Making the move from a European league to MLS is not one taken lightly. Contracts are transferred or torn up, families are uprooted, and joining a new team comes with its risks.
For Michael Parkhurst, moving from German side FC Augsburg to the Columbus Crew during the offseason came for one main reason: to improve his chances of getting to the World Cup as a member of the US national team.
Despite earning a spot in the starting XI for Saturday's USMNT 2-0 friendly win against South Korea, Parkhurst knows that a lack of playing time in 2013 with Augsburg dropped him down the defensive depth chart, and going to Brazil is no guarantee.
Still, without the prospect of going to his first World Cup, Parkhurst admits he probably wouldn't have returned to MLS this year.
“If I wasn't involved with the national team, I would have stayed in Germany,” Parkhurst told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Monday from Crew training camp in Bradenton, Fla. “The family was happy, the level [of play] was good. I wasn't getting the games, but financially it was the best contract of my career. So if I didn't have a chance for Brazil, I think I would have stayed. But you don't get that chance for a World Cup too often, so I had to get out of there and give myself a chance.”
Though he impressed in a few 2013 chances, the defender seemed to fall out of favor with national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann after struggling to find the field in Germany. Now, Parkhurst knows he needs to make an impression in MLS just four months away from the World Cup.
“I haven't been called in every time recently, so it's really important that I play well with Columbus in these first few months,” he said. “I think I've done well with the chances I've gotten. But I missed out on some opportunities because of my lack of playing time last year. Some guys jumped ahead of me, and so I still think I have a lot to do for a spot in the 23 [in Brazil].”
Parkhurst's options for more playing time were a loan to another European club or a move back to MLS, but the Rhode Island native said that he was glad an MLS deal worked out. While Parkhurst's situation may have been better in Germany, he has no plans on a long-term return to Europe.
“I've got a family and we want to put some roots down and get settled,” he said. “My little girl has lived in four houses already and she's not even four yet. This is it. We're not going back to Europe unless it's for a vacation.”