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MLS Hopes (And Expects) To Keep Landon Donovan Playing In America Forever

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MLS is riding high with the signing of Thierry Henry, and Don Garber, the president of America's professional soccer league, wants that post-World Cup momentum to continue to grow. As much as the success of the U.S. men's national team was tied to the feet of Landon Donovan, so too is the immediate future of MLS. ↵

↵Donovan is a bona fide star in this country, so keeping him happy – and playing in America – is suddenly more important than ever. Garber told reporters this week: ↵

↵⇥"Landon is, in my view, the greatest player of our generation and an incredibly valuable part of our history but also of our future. ↵⇥

↵⇥"It is my hope and my expectation that we will have him for the rest of his career because I think the contributions that he makes are invaluable to our future success." ↵⇥

↵Hope is one thing, and undoubtedly Garber hopes that Donovan stays as long as possible. It's the "expectation" that is worth noting. After two lackluster stints in Germany (in what now seems like a previous soccer lifetime), Donovan was very solid this past year on loan with Everton in the Premiership. The reigning MVP, he is clearly the class of MLS, currently leading the league in assists and game-winning assists. Of course, we'll never forget what Donovan did in South Africa, making him a legitimately hot name during the European transfer period. ↵

↵There was a report before the World Cup that Everton wanted to make Donovan a permanent part of the team. There has also been reported interest from Manchester City, one of the richest clubs in the entire universe, following Donovan's breakout performance on the world's stage. While that's a fantastic thing for the American, it has to be rather bittersweet, given that he's under contract with MLS and they don't see any reason to sell him off, no matter how much money he's worth. ↵


↵And really, a lot of this is his own fault. Donovan chose to sign a four-year contract extension with MLS in December rather than wait and test his value on the open market. Now that he's proven he can play with the big boys, he's seemingly stuck in MLS until after the 2013 season. Sure he can go out on loan during the MLS off-season, but isn't that a little like going to Space Camp in the summer and getting home-schooled the rest of the year? ↵


↵As a fan, this is a tough situation. Donovan's name is so synonymous with American soccer that his success is tethered to the perception of success for the entire USMNT program. If he does well in Europe, it could open doors for more USMNT players now and in the future. At the same time, if U.S. soccer fans want a league in America we can be proud to support, we need our top players to stay. Perhaps the off-season loan is still the best option. It doesn't look like MLS is interested in much else anyway. ↵


This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.