The MLS has become an increasingly alluring destination for players worldwide. English footballers have recently ventured to the MLS in search of new prospects and novel experiences. Including English players in the league has enriched the talent pool and heightened competitiveness. This piece delves into the present state of English footballers in the MLS, their influence on their teams, and the obstacles and possibilities they encounter when acclimatizing to the league. Furthermore, we will examine methods to augment the number of English players in the MLS and their potential for growth.
History of English players in the MLS
Since its inception in 1996, a steady stream of English players has made their way across to play for MLS teams. Among them are legendary names like David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and Jermain Defoe. Initially, few English players made their way across to America. However, over time there has been an increase in numbers due to growing popularity, competition levels within the league, and lifestyle opportunities available in America.
David Beckham’s arrival at LA Galaxy was undoubtedly one of the most significant moves by an English player. This move helped raise his profile as a footballer and awareness of both him and soccer globally. Since then, many other English footballers have followed suit, crossing over. Of course, some have had more success than others, but overall, having these talented athletes join American teams has mutually benefited both parties involved.
Why English players are attracted to the MLS
Numerous factors contribute to the allure of the MLS for English players. First, the league’s level of competition is a significant draw, as it has gained recognition as one of the world’s top soccer leagues. This presents an opportunity for English players to play against world-class athletes and refine their skills accordingly. Furthermore, with high-level competition comes increased exposure and visibility, which can help players gain recognition and potentially enhance their careers.
The United States also offers lifestyle opportunities that appeal to many English players who seek to immerse themselves in a new culture. Beyond playing professional soccer, these individuals are interested in exploring different ways of life, meeting new people, and experiencing new things. The MLS allows them to live out this desire by residing in a new country with diverse customs and traditions.
Moreover, financial incentives play a role in attracting English players to the MLS. Although salaries are not on par with those offered by European leagues, they remain competitive and provide a good livelihood for those playing. There may also be other monetary benefits, such as performance bonuses or sponsorship deals, that can supplement their income. In addition to these reasons, the MLS also presents unique challenges that can appeal to English players seeking growth and development both on and off the field. For example, they may encounter new tactical approaches or styles of play that differ from what they’re used to back home. They may also face language barriers or cultural adjustments that challenge them mentally and emotionally.
The MLS allows English players to be part of a burgeoning and thrilling league while expanding their horizons beyond traditional soccer environments. As new teams are added every year and more talent flows into the league from around the world, there is an air of excitement and hope to surround the MLS that appeals to those seeking novel challenges both professionally and personally.
English Players in the MLS
Jack Elliott (Philadelphia Union)
Meet Jack Elliott, a remarkable 27-year-old center-back from London, England, where football reigns supreme. Elliott commenced his professional career with AFC Wimbledon in 2015 and featured in three games before joining the Philadelphia Union two years later. Since then, he has been an indomitable presence for the Union and emerged as one of their most valuable players. What distinguishes Elliott from other defenders is his towering height and physical prowess that makes him a force to be reckoned with on the field. He is equally comfortable when controlling the ball, fitting perfectly into Philadelphia’s possession-oriented style of play.
On top of being an exceptional defender, Elliott’s set-piece skills are unrivaled; several goals for the Union have come off corners and free kicks. Elliott’s outstanding performance on the pitch has led to consistent playoff appearances by the Union for three consecutive seasons, including a semifinal run in 2020. His individual brilliance was recognized when he received Defender of the Year by his club in 2018 and was named multiple times to MLS Team of the Week. While rising through ranks comes with its hurdles, Elliot overcame those difficulties like many others starting their careers. His tenacity and perseverance earned him an esteemed reputation as one of MLS’ best center-backs today.
Off-field Elliot is known for his humility and approachability; engaging regularly with his supporters while taking time out to work with various charitable initiatives within his community. Overall, Jack Elliot is beloved by fans in Philadelphia and appreciated as one of Major League Soccer’s brightest stars. Combine these talents with his uplifting outlook makes him integral to any team looking for success on both ends of the pitch.
Jonathan Bond (LA Galaxy)
Jonathan Bond is an exceptional goalkeeper who currently plays for the LA Galaxy. Originally from Hemel Hempstead, England, he began his professional career at Watford in 2010 before transitioning to West Bromwich Albion in 2018. Despite only having a brief stint with LA Galaxy on loan in 2020, Bond was able to make a permanent move there the following year. Bond’s proficiency in shot-stopping and ability to command the area have established him as an irreplaceable force between the posts.
