Michael Bradley, the crown jewel of the US Men's National Team(USMNT) appears set on leaving his Italian side A.S. Roma in favor for a return to the MLS with Toronto F.C. This isn't the first move the Canadian side have made (or rumored to make) with Brazilian striker Gilberto already a confirmed signing and Tottenham's striker Jermaine Defoe to be announced on Monday. Although the North American based league is making strides to improve and are doing just that, here are 5 reasons why Micheal Bradley should not join Toronto just yet.
5: Decreased Level Of Competition
This one maybe the most obvious, but also the most painful to say as an American soccer lover. As mentioned before the MLS is doing everything it can to progress. Acquiring superstar players in recent years (David Beckham, Thiery Henry, and Robby Keane) as well as New York FC shows how much the league has grown. They have also seen some of the USMNT players express royalty to the league with Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi staying recently. There is no denying that the league is growing in popularity and skill.
However, we must be realistic about expectations. The MLS will likely never be at the same skill level as the sides in Europe and it is unreasonable to believe that it ever will be. They have a richer history, centuries of set fanbases and the most money. European sides will always attract the best players as they always leave their home country in hopes of becoming a star on another continent. The MLS today is often compared to either The Championship or Football League One. This is a fairly accurate comparison in terms of the skill of player. It is in the best interest for Michael Bradleyto play at the top flight in Europe where he will get infinitely more exposure than to play in a country that does not see soccer as it's number one sport. It would be sad to see Michael Bradley's skill diminish as a player simply because he did not challenge himself.
4: Possible Serie A Championship
Leaving A.S. Roma this winter could see Michael Bradley missing out on potentially becoming the first American to play a pivotal role in a Serie A Championship. As of now, Roma are sitting in second place behind Juventes. They are certainly capable of catching up. While Michael Bradley has not seen much starting time since the beginning of the season and his nagging injuries, he still plays an important role on the squad. He is usually the substituted in at the 70th minute to close out the game. He gives Roma fresh legs and is great at winning, holding the ball and distributing. If he does make a move, he should at the very least wait until the after the Italian domestic league finishes.
3: Other Options
Yes, he isn't getting the playing time at Roma that he might deserve, but there are other options. Surely, a European side would be interested in taking the services of the holding midfielder. Making a move this drastic is incredibly odd and shocking. The Bundesliga or La Liga are perfect options for him. The Bundesliga is incredibly physical and would add quickness to Bradley's game that he would greatly benefit from. If he wants to work on his technical ability he should head to Spain. Regardless of where in Europe, he should stay on the continent.
2: Too Young
Michael Bradley was born in 1987, and is now 26 years of age. 26. Bradley is now in the stage of his career where he is still progressing. The average peak year for a soccer player is 27 or 28. If the move does go through he will be the first ever soccer player to join the MLS on an upswing in terms of his soccer ability. While the Dempsey deal last summer baffled us, it cannot be argued that he is declining. Bradley has over 4 years of good soccer left in his legs and could easily compete in Europe if he so chooses.
1: World Cup Year
This 2014 Brazil World Cup is being held this summer. It is imperative that our USMNT players stay sharp in preparation for the biggest tournament in sports. Serie A league ends March 15th. Giving Bradley competitive game experience 90 days before the World Cup starts and ample time to train with his USA teammates to gain chemistry and review tactics. If he joined Toronto F.C. he would not get a competitive game until the World Cup as the league ended a month ago. Jurgen Klinnsmann has stated multiple times that he wants his players competing at the highest level to remain sharp for the World Cup.
It is heartbreaking to write but Michael Bradley should not join the MLS until at the very least right after the World Cup. Americans want need Michael Bradley at his best this summer in Brazil and now, the MLS won't cut it.