In the last three World Cups, the United States men’s national team has averaged 4.3 players per team with Champions League experience. The number of those teams was created by Jonathan Spector and Julian Green, who together for a total of 23 minutes in the tournament at the time of their inclusion in the US team.
In the most recent international window, you can count on seven players boasting on the grand stage of European football that it was without Juventus midfielder Weston McKenzie, Barcelona right-back Sergino Test and FC Salzburg attacker Brendan Aronson. There is still no consensus on US manager Greg Berholder’s top XI, but it’s unreasonable to assume that nine of the 11 players on the field for the Americans’ opening game in Qatar in 2022 are based in Europe.
Two exceptions? Nashville SC captain Walker Zimmerman and Atlanta United prodigy Miles Robinson seem to be well on their way to chasing down one of the New York Red Bulls ‘Aaron Long, who has established himself as the New York Red Bulls’ primary defender.
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As American players increasingly go overseas and younger, the three players aged 25, 28 and 29, who are based in Major League Soccer, are in the center-back depth rankings of VfL Wolfsburg veteran John Brooks or The. Chris Richards of TSG Hoffenheim, who borrowed money from Bayern Munich?
“Major League Soccer gives young players the opportunity to be on the field,” Berholder told ESPN. “If at any time you field young players, there is a huge growth curve and you see it with our younger players.”
Since his 23rd year, Zimmerman has played an average of 2,130 minutes in league games per season. Robinson has played an average of 2,131 league minutes in the last three years, when he was 22, 23 and 24 years old. Long has amassed an average of 1,818 minutes a year since his 24-year-old 2017 season. After suffering from torn Achilles disease in May 2021. Take that lost season from the equation, his average rising to 2,227 MLS minutes per year.
That opportunity for stability was not given to Atlantic crossing soldiers. Mark McKenzie left the Philadelphia Union in January 2021. In the nearly one-and-a-half season with Jenk, he has amassed 1,729 Belgian Pro League minutes – it should be noted that these are considered to be his 21st and 21st seasons.
“It’s about getting in the right place,” former USMNT center-back and senior MLS defender Michael Barkhurst told ESPN. “You can go to England and be on a great team in a great place or you can go to England on a scary team where you are fighting an exit and the coach doesn’t like you.
“That’s the dangerous part. It’s like, ‘Are they good enough?’ It says, ‘Are they landing in the right place?’
But there is more than enough to explain the growth that Zimmerman, Robinson and Long have achieved within the MLS. The trio, who were selected ahead of the international team players who earned at La Liga and the Bundesliga, did not grow up in the United States alone; They thrived.
“The MLS is a league that prioritizes spending money to attack players,” Barkhurst said. “All the best players in the league, mostly, winger and No. 10s and No. 9s. As a center pack, you go against the best players in the league.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Berholter.
“Miles, Walker and Aaron,” Berholder said, “they play against some good players, which helps improve their game.”
Of the 65 designated players listed before the start of the 2022 season, only nine played in unbeaten positions. Tell us what you think about the league’s status and its pay structure, which has placed great emphasis on recruiting the most talented people to make an impact, and its defenders being the best at it.
Having been war-tested and the World Cup coming up later this year, it offers a huge arena to showcase one’s talents. Can Zimmerman, Robinson and Long join their colleagues abroad in 2023? The ship may have sailed for Zimmerman and Long, at 28 and 29, respectively.
“I was at that time … it was not now or ever,” Barkhurst said. “I think I was 24 or 25 and I was about to sign a four-year contract [in MLS]So at that point, ‘I’m getting too old [to go to Europe]. ‘ So there is definitely a time limit where you are no longer sexy and no longer have opportunities. “
He recently turned 25 and is said to have one year left on his contract after the 2022 season, with Robinson now having to make a decision. Will he follow in the footsteps of his USMNT defensive partners and MLS life prisoners in Atlanta or try his luck in Europe?
“I think Miles can play in any league in the world,” Barhurst said. “I do not think he’s the final product, he has little things to work on and improve, but I’m never played with a great defender, I’m never seen each other defender.
“Usually these are the physical tools that prevent you from playing in some leagues, but these are three of the most athletic defenders I’ve ever seen.”