His adeptness at handling the ball has also proven crucial for a team that prefers playing from behind. In May of 2021, Bond contributed to leading the Galaxy to an impressive win against their rivals LAFC by clinching a clean sheet in their 2-0 triumph. Though new to MLS, he has already garnered admiration from both his teammates and head coach Greg Vanney who lauds his professionalism and work ethic. Overall, Jonathan Bond boasts immense potential as one of MLS’s elite goalkeepers. With aspirations of aiding his team in winning trophies for years to come, it comes as no surprise that he swiftly became a fan favorite among those supporting LA Galaxy’s continuous success.
Laurence Wyke (Nashville SC)
Laurence Wyke, a 23-year-old center-back hailing from Sheffield, England. He began his professional career back in 2016 with Sheffield Wednesday, where he made a sole appearance before moving on to Nashville SC in 2020. While his debut season wasn’t overly impressive, Wyke has since seen an increase in playtime throughout 2021, having started several games for the team. Wyke is known for being a physically imposing defender who’s comfortable playing in both back three and four formations. He’s a staunch aerial threat and can also make important tackles and interceptions when needed.
Wyke has shown maturity beyond his years and has earned the trust of both coaches and teammates alike. Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith has gone on record to praise Wyke’s ability to read the game along with his composure under pressure. Additionally, he’s been recognized for his performances after earning a spot on the MLS Team of the Week back in May 2021 when he helped Nashville keep a clean sheet during their draw against Austin FC. All in all, Wyke is an exciting young defender who possesses all the necessary traits to become a key player for Nashville SC. With more playtime and experience under his belt, there’s no doubt that he could develop into one of the league’s top center-backs.
Nathan Byrne (Charlotte)
Nottingham-born Nathan Byrne, aged 30, is a right-back who began his professional football career in 2010 with Tottenham Hotspur. After two appearances for the club, he went on to play for several other English clubs before joining MLS team Charlotte FC at the beginning of the 2021 season. Byrne is a full-back with an attacking mindset and enjoys contributing to his team’s offensive efforts. He possesses technical proficiency and an excellent game sense that enables him to make wise runs and create scoring chances for his teammates.
Despite his inclination towards attacking, Byrne is also a capable defender who feels at ease tracking back and making tackles. Charlotte FC coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez has lauded Byrne’s work ethic and professionalism, deeming him an indispensable member of the squad. In his first few games for the club, Byrne provided numerous assists and earned recognition for his performances by being selected in May 2021’s MLS Team of the Week.
Jack Price (Colorado Rapids)
Jack Price hails from Shrewsbury, England and is a 30-year-old central midfielder. He commenced his professional career in 2011 with Wolverhampton Wanderers, a renowned English club where he appeared over 140 times. In 2018, he joined the Colorado Rapids of MLS. Price is an exceptional deep-lying playmaker who dominates the game’s pace and directs midfield play. His remarkable ball-passing abilities allow him to comfortably send long-range passes that switch play or begin counterattacks.
Despite being a hardworking player, he never shies away from making tackles when necessary. Robin Fraser, head coach of the Colorado Rapids, has lauded Price’s leadership skills and ability to organize his teammates on the field. Moreover, Price’s outstanding performances have earned him recognition as he scored a goal and provided an assist in a 3-0 victory over FC Dallas in May 2021. Price is a gifted midfielder who brings vast experience and skill to the Colorado Rapids. He plays a pivotal role in the team’s midfield and has been instrumental in their recent success. With Price on their side, the Rapids have every chance of competing for the MLS Cup.
Ashley Westwood (Charlotte)
Hailing from Bradford, England, Ashley Westwood is a 32-year-old central midfielder with a lengthy career in professional football. Beginning in 2008 with Crewe Alexandra and then moving on to Aston Villa in 2012, Westwood has amassed over 150 appearances with each team. He now plays for MLS newcomers Charlotte FC. Westwood’s technical abilities are second to none; he’s comfortable on the ball and possesses an exceptional game sense. His passing skills are unmatched, as he can accurately launch long-range passes that lead to counterattacks. In addition, he’s a tenacious player who isn’t afraid to tackle when necessary.
Charlotte FC head coach Miguel Ángel Ramírez has commended Westwood’s leadership abilities and his knack for organizing his teammates on the field. Furthermore, Westwood’s performances have not gone unnoticed; he was named to the MLS Team of the Week in May 2021 after scoring a goal in a 1-1 draw with the New England Revolution. All things considered, Westwood is an immensely skilled midfielder who brings plenty of experience and talent to Charlotte FC. He plays an integral role in the team’s midfield and is one of their primary assets during their inaugural season in MLS. With Westwood on board, Charlotte FC has a strong chance of clinching a playoff spot.
