as they also did this summer -- exercised their option to reacquire Donovan's services. After negotiating during the MLS offseason in 2002, the co-sharing deal was renewed for two years.
If this winter's negotiations between MLS and Leverkusen result in Donovan returning to Germany, the move will bring a close to a successful stint in the American first division that saw Donovan become one of the most recognized men in history of American soccer.
Donovan's influence during his time in MLS was hardly limited to his on-field exploits. His success on the field helped him become a recognizable face both inside and outside the American soccer community, turning him into a marketable athlete, the subject of numerous fan sites and somewhat of a teen idol.
After two years of playing with Leverkusen's youth and reserve teams and getting little time with the first team, Donovan came to the United States to play, and his career took off.
In 2001 and 2003, Donovan helped the Earthquakes to the MLS Cup title, notching the opening goal in the Quakes first conquest and garnering MVP honors for his two-goal performance in a 4-2 Cup-clinching victory over the Chicago Fire last season. Donovan also earned MVP honors in the 2001 MLS All-Star Game after scoring an All-Star record four goals in the league's midsummer showcase.
While his club struggled in his other two seasons in the league, Donovan shone, both for the Quakes and for the U.S. national team. The 22-year-old scored twice in leading the U.S. to a spot in the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002, the nation's best finish ever. This year, he has helped the U.S. men advance to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, filling in for the injured Claudio Reyna as team captain. In both 2002 and 2003, Donovan was named the Honda U.S. Player of the Year, and he is one of three finalists again this year.
To this point in his MLS career, Donovan has registered 32 goals, 29 assists and 93 regular season points and 10 goals, six assists and 26 points in the playoffs.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.