BOSTON -- Toronto FC won't be catching Liverpool's Jay Spearing by surprise when the two teams meet on Saturday in the 2012 Herbalife World Football Challenge (4 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer).
Although he's only 23 years old, the midfielder says he and his teammates are well aware of the strides that Major League Soccer and its clubs have made in recent years.
What put MLS on the map in England? One player's arrival back in 2007.
“The big turning point in England was when David Beckham came across,” Spearing told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “He’s obviously got [MLS] a bit more worldwide [exposure] and in England players are really starting to look over and see what’s going on over here and see what the league’s getting up to. It’s getting bigger and bigger.”
Saturday's match against TFC is not the first action for Spearing on North American soil. He was a member of Liverpool's reserve team when it captured the Dallas Cup, a world-renowned youth tournament, in the summer of 2009.
Three years later, Liverpool's 2012 tour will represent an important opportunity for Spearing to help boost his ranking in the pecking order of midfielders. Last season he played a reserve role, making a total of 25 appearances with nine of them coming in domestic cup competitions.
The Liverpool homegrown player will get two more cracks to impress new manager Brendan Rodgers after Saturday's match in Toronto. The players already have their eyes set on next week's friendly against AS Roma at Fenway Park, the home of the baseball team owned by Liverpool principal owner John Henry.
Spearing, who watched some live baseball during his visit with Liverpool's youth team in 2009, already experienced a walkthrough of sorts on Thursday night when the club attended a game between the Red Sox and White Sox.
“I don’t know a lot [about baseball], but I know the basic rules of how it works and everything,” Spearing said before the outing. “We came a couple years back and watched a baseball game, so I know what it’s all about ... I think the lads are interested to see how it works and what exactly Fenway Park is all about.”
Kevin Koczwara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org