Is U.S. Soccer anti-MLS? Somehow, this has become a real topic of discussion in American soccer circles. That Jurgen Klinsmann, his program and all of MLS have let it get to this point is ridiculous -- and they all share equal blame for their part in this over the past several years -- but here we are. And now Brad Friedel has gotten in on the action.
"I can only go by the medians that I have within U.S. Soccer, and by all means I can categorically say this: U.S. Soccer is not anti-MLS," said Friedel. "They're the complete polar opposite of anti-MLS. U.S. Soccer needs MLS to get better and grow. if MLS doesn't grow, then U.S. Soccer has a really hard time finding players. They're not the anti-MLS. There will be discussions from club to club on where improvements can be made, absolutely. But Jurgen [Klinsmann] and Andi [Herzog] are not anti-MLS. They want a bigger pool of players to choose from, which I think any national team manager around the world wants.
"There's a lot of poorly run clubs everywhere in the world. They can't just focus on an MLS club. You look at what's going on at Bolton right now. They can't pay the players. I haven't heard that in MLS. You hear that in Spain ... I know that since I've taken the job, I'm consistently on the phones with MLS clubs. I want to go in, I want to watch, I want to see what they do. I'll give my opinions privately if they want them, but absolutely try to work together. I would love to have 70 or 80 players with a 1998 birth year I could choose from. If I could get it up to 200, that would be even better. Jurgen would want the same."
Friedel frames the debate well. U.S. Soccer is heavily invested in MLS and knows that they need a healthy and growing domestic league. They've never hidden that and there's a reason the league holds considerable sway, and even director spots, at the federation.
Still, that doesn't mean that their primary goal is to help MLS. It's one of many. They also need to win now and, in some instances, players getting away from MLS and to Europe is beneficial for the national team. How much input the federation and its coaches should have in the players' decisions to do so doesn't have a clear-cut answer.
It is worth remembering that Friedel is heavily biased in matters pertaining to U.S. Soccer, though. While he is a former United States goalkeeper and a current analyst for Fox Soccer, that isn't how you can view his comments because he is also now the U.S. U-19 manager. He is all-in on U.S. Soccer, its direction, the program and its leadership. He isn't going to speak out against what U.S. Soccer is doing.
That doesn't mean that he's lying or being disingenuous here. There's no way for us to know how much of this he believes and how much he is saying for his job. But it is his job and when it comes to matters of U.S. Soccer, you have to view anything he says through that lens.