doing more is we look at the players individually, so we’re looking at their path, how they come from their system and where they end up and how they impress then in their respective clubs.”
Will Klinsmann’s statements could have any influence on Don Garber and MLS? Think he sincerely questions whether MLS is the best league in the United States?
Share your thoughts below.