Calvin Harris (Colorado Rapids)
A Doncaster-born young athlete, Calvin Harris, made his professional debut in 2020 with Sheffield United of England. In the following year, he switched to MLS team Colorado Rapids. Harris is an agile forward who can play on both sides or as a center forward. His speed and impressive dribbling skills allow him to beat defenders in one-on-one situations effortlessly. As a clinical finisher, he can score goals from various parts of the field. Colorado Rapids head coach Robin Fraser extolled Harris’ work ethic and his ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates
Harris was included in the MLS Team of the Week in May 2021 after bagging a goal and assisting in a 3-0 triumph over FC Dallas. In conclusion, Harris is a promising attacker who could potentially rise to stardom in MLS. Although still young and has much room for growth, he has already demonstrated exceptional skills and mindset required at the highest level. With Harris on board, Colorado Rapids have an aggressive offensive threat that all defenses should take seriously.
Kieran Gibbs (Inter Miami)
Kieran Gibbs is a 33 year old from Lambeth, England. He started his professional career in 2007 at Arsenal and played over 200 games before joining Inter Miami CF in MLS this year. Gibbs is a modern full-back with strengths in both attack and defense. As a quick and agile defender, he can make key tackles and interceptions, while also providing support for the attack through pace and crossing ability. Additionally, Gibbs serves as an experienced vocal leader who can organize his teammates on the field. Phil Neville, the head coach of Inter Miami, praises Gibbs’ professionalism and adaptability to MLS demands.
In June 2021, Gibbs earned recognition for his performance by being named to the MLS Team of the Week after an assist in a 2-1 win over CF Montreal. Overall, Gibbs brings significant experience and skill to Inter Miami as a talented left-back. His overlapping runs and crosses contribute to attacking threats from flanks while solidifying defense foundations when he’s on the lineup.
Jacob Evans (Houston Dynamo)
Meet Jacob Evans, a towering 25-year-old center-back hailing from the quaint town of Bishop Auckland in England. In 2019, he kickstarted his pro career with English club Sunderland and later joined MLS team Houston Dynamo FC in 2021. What makes Evans stand out is his versatility and comfort playing in either a back-three or back-four defensive system. He’s an aggressive defender who doesn’t shy away from tackles and clears danger with ease. Moreover, his aerial capabilities are unmatched, allowing him to dominate even taller opponents.
Head coach Tab Ramos of Houston Dynamo has been all praise for Evans’ unwavering work ethic and adaptability to the demands of MLS. His impressive performance earned him a coveted spot on the MLS Team of the Week in August 2021 after helping Houston secure a clean sheet in their win over Real Salt Lake. Overall, Jacob Evans is a promising young center-back with heaps of potential to become one of the best defenders in MLS.
Although still adjusting to the league, he’s learning from his experienced teammates and showcasing both physical and mental attributes that promise success at this level. With Evans on their defense line-up, Houston Dynamo can rest assured they have a dependable and robust presence on the field.
Dru Yearwood (New York RB)
Dru Yearwood, a 23-year-old central midfielder hailing from England. In 2018, he commenced his professional career with Brentford in England before joining the New York Red Bulls of MLS in 2020. Yearwood is a versatile midfielder who can play as a defensive or box-to-box midfielder with ease. He is known for being tenacious and hardworking, covering a lot of ground, and putting pressure on opponents. In addition, Yearwood is equipped with exceptional technical abilities and impressive passing skills that allow him to dictate the tempo of the game. Head coach Gerhard Struber of the New York Red Bulls lauds Yearwood for his dynamic spirit and his ability to retrieve possession in midfield.
In September 2021, Yearwood earned a place on the MLS Team of the Week after scoring his first goal for the club during a 1-1 draw with Orlando City, which was a remarkable achievement. In general, Yearwood is an emerging midfielder who has enormous potential to become an integral player for the New York Red Bulls. Although he is still acclimating to the physicality and pace of MLS, he has already demonstrated that he possesses all the necessary attributes to thrive in this league. With Yearwood in their ranks, New York Red Bulls can boast an energetic midfielder capable of hampering opponents’ play while concurrently creating scoring opportunities for his team.
