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Why Thierry Henry Signing with Red Bulls is Bad Omen for Major League Soccer

BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 22:  Thierry Henry of France looks on during the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Group A match between France and South Africa at the Free State Stadium on June 22, 2010 in Mangaung/Bloemfontein, South Africa.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Paul AustinCorrespondent IJune 25, 2010

Having boarded a jet to New York, rumors are rife that Thierry Henry has said adiós to Barcelona, and has gone on to pen a two-year deal with MLS side New York Red Bulls. Is this a step forward for the Red Bulls, or a case of history repeating itself?

Anyone who remembers the North American Soccer League (NASL) can probably remember a previous New York team, the Cosmos, who drew large crowds upwards of 40,000 fans per game by bringing in foreign talent such as the legendary Brazillian Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany.

When Pelé signed for Cosmos he was over 35 years old, and when Beckenbauer jumped on board he was 32.

Both men, while legends in their prime, were aging fast before they crossed the Atlantic and spearheaded a wave of overpaid, aging superstars often unable to still perform at the levels that propelled them to super-stardom.

There were a lot of factors in the decline of the NASL. Over-expansion was a huge reason, but one of the primary causes of the decline was a mismanagement of funds that saw millions spent on these aging stars rather than engaging the public and working to bring through young domestic talent.

If we fast forward to today to Major League Soccer (MLS) and look at David Beckham and Thierry Henry, we're once again seeing vast sums of money to lure aging players past their prime to come to America for an easy retirement gig.

And whilst MLS claim to have taken precautions against a repeat of the problems that lead to the decline of NASL, with the growing recruitment of over-salaried foreigners who no longer posses the same levels of ability and with the proposed expansions of 2011, and 2012, it has to be asked if the MLS are repeating mistakes from the past.

The United States men's national soccer team has once again made it through to the knockout stage of the current World Cup for the third time out of the last five tournaments, and they also made it to the quarterfinals in 2002.

With this track record alongside coming runners up in the 2009 Confederations Cup, and having climbed to a highest FIFA ranking of fourth in the world in 2006, they have shown the world that United States soccer is capable of competing with the best in the world and generating public support and interest.

Therefore, isn't it time for America to stand on its own and have a league that isn't reliant on over-paying semi-retired professionals, but of attracting the best, whilst still in their prime, and of churning out generations of domestic superstars capable of competing on the world stage?

I wish Thierry Henry all the best in New York, but I'd rather the Red Bulls had spent their money on developing youth talent, and I hope that this isn't a sign of history repeating itself.

 

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