I prefer to leave MLS commentary to those more capable, but I can’t let the beginning of Freddy Adu’s "trial" at Manchester United pass without a mention.
If the United States wants its national team to succeed at the highest levels, its stars must be playing abroad. Hopefully, in a few years, that won’t be the case anymore. But it is now. Nearly every single nation has its best players plying their trade in Europe, no matter their geographic origin; currently the Premiership has players from Togo, China, Oman, and Chile among others. Perusing Yanks Abroad, the exodus from MLS has increased, and most of the players are better for it. Don't be fooled by the results from the last World Cup, the national team is too.
I’m firmly convinced Freddy Adu is the exception to that rule, at least at this stage. Age is the main factor in the equation. On a personal level, I think he’s still too young to go abroad, end of. He’s only 17; no matter the work permit considerations, just remember yourself at age 17. But it goes farther than that.
There will be an enormous weight on the boy’s shoulders when he goes abroad. He would be the highest profile American ever to play overseas. I fear too much would be expected too soon, and he’ll barely be 18 when the next season starts in Europe. That’s something few 18 year olds would or should be able to bear.
Since the age of 14, Freddy Adu has had “LeBron” levels of hype (if you don't get the reference, lucky you). The fact that soccer remains somewhat of an unknown in America seems to be the only thing keeping Nike from trying to make him a major marketing phenomenon. And I don’t believe he’s ready to live up to the hype that would be created when he goes.
Granted, he’s made great development this season with DC United, more than I thought he would. His talent is obvious, and it’s little wonder that the Uniteds and Chelseas of the world are sniffing around him; especially when you see the money splashed around at Theo Walcott and John Obi Mikel. The trend is long in place where the big clubs get at the prodigies as young as possible, and I’m not surprised Freddy’s fallen in that line. Doesn’t mean I agree with it, mind you.
Not to mention it’s in Freddy’s, and the US’s, best interests to have him seeing regular first-team action. That’s not going to happen at any of the big clubs in Europe. Adu’s development may be shockingly quick, but it’s nowhere near complete. While playing against better competition would help, the most important thing is to be playing regularly. And I’m not counting a youth or reserve side as regular competition.
Also, and I hate to look at it from a commercial angle, but when you see so much gossip about MLS needing a marketable star, and the “Beckham rule” looking to bring its namesake or Luis Figo to these shores, I find it hard to believe MLS is thrilled about the prospect of Adu leaving, especially so soon.
Please stay in MLS, Freddy, because you need it as much as it needs you.