Impact of English players on their MLS teams
The impact of English players on their respective MLS teams has been noteworthy, both on and off the pitch. One of the most significant advantages that these players bring to their teams is their vast experience and unmatched skill set. Most English players come with a history of playing in top European leagues, and this brings along a technical and tactical ability that propels their teams to higher levels. On-field performance by English players has been pivotal in winning games and competing for championships.For instance, Jack Elliott, who we mentioned earlier, has been an essential player for Philadelphia Union, getting them into playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
Jonathan Bond has also had an impressive start to his MLS career by keeping numerous clean sheets for LA Galaxy at the beginning of the 2021 season. Off-field contributions by English players are equally important. Their professionalism, work ethic, and leadership qualities can help create a positive team culture conducive to competition. Moreover, they can aid younger or less experienced players in adapting to league demands by providing guidance and support.
Challenges and Opportunities for English Players in the MLS
Challenges faced by English players in adapting to the MLS
When it comes to English players joining Major League Soccer teams, there are certainly a number of positive attributes they bring with them. The style of play favored in England is known for its physicality and grit, which can be a valuable asset in the MLS. English players also tend to be technically skilled and tactically savvy, which can help elevate their teams’ gameplay. However, with these strengths come numerous challenges that English players may face when adapting to the league.
Perhaps the most significant hurdle they must overcome is adjusting to the physically demanding and fiercely competitive nature of MLS games. While playing rough is par for the course in England, MLS games push players even harder, requiring them to stay on top of their fitness regimens and mental game. Another challenge that English players encounter when making the switch to MLS is adapting to different playing conditions and travel schedules.
Many teams in the league play on artificial turf surfaces rather than natural grass fields, which can pose a challenge for those who are used to playing on more traditional surfaces. In addition, the extensive travel schedule required by MLS teams can be tough for players who are accustomed to playing in geographically compact leagues. Despite these challenges, many English players have found success in MLS over the years thanks to their resilience and determination.
With time and patience, they are able to adapt their game play styles to fit within this unique league while still bringing their own unique talents and skills onto the field. It’s no wonder so many fans continue to look forward to seeing more talented footballers from England make their way over to North America’s premier soccer league. Another obstacle that English players face when coming to the MLS is cultural and linguistic differences between England and the United States.
Moving to another country and adjusting to a new culture can be daunting, especially if you don’t speak the language fluently. It may take time for players to feel at home in their new surroundings. Additionally, non-native English speakers may struggle with communicating with teammates and coaches. This can create difficulties both on and off the field as effective communication is essential for success in any team sport. Despite these challenges, many English players have successfully adapted to life in the MLS and contributed significantly to their teams’ success. By remaining focused on their goals and working hard every day in training sessions, they can overcome these obstacles and thrive in this competitive environment.
Opportunities for English players in the MLS
The MLS presents several opportunities for English players looking to showcase their talents on a global stage while developing their careers. One such prospect is playing in a rapidly growing league that attracts increasing attention from fans and media worldwide.
Moreover, unique regulations like salary caps or designated player rules make it easier for players negotiating favorable contract terms than other leagues might offer. Additionally, the focus on promoting young talent enables English players an excellent chance of developing their skills by playing alongside some of North America’s top young talents while forming valuable relationships with teammates and coaches alike.
Ways to increase the number of English players in the MLS
There are a variety of methods that can be employed to boost the presence of English players in the MLS. One option is for teams within the league to proactively seek out talented individuals from England and other regions throughout the globe. This could involve increasing the frequency of scouting trips and talent identification initiatives, as well as fostering closer relationships with clubs and agents within the English football system.
Another potential avenue is for the MLS to ramp up its marketing and promotional efforts in countries where English is spoken, such as the UK. By highlighting some of its unique features – such as a strong focus on youth development, commitment to fair play, and emphasis on competitive balance – the league may attract more interest from both players and supporters alike. It may also be useful for MLS officials to explore new partnerships and collaborations with organizations and institutions within English football.
By working together on joint initiatives like exchange programs for young players or coaches, both parties could establish stronger relationships while simultaneously supporting growth in soccer on both sides of the Atlantic. Finally, offering fresh incentives or initiatives could be an additional way to pique interest among top-tier talent hailing from England or elsewhere. For instance, higher salaries or more favorable contract terms might prove appealing, along with extra support resources designed to help players and their families adjust more easily to life in North America.
Altogether, bolstering the number of English players present within the MLS will likely require a thoughtful combination of recruitment strategies, marketing tactics, collaborative partnerships, and innovative incentives. With effort put forth by both entities involved – namely MLS officials and their counterparts across English football – it’s possible that soccer communities everywhere could grow stronger than ever before.
English players have become an important part of the MLS and have added to the competitiveness and diversity of the league. While there are challenges to adapting to the league, the opportunities provided by playing in the MLS are significant. The league should continue to explore ways to attract and develop English players, as their presence and popularity can contribute to the growth and success of the league.