Will Europe start buy­ing MLS stars?

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Sports -

You can learn a lot about a soc­cer league from its trans­fer spend­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to FIFA, the top six soc­cer as­so­ci­a­tions by net trans­fer spend­ing in 2017 were Eng­land, Ger­many, China, France, Italy and the United States. Five of those make per­fect sense.

The Premier League, the Bun­desliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A are four of the top five leagues in the world, where clubs reg­u­larly pay huge sums to ac­quire the best play­ers. China’s Su­per League re­cently tried to spend its way – some say reck­lessly – into be­com­ing a global player. And then there is Ma­jor League Soc­cer.

De­spite its stated am­bi­tions, MLS is not con­sid­ered one of the best leagues in the world. For years it pur­sued an at­ten­tion-grab­bing, star-cen­tered strat­egy sim­i­lar to China’s. U.S. teams have a trade deficit wor­thy of a White House tweet storm, buy­ing $69 mil­lion worth of play­ers last year while sell­ing just $2.4 mil­lion.

But with a wave of youth­ful South Amer­i­can sign­ings and a slick-drib­bling Cana­dian teenager, MLS is try­ing to change all that and pro­duce some much-de­sired cash for a league that con­tin­ues to lose money each year.

The player who may shift the nar­ra­tive is Alphonso Davies, 17, a Liberian left-footed winger who has al­ready made 63 ap­pear­ances for the Van­cou­ver White­caps, the first when he was only 15. Davies, whose tal­ents were on dis­play at Wed­nes­day night’s Al­lS­tar Game, was born in a Ghana­ian refugee camp and em­i­grated to Canada at age 5.

Groomed in the White­caps’ academy and the pride of a re­cent MLS fo­cus on so-called home­grown play­ers, Davies was poised to emerge as the league’s bright­est young star un­til last week, when Van­cou­ver and the league an­nounced that he would join the Ger­man pow­er­house Bay­ern Mu­nich in Jan­uary, in the most lu­cra­tive player sale in MLS his­tory.

Bay­ern paid the White­caps $13.5 mil­lion for Davies’ rights. In his first game af­ter the deal was an­nounced, Davies had two goals and two as­sists, at least tem­po­rar­ily qui­et­ing those who do not be­lieve a 17-year-old MLS player can hack it in the Bun­desliga.

Davies said in an in­ter­view Mon­day that con­sis­tent min­utes in the MLS at a young age had been vi­tal to his de­vel­op­ment, even as he ac­knowl­edged “ev­ery­one’s fear of go­ing to the big club and not mak­ing it.”

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