A few days after discussing the migration of current US national team players to Major League Soccer with an air of grim realism, Jurgen Klinsmann sounded a dramatically more positive note about the state of US soccer in remarks to the media this week during the US national team's training camp in Brazil.
“It's exciting. The players who are in Europe, many of them some big players, are now back in MLS,” Klinsmann said in a press conference at the outset of the USMNT's 12-day stint in São Paulo, where they are previewing the facilities and atmosphere ahead of this summer's World Cup.
“MLS is getting better every year,” he continued. “We are working at full pace. Hopefully we can prove a lot of good work already this summer.”
Late last week, the German coach was somewhat less ebullient on the subject in his remarks to ESPN amid reports of Michael Bradley's big-money move to Toronto FC, although he skirted public comment on the move itself before it was made official on Monday.
“It is a very, very tricky situation that players face right now,” Klinsmann said last week, insisting that “there is no demand” for US players in Europe. “You want them to play in the best clubs in best leagues in the world and obviously MLS is not there yet.
“MLS is trying badly to improve the quality of soccer year by year. When a player decides to come back from Europe because the offer is just so exceptionally good that he wants to combine other things with it and help also the league to grow, as a national team coach you accept that and help the player to make the best out of it.”
Klinsmann has long urged his players to test themselves “at the highest level,” once memorably telling Clint Dempsey that he “hasn't made [expletive]" in a discussion about the USMNT captain's exploits at English Premier League side Fulham FC. Dempsey retutrned to MLS last summer to join the Seattle Sounders, a move Klinsmann said at the time made him "thrilled for MLS" and would be a challenge for Dempsey.
This week, he suggested that bringing top US players back Stateside has benefits for the nation's soccer development as a whole, even if it removes them from the daily challenges of elite European leagues.
While Dempsey and Bradley have made the biggest headlines with their returns, other World Cup hopefuls like Carlos Bocanegra, Clarence Goodson, Benny Feilhaber and Eddie Johnson have also joined the league in recent years, Michael Parkhurst signed with the Columbus Crew earlier this week and Maurice Edu is rumored to be in line to join the Philadelphia Union.
“'People jump in financially, want the best American players in America,” Klinsmann said. “Suddenly, they bring back a Clint Dempsey from Tottenham, they bring back a Michael Bradley from AS Roma, and they are working on other players as well. This is huge for football in the United States.”