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Giovinco Euro 2016 omission shows MLS has a long way to go

Photo by Kevin Sousa/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by Kevin Sousa/USA TODAY Sports

Since the day he signed with Toronto FC, Sebastian Giovinco has been touted as Major League Soccer’s international posterboy. From moment one, the Italian proved that an in-his-prime star could consciously choose MLS. Giovinco’s decision appeared to be a game-changing one, a move that seemed to be the first step in shifting the focus towards younger international talent.

Now, just over a year into Giovinco’s on-the-field reign over MLS, it has become more apparent than ever that the league still has a way to go in the eyes of those across the Atlantic.

Despite providing 30 goals and 21 assists in his first 45 MLS contests, Giovinco’s name was not among Italy’s 30-man provisional roster ahead of Euro 2016. Like fellow MLS and Italy star Andrea Pirlo, Giovinco will now spend the summer at home instead of leading his nation into a premier tournament.

Pirlo’s absence was always expected. With younger midfield options at his disposal, Antonio Conte has moved on from the New York City FC star and into the next generation. Giovinco’s absence, however, is a message, one that states MLS domination isn’t good enough to warrant selection to one of Europe’s premier national teams.

Giovinco’s MLS tenure has provided just that: domination. The forward is almost universally regarded as the league’s premier attraction and, at just 29-years-old, Giovinco is currently at the peak of his powers. However, that domination wasn’t enough to justify selection to a national team very much in transition at the forward position.

To Conte’s credit, Giovinco has never truly been prolific with the national team. The diminutive forward has netted just one goal in 29 international appearances. However, when called to the team for October’s qualifying run, Giovinco played a part in both goals as Italy topped Norway to qualify for Euro 2016 atop their group.

The future Chelsea manager knows Giovinco well dating back to the duo’s time at Juventus. Yet, it wasn’t enough to earn the forward a spot in favor of several other options around the same age.

Instead of Giovinco, Conte has opted for a series of forward options currently settled in Europe’s top leagues. Despite not being a regular at Juventus, Simone Zaza made the cut with five goals in 19 games this season. Brazilian forward Eder made the roster despite scoring just one goal throughout an 11-game loan stint with Inter Milan. Southampton’s Graziano Pelle and Borussia Dortmund’s Ciro Immobile round out the forward options as two of just seven non-Serie A players named to Conte’s preliminary roster.

Conte’s selections send a message, one that resonates loud and clear: MLS domination is not worth as much as merely playing in Italy’s top flight. Loads and loads of goals of assists only count in Europe, while North American successes remain too far off the map to register.

MLS is not at the level of Serie A, and it may never be. For years, the Italian program has shown a bias towards its own domestic league, once easily regarded as the best in the world. Still, with no forward options in form quite like Giovinco, Italy still sees MLS as too far outside of its comfort zone to justify a roster spot.

It’s not all doom and gloom for MLS though. Laurent Ciman’s selection to Belgium’s squad was a positive sign, but any goodwill was immediately be demolished with Giovinco’s omission. One of the league’s biggest stars will not be playing international soccer this summer for reasons outside of his current control.

For MLS, there’s still a ways to go. The league has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, a fact exemplified by the signing of Giovinco in the first place. However, the next step will come in keeping players like Giovinco in the European eye.

MLS will hope to sign more Giovinco-like athletes in the coming years in an effort to further legitimize themselves in Europe and around the world. However, the message has now been sent that those signings may be coming at the expense of their national team career, as Monday’s announcement shows that MLS still lags far behind in the minds of Europe’s elite.

Comments

  1. I don’t think it is very meaningful or necessary to try to predict what MLS “…may never be.” In the short term, I agree, but in the long term, no one knows.

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  2. Is Giovinco’s omission a reflection of MLS’s actual talent level or is it an indication of the european perception of MLS’s talent level?

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  3. Yeah I don’t think you can draw such a grand conclusion from a single player being excluded by a single coach. And the more I think and read about it, the more I doubt the “American bias in Europe”. It may be more difficult for American players to break in in Europe, but I’m not sure it’s because all the managers have a negative view of American players.

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  4. If the National Team manager doesn’t believe in the quality produced by MLS, then why should any one else unaffiliated with MLS so do?

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    • ASP,

      That is frankly an inane and ignorant statement that dies nothing but be try your own biases. Both as a percentage and raw number, JK has called up more MLS based players than either one of his two predecessors. According to the anonymous survey of MLS players, roughly 2/3 believe that JK gives MLS based players a fair shot or shows no bias against MLS based players. Does he have biased towards and against certain players. Yes, but so that every coach I knew for 2 decades and even professional coach for that matter. Does he encourage players to go abroad and play in better leagues? Yes, bit so did admittedly both of his predecessors. In fact, based on what some former players stated, encouragement to do so was far more direct.

      You are allowed to not like him, but you are not allowed to just make things up.

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  5. Dunga’s failure to call in Thiago Silva and David Luiz demonstrates that the French league still has a long way to go. Dunga’s failure to call in Marcelo demonstrates that La Liga just doesn’t get the love yet. Wait, you mean there might be other reasons that good players aren’t called up to a national team? Paging Landon Donovan…

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    • Donovan produced nothing in MLS the year he was not called up until AFTER he was snubbed. Why are you comparing Luiz and Silva to Gio? These are no analogous situations. MLS is not respected is all and there is no spinning it.

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      • People on SBI were attempting to re-create facts back in 2014. Two years later, I wouldn’t be surprised if people actually believe the misinformation now instead of the reality you just accurately recalled.

      • I am not suggesting that Donovan deserved a call up then, though there is certainly a reasonable argument for him. In fact, I have consistenly defended JK’s decision to exclude him. But I am here suggesting that JK’s decision was not entirely due to the state of Donovan’s play at the time, that other factors play a part. Hence the comparison to Marcelo, Luiz, etc.

  6. I understand it’s MLS and the competition level is questioned, but the performanes Giovinco has put together would translate to almost any league.

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  7. Giovinco’s omission from the Azzurri is anecdotal at best. You can’t draw broad conclusions about the league as a whole based on one coach’s decision to exclude one player. Is he the top performing and most consistent offensive player in MLS? sure. But It was only a few months ago, in the fall of 2015 I believe, that SBI was touting Giovinco’s call-up to the national squad as proof that MLS was finally being recognized internationally.

    “Laurent Ciman’s selection to Belgium’s squad was a positive sign, but any goodwill was immediately be demolished with Giovinco’s omission”… Come on, dude, it’s not that bad. MLS’ profile is rising.

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    • It’s worth noting that Belgium is better than Italy and one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the world, so Ciman’s selection may say more than Giovinco’s omission. All you can conclude for sure is that Conte isn’t impressed enough with Giovinco.

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  8. I didnt take this level algebra in highschool but I dont think putting Giovinco at either side of this equation solves for X

    Wonder if Conte knows he is responsible for the perception of 742.5 million people?!?!

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    • No way! Are you kidding. Let’s be honest, Giovinco was and has generally been on the periphery of the Azzurri. He has never been a regular. This is just an indictment of the trouble US has developing dynamic attacking players and (more specifically) the issues MLS has in attracting and retaining those types of players.

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  9. Giovinco wasnt an Italy regular before coming to MLS, so it’s not like the MLS move alone is keeping him out. It would be different if he had been a long running consistent team member and then was left out.

    Reply

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