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Stejskal: Regardless of potential, MLS teams right to avoid Julian Green

One of the US national team’s most enigmatic prospects made a major career change on Wednesday, when one-time boy wonder Julian Green transferred from Bayern Munich to 2. Bundesliga side Stuttgart after six years with the German giants.

Stuttgart, who are currently in third place in Germany’s second division, reportedly sent Bayern €500,000 for the 21-year-old Green.

That’s a price that plenty of MLS teams can afford, but one they were right not to pay for an unproven player like Green, who, according to a source, didn’t draw any interest from the league.

Green is talented (no one breaks into the Bayern first-team without a certain level of skill), but he’s interesting to Americans mostly because he’s a bit of an unknown.

He bulldozed his way into US soccer’s collective consciousness in 2014, when Jurgen Klinsmann named him to the World Cup roster. He memorably scored in extra time of the US’s Round of 16 loss to Belgium in Brazil, but hasn’t made all that much of an impact on the club or international level since. A loan to Hamburg in 2014 quickly went south, he didn’t feature for Bayern’s first-team last year, and, despite some progress this season under new manager Carlo Ancelotti, it didn’t look like he’d be getting any minutes with Bayern’s senior squad in the near future.

There’s no shame in that, of course. Bayern are among the best clubs in the world, and have been for the entirety of Green’s three years as a pro. The German-American’s effort to break into the squad was admirable and his move to Stuttgart, where he’ll have a much better shot at playing time, is astute.

Moving to MLS likely would’ve given Green, who is on the league’s allocation list, a similar shot at increased playing time, though it would’ve come at the cost of making a move back to Germany’s top flight more difficult. It also would’ve been foolish for an MLS team to sign him for the money Stuttgart paid.

Every move in MLS’s capped system has an opportunity cost. Spending $500,000 on a transfer fee for Green, then paying him a salary that likely would’ve been around a couple hundred thousand dollars, is money that a team wouldn’t have been able to spend on another signing.

For that kind of cash, teams can get much more of a sure thing than Green, who hasn’t proven anything on the first-team level. That sort of investment could be used to grab a player like Michael de Leeuw, who the Fire signed last year on a free transfer, and according to MLS Player Union documents, earned $450,000 last year. De Leeuw, who joined the Fire last May at 29, came to Chicago with over 200 first-team appearances and nearly 100 goals in Holland. That’s a much better resume than Green’s, even if he’s got plenty of potential.

That’s not to say Green wouldn’t have been a good fit in MLS. He might’ve. But for the money it would’ve cost to bring him to the league, MLS teams could’ve gotten much more value. In a capped league, that’s priority No. 1. 

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