Send us a message

Interested in being a part of the team? Get in touch with us today.
Apr 252014

Screen Shot 2013 07 22 at 5.47.58 PM 300x298 In search of the “American Soccer Player.”


I love revisionist history. Now I should explain this in a little more context before we go any further. I don’t love revisionist history because I feel that there is a need to whitewash history to suit someone’s narrative. As a former political science teacher and history teacher, it pretty much goes against everything I believe. Own up to your history, talk about it, and learn from it.

No, I love revisionist history because it shows how utterly ridiculous people can be from time to time. In a time where every person feels like they need to have a point, facts are played with very loosely to suit ir own agenda. It occurs in politics, entertainment, and certainly in sports. Nowhere has this been more evident than the recent “outrage” over Bayern Munich forward Julian Green’s decision to play for the United States. Green was born in the United States but has lived for most of his life in Germany. The argument seems to be that he is not a true American and that only true Americans should go to Brazil. I would like to know exactly what a true American is.

Other players like defender Fabian Johnson, midfielder Jermaine Jones, and forward Aron Johansson have also raised the ire of certain members of the media and supporters of the United States for their lack of American-ness. Go to the bottom of any comment section of any U.S. Men’s National Team article and chances are you will find dozens of comments from people in various “rages” over “non-Americans”. The revisionist historians in U.S. Soccer seem to believe that our country has never received players through non-traditional methods. They are wrong. But we will get back to that.

There seems to be three points of contention that these parties have made, rather loudly:

  1. That these players are not real Americans. That some players, like Green, are essentially piggy-backing on at the end of World Cup qualifying and taking the position of someone who has “earned” their spot in Brazil.
  2. That they are not interested in wearing the Stars and Stripes and only interested in playing in the World Cup and making money off of it.
  3. That it isn’t fair that players like Giuseppi De Rossi and Neven Subotic used the U.S. Youth Academy system to develop their game, only to go to better National Teams on the senior level.

These points aren’t without merit. There are players in the past and now who would gladly use the United States as a pawn to further their own career.  Every player does it to a certain degree, but it certainly appeared that Nurnberg defender Timothy Chandler fit this case. His poor attitude and work habit basically ended his U.S. National Team career. And the issue of a person’s citizenship is a problem with FIFA, particularly in countries in Gambia where citizenship laws are loosened to fit in players from other countries. Clearly this is an issue that FIFA needs to fine tune.

But I would like to answer each of these points with my own:

  1. Yes they are.
  2. Who cares?
  3. Do what Spain does.

Let’s deal with the first point. America has always included players who would not be considered true “Americans.” Should Joe Gaetjens, the man who scored the goal that lifted the United States over England in 1945 and considering he was from Haiti? Probably not, as he was only naturalized through some last-minute paperwork? What about Roy Wegerle, who only gained U.S. Citizenship through his wife and played in two consecutive World Cups? What about Tomas Dooley, Earnie Stewart, Frank Klopas, Aron Johansson, Preki?

The ugly truth is that Major League Soccer spent its early years avoiding developing a youth academy system in the United States in favor of bringing in the aging stars of the 1994 World Cup. This relationship has only changed very recently, but the fruits of the labor will only be felt years down the road. Until then, U.S. National Team Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, as a manager, has to go out and find players to make his squad, both in the short-term and long-term better.

There is also a legal reason as to why a player like Green can play for the United States: he was born here. Any person who is born here in the United States is eligible for U.S. Citizenship. That is not USSF making this rule, it is the United States Government making this rule. Likewise, children who are born to U.S. Citizens are also eligible for U.S. Citizenship through a form called State Department Form 240 Report of a Birth Abroad. These players have the right to work here in the United States because they either carry a U.S. Passport or a U.S. Citizen. It does not matter if it is flipping burgers or flipping balls into the back of the net. They can play here.

Also, nothing is earned when playing in a World Cup Qualifying tournament where three of the six teams make the World Cup and the fourth-place team qualifies for a playoff with OCEANIA. As improved as the Confederation has been in recent years, it should be expected that the United States qualifies for the World Cup every year. This notion of “earning” a spot against weaker opponents comes from a bygone era in U.S. Soccer when scoring was bad and everyone wins. Put down the orange slices.

Let’s also dispel the notion that players are going to this tournament purely for love of country. Yes, a certain level of patriotism/nationalism has to be involved to put your body through another month of competition.  Countries like Argentina, Brazil, Japan, and yes the United States very clearly love putting on their uniforms and representing their people. No one is disputing this.

But this is a business as well and every player will be looking to earn a larger paycheck. Whether or not a World Cup is a good indicator for a how good a player will be during a club season is debatable. But what is not up for question is that club teams are willing to spend for players coming off of a hot World Cup. Diego Forlan revived his Real Madrid career after a 2010 World Cup where he scored four goals. Stateside, Brian McBride earned a contract with Fulham after a strong 1998 World Cup. So if you can get a player like Julian Green to play for your team, a player who is looking to either crack the lineup at Bayern Munich or secure a good loan deal for the 2014-2015 season, why would you not sign him. The point of a World Cup is not to win a blue ribbon for the most patriotic team. The point is to win matches and to use the tournament as a tool to improve your country’s football program.

If players have an opportunity to play for multiple countries, they will choose to play for the country that will help improve their careers the most. Green will likely have more opportunities to play top-level international football for the United States than he will for Germany which means additional opportunities to showcase his talents to both Bayern Munich and other clubs. The same went for Giuseppi Rossi and Neven Subotic. Instead of looking to point the blame at FIFA for being unable to secure these two players, U.S. supporters need to point the finger at U.S. Soccer. It was U.S. Soccer’s unwillingness to even reach out to these two players that led them to gravitate towards Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The same can also be said for Spain forward Diego Costa, who spurned his own country (Brazil) to play for the country of his grand-parents (Spain). Countries like Spain, Germany (Lukas Podolski,) England (Raheem Sterling,) France (Zinedine Zidane,) and the Netherlands (Ruud Gulit) have all used loose citizenship ties to secure quality players for their sides. If the United States is to make that next big step towards being a dominant soccer program, then it must take scouting of players with ties to the U.S. much more seriously than it currently does.



Sean Maslin

Writer for Global Football Today, Soccerly, D.C. Soccer, Soccer Without Limits, and Blatter's Blotter. Lifetime D.C. United, Newcastle United, and Washington Warthog fan. Can be reached at @SeanMaslin on twitter or at

 Leave a Reply



Refresh Image


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>