MLS: American players staying home... for the time being

When Major League Soccer introduced the Designated Player Rule in November 2006, the intention was for big-name international stars to flock to the North American league.

Fast forward to 2013, and it’s not just international stars earning the Designated Player tag.

On Thursday, LA Galaxy named Omar Gonzalez the club’s third Designated Player, joining striker Robbie Keane and midfield maestro Landon Donovan. Gonzalez also joins Seattle Sounders’ Clint Dempsey, San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski, and Donovan as Major League Soccer’s fourth American DP.

The league has taken an impressive leap forward with its ability to retain American talent, something that has been a goal of MLS from its inception in 1996. Now, American players see a future in America, not just in the golden leagues of Europe.

Although not a DP in name, Sporting Kansas City midfielder, and possibly the best midfield play maker in the league, Graham Zusi recently signed a multi-year extension with SKC despite interest from European clubs. The United States men’s national team player was resigned using retention funds, a mechanism put in place by the league to retain players who may been sought after overseas, therefore putting his salary under the DP threshold.

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Earlier this month, the league captured another key American in former Tottenham Hotspur striker Dempsey, who had seven goals in 29 appearances with Spurs in 2012-13, as well as 50 goals in 184 appearances for Fulham in 2007-2012.

More and more often, domestic players are choosing to stay in MLS. Whether it is to close out their careers or to bide time before heading to Europe remains to be seen, but whatever the case, MLS is making a statement by keeping its domestics home.

As Don Garber declared in a press release when the DP rule was launched, “Our fans have stated they would like to see more world-class stars in MLS, and the Designated Player Rule allows us to sign more elite talent from throughout the world.”

Now, the elite talent from America is here to stay.

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