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  • The problem with Americans


    On It’s Called Football yesterday I made reference to the “Reluctant American” and how the existence of such a player puts the Canadian MLS teams at a handicap.

    As a reminder, the Reluctant American is a mid-level American player that is resistant to playing for a Canadian team. They often have legitimate concerns about playing in Canada (hard for spouse to get work, subtle differences in culture, etc), or they may just feel that they chose to play in MLS so they could stay in their home country – you might as well go to Scandinavia and make more money if playing in MLS isn’t even going to let you stay close to home. Regardless of the reasons, the phenomenon is real and it’s a problem for Canadian teams to overcome.


    The reason it’s a problem is that for all the headlines big name DPs bring, the skeleton of any good MLS side is the domestic players getting paid in that $80,000 to $150,000 range. In a salary cap league, you need those type of players to perform. The reason Americans are preferable to fill those mid-range roles is because they are accustomed to the quirks of North American soccer – insane travel, insane weather, insanely bad refereeing and insane disparity in talent on a typical roster.

    You can bring South American or European talent in, but you often have to overpay it. So, it’s a bit pointless to sign non-domestics for your grunt roles. Those type of signings are best saved for true impact players – in MLS you need to use your international signings to supplement a roster, push it over the top.

    Although the domestic rules have loosened considerably for the Canadian teams since TFC entered the league in 2007, the Canadian clubs are still restricted in how many Yanks they can carry. That’s compounded by the fact that many that might be interested in playing for an American team are either going to demand more money to play in Canada, or refuse outright.

    The result is that there have been far fewer Americans on TFC and Vancouver than on the American teams. Far fewer, not a few fewer. Is that the only reason TFC and Vancouver have struggled? No, of course not. However, it would be foolhardy to ignore the possibility that it’s a significant factor.

    The numbers:

    Toronto FC (roster stats based on players under contract at end of season)

    2011 – 6 Americans out of 33 roster sports

    2010 – 8/26

    2009 – 6/21

    2008 – 7/28

    2007 – 10/32

    Total 37/140 - 26.4% Americans


    2011 - 13/30 – 43.3% Americans

    Combined total

    50/170 -29.4% Americans

    As a comparison, the MLS Cup champions since 2007

    2010 – Colorado – 19/30 -- 63.3% Americans

    2009 – RSL – 15/25 – 60% Americans

    2008 – Columbus - 15/23 – 65.2% Americans

    2007 - Houston – 20/25 – 80% - Americans

    What’s the lesson here for the Canadian teams? It’s hard to say because their hands are tied a bit, but it does speak to a need spend more resources looking to find relatively cheap talent from the NCAA or lower pro levels in the US. Due to the Reluctant American, the Canadian teams might need to spend twice the resources of other MLS sides – there are, of course, Excited Americans as well, but you have to hunt them down.

    It also speaks to the need for the Canadian teams to develop their own talent through their academy system. The best way to solve the problem of Americans not wanting to play in Canada is to find equally as good Canadians to replace them. However, there aren’t enough Canucks out there to do that – yet.

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