The list of destinations reads like a discordant itinerary for a world traveler. Two stops – Niger and Nigeria – in Africa. One jaunt to Europe to visit Norway. A final excursion to Argentina to sample South America.
For the members of the New England Revolution coaching staff, the objective of these expansive voyages isn't to experience different cultures or survey tourist sites. While these countries have both in plenty, they do not satisfy the Revs' desire to buttress their existing squad with foreign signings ahead of the 2011 campaign.
In an increasingly competitive domestic market, the search for players – which also includes the usual dose of domestic travel to scout college matches ahead of January's SuperDraft – inevitably expands in order to locate suitable prospects.
The external destinations vary from year to year, and the chosen locations often depend on a helping hand from the considerable network of contacts and friends at the disposal of Revolution coach Steve Nicol and other members of the technical staff.
“A lot of it is about relationships, the people you know and the people you trust,” Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “We're not to the stage as a league where teams have sophisticated scouting networks around the world.”
[inline_node:105961]By working with its contacts around the world, the Revs' technical staff developed a list of potential transfer targets to watch in person. While some clubs skip this step under certain circumstances and sign players after watching tapes of the player, the Revs prefer to see players in person.
“We've never signed a player sight unseen,” Burns said. “It's important to go and evaluate players.”
Those evaluations and these widespread scouting missions do not always generate tangible results. Nicol's trip to Ecuador last year didn't yield any additions to the squad, but a voyage to Senegal led to Joseph Niouky's brief tenure with the squad. Emmanuel Osei also linked up with the Revs as a result of a scouting mission to Ghana prior to the 2009 campaign.
Recent travels have yielded at least a few potential targets for the next campaign, but it is too soon to tell whether a few of the players spotted on the recent travels will ultimately join the team.
But according to Burns, one thing is certain: The journeys won't conclude until the Revs secure the squad additions they seek in time for next season.