After starring for a World Cup team which brought American interest in soccer to an all-time high, Landon Donovan has been the center of a debate it seems everybody has a vested interest in - should he stay with his MLS club team, the LA Galaxy, or should he move permanently to the English Premier League?
For those who want the MLS to hold on to its most bankable star, Donovan's interview during the MLS all-star game on Wednesday was less than reassuring. Later that evening, he even more explicitly stated his interest in transferring.
We have had transfer interest and we will have some time to think about it and see where it goes. There is interest from a number of teams.
The conventional wisdom is that American players playing in the top European leagues is a good thing. But I'm not so sure.
In the short term, yes, Landon Donovan may develop his talents better between now and Brazil 2014 by playing for Everton. But in the long run, doesn't the credibility of American soccer take a hit if we're just flat-out admitting that we can't develop talent in MLS? Is it possible that the good Donovan could do as an ambassador for the sport in the United States over the next four years outweighs the theory that he won't develop properly in MLS?
As much as its detractors would like you to believe otherwise, it's not as though MLS is completely laughable. Clubs like the Dynamo, Chicago Fire and New England Revolution have represented themselves very well playing against clubs from the Mexican Primera División in the SuperLiga. And while Wednesday's MLS all-star beatdown at the hands of Man U doesn't look good, the Red Devils did lose their previous game against a middling MLS squad in the Kansas City Wizards.
It's true that the very best of the best play in the EPL. But the top European national teams develop the talent that surrounds those stars in their own leagues. With La Liga coming in as the second-strongest league in the world, was it really anything more than a matter of time before Spain became one of the ultimate forces to be reckoned with on the international stage?
Look at Brazil. They produce more soccer talent than the United States ever will, but their league is a mess. So they ship their players everywhere else. And when the 2010 World Cup came around, Brazil struggled with countries that had inferior talent, but played together better. Even North Korea gave them trouble.
If Landon Donovan goes to Everton on a full-time basis, yes, he will get to play against the top competition in the world. That would also mean that nobody else in MLS will get to be challenged by playing against him. It also means that the average American sports fan will have his sneaking suspicions once again reaffirmed that soccer doesn't matter in America between World Cups. And those should be the bigger concerns.