What happens to Minnesota United's young talent?
So Minnesota United is getting the bid to join the MLS family in 2018. To earn the bid, they had to defeat the bid from cross-town players the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings.
They deserved the bid rightfully, because United actually has an established team, and I believe MLS needs to respect the established teams already competing in the expansion markets rather than superseding to go over them and starve them out. United has an established fan culture and more importantly a team, and a cool color scheme. United will be an excellent addition to Major League Soccer….in 2018.
The quandary that I am in is currently related to the current roster in the service of the team. What do they do until 2018?
Look, three seasons in the world of sports is a long time to wait to get a shot at the “big league” dream of these folks. Three seasons is the current average career span of an NFL player. Seriously, the average is that low!
So…..what do these players do? Surely going from NASL to MLS means a serious bump in pay grade, and image, but can they survive that long, or will they retire for another line of work, or go off to another country for greater opportunities? This is a serious question, I believe that several MLS teams would struggle to compete against the current United roster with talent like United States Men’s National team player, Miguel Ibarra. Can United keep their current crop together till promotion?
It is a major question. On the game FIFA by EA Sports, a player hits his best overall rating around age 28 and then slowly tapers down the vine from that date onward.
So when we look at the current roster on the United squad I have to believe that most of their teams starters will not be starters at the MLS level in three seasons, or at all due to the sad process of bodily regression.
So who am I concerned about?
1. Miguel Ibarra: He is 25 years old and is a player currently active in the USMNT player pool. He is the CAM, the #10 for the team, the focal point of the attack, the fancy feet fanatic. He has been with the club since 2012 and despite getting into the national team pool as a second tier player has yet to be pouched to another club, and perhaps was the clubs greatest assets in negotiation with the league for expansion.
2. Christian Ramirez: He’ll be 24 in the next few days and he was the top scorer in the NASL last season. He took over for the aged veteran Pablo Campos in 2013 as the squads top option and became quickly the most potent striker in the second tier. The kid is primed and ready for the big league.
3. Johnny Steele: Some of you may remember this 29 year old Northern Ireland International player from the 2012 Real Salt Lake team and 2013 version of the New York Red Bulls, both in which he was a starter at the left side of the midfield. He was a player let go in my opinion due to Salary cap issues, an issue that happens all too often in professional sports and life: cut the veterans with salary and the higher risk of long term injury due to age to make room for cheap rookies who are too naïve to know the gravity of their situations. Steele would be 32 when the jump is made and I bet he’d be still able to play at the MLS level for a couple years at that point
4) Kalif Alhassan: Look he is 24 and has a decade of professional play in his career. He was with Portland since their first MLS season and even played in the USL version of the club the year prior to the club joining MLS. He made over 100 appearances for the club but found himself on the out and out at the end of the last season due to the club feeling a change over was needed after missing the playoffs in 2014. He has always been a fringe starter in the league and one who has yet to hit his best days.
These are the best examples of players currently on the Minnesota United roster that may be MLS level players in 2018 but again will they simply stay at the club flailing in the 2nd tier until the 2018 season. Hey, that could happen, because Ibarra was featured on the joining MLS announcement video speaking of the impact of the expansion process, and he expressed his excitement. Maybe he will stay until then. Yet, will all of them?
So really, there are only a few options for these guys. They can stay and flounder for 3 years, building chemistry and fan respect until the inaugural season. They can go on loan until 2018 and then return. They can retire before then. And of course they could move elsewhere in that timeframe.
My question is, what do you think will happen?