American midfielder Michael Bradley has joined Major League Soccer side Toronto FC, becoming the second USMNT player to leave a top European league for the MLS. While MLS fans will be excited to see the former AS Roma midfielder back in their league, Bradley’s return was motivated by money and is bad news for the U.S.
Bradley was one of the rare American players in a top European League. At only 26-years old and with his best years ahead of him, his move to Toronto is rather surprising considering that the competition at the MLS level is significantly lower than that in the Italian Serie A. Even though he wasn’t playing as much as last season at Roma, a move to another top European league would have made more ‘football sense’.
For the United States National team, Bradley’s move is bad news because the experience he gained from playing in the Premier League and Serie A benefited Juergen Klinsmann‘s side a lot. In Serie A, the son of former U.S. coach Bob Bradley would have continued his progression playing against teams like Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli, but the MLS is not a good enough league for a player of his caliber to improve.
To keep improving, the U.S. national team needs more players in top European leagues.
MLS fans will justify Bradley’s move by a desire to ”come home”, but it’s difficult to believe that his return was not motivated by money. Toronto is not exactly home for Bradley, who was born about seven hours away from the Canadian city in Princeton, New Jersey. He joins a team that has never made the MLS playoffs. He will earn $6.5 million a year, which is over five times what he was making in the Italian capital.
Had he stayed in Rome, he would have never been a superstar like he will be in MLS, but he would have been a much better player and would have made a bigger impact for the national team. Dempsey became the best American player ahead of Landon Donovan (who chose to stay with the Los Angeles Galaxy) when he went to the Premier League and competed against the best teams in the world.
Roma are currently second in Serie A and very likely to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League, which makes Bradley’s move even more difficult to understand. Most players dream of playing in the Champions League, which is the best club competition in the world, and seeing Bradley overlooking that chance is difficult to understand for most football fans.
With all due respect to the MLS and the CONCACAF Champions League, those two competitions don’t have anything to offer for Bradley, who won’t really have to push himself to earn a starting spot.
Bradley is one of the best American players and an important player for the USMNT. His move to Toronto FC is a great step forward for the MLS, who have managed to attract another American star after Dempsey. However, the move will only hurt his growth as a player.
Malamine Sane is a soccer writer for Rant Sports. You could follow him on Twitter @Malamino