Landon Donovan, the 30-year-old LA Galaxy forward, has been left out the U.S. national team this summer.

Many assert that this is a right of passage for ageing player, citing the struggles David Beckham faced with the English national team in the last five years of his playing career.

It is worth noting, however, that Donovan does not face the same competition that Becks had in England, having to beat out the likes of Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott.

This begs the question, why is Donovan struggling to find a role for the national side, while someone like Clint Dempsey, who is only a year younger, becomes more important year after year?

The answer to this question may be related to Donovan's persistent resistance to leaving the United States in pursuit of a higher-level of professional football in Europe.

Many people applaud Donovan's commitment to the MLS, and they are right to assert that Donovan made a massive impact on U.S. soccer.

That being said, Donovan’s impact on U.S. soccer was most notable in his international performance.

Donovan’s MLS success warrants massive admiration, yet one can’t help but wonder whether Donovan did himself a disservice by never having a serious European bout like many of his national team contemporaries (Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Brad Friedel). 

Donovan had short-term loans in Europe with F.C. Bayern Munich and Everton, yet he never signed a long-term deal due to personal hesitation and contract frustrations with the MLS. 

Many commentators have argued that Donovan’s commitment to the MLS has enriched U.S. soccer, and that players like Dempsey are perpetuating America’s disconnect from the sport of soccer by abandoning their homeland to compete at a higher level.

However, this argument is fundamentally flawed. The assumption that, in order to establish soccer as a nationally relevant sport, the U.S. must hoard its players from European leagues is a misdiagnosis.

It is common knowledge that Brazil is one of the leading countries associated with soccer culture, yet they lack an internationally significant soccer league. 

Brazilian soccer fans embrace their finest athletes leaving South America in order to play the game at its highest proficiency, so long as they achieve in international tournaments.

This is the attitude U.S. soccer fans should have taken with Donovan. Who knows what type of player Donovan would have become had he been toe-to-toe with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Didier Drogba, and Robin van Persie on a weekly basis? Now we never will know.


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