Sounders Mining Unique Foreign Shores

MLS Players By Place Of Birth 2011 via www.mlssoccer.com

Various MLS teams carry associations with particular regions for their foreign players. The Chicago Fire rode their ability to scout Eastern Europe (decent football, middling economics) to an extraordinary launch for their franchise. D.C. United uses non-major nations from South America (decent football, poor economics) to become MLS first dynasty. Chivas USA specializes in Mexico (strong football, middling economics, nationalism). Toronto FC found Canadians (nationalism), while their national partner Vancouver Whitecaps basically ignored them. New York Red Bulls found a couple of Baltic players. With Seattle Sounders FC signing Adam Johansson (Sweden) and reportedly adding Christian Sivebaek (Denmark) combined with past players Erik Friberg and Freddie Ljungberg they seem to be expanding a connection to Scandinavia.

Unlike the mining of the Caribbean, Africa, Central America or Asia these players come from strong economic situations. Unlike the discovery of talents from Western Europe (especially England and France) these aren't players being ignored by their home nations' top leagues.

In some ways when MLS finds players from Scandinavia they are finding similar types of players to those in Argentina or Brazil. They are from nations known to produce talent in areas heavily scouted by Europe's top leagues. In other ways they are similar to players discovered from Belgium, Scotland or Switzerland as they are from relatively strong economies, some of the strongest economies in the world.

Now each signing is a unique set of circumstances related to transfer fee, contract value & length, playing opportunity and ability to generate interest in future earnings. Still as a group, Seattle's ability to appeal to players from nations of wealth and soccer ability is a bit unique. Yes, there are only four total players so far, but last year in MLS there were only three players on MLS rosters from the area.

Today Johannson said "The Sounders are one of the biggest teams in the United States. They want to be one of the top clubs in North and South America and have big crowds. I'm joining a club with a very good reputation." When Austrian Michael Gspurnning signed he mentioned large crowds and playing in international competitions as part of their reason for choosing Seattle as well.

It's a unique combination in Major League Soccer. Only the LA Galaxy, Fire and United have histories with strong support and success. Most of their internationals came from poorer nations with LA of course breaking the bank to get a couple strong players from the British Isles.

In looking at the regional distribution of talent last season for all of MLS you see that talent is mostly found from the Western Hemisphere, specifically the less famous footballing nations. While the Sounders somehow appeal to players from nations with similar economic status of the United States. This team over its more than three offseasons has ignored two important talent zones where other MLS teams have succeeded - North America and Brazil/Argentina.

Region

Sounders 09 to Present Players

Percent

All 2011 MLS

Percent

Mexico/Canada

0

0%

32

15%

Rest South America

4

20%

29

14%

Caribbean

4

20%

24

11%

Brazil/Argentina

1

5%

23

11%

West Africa

2

10%

22

11%

British Isles

0

0%

15

7%

Eastern Europe

0

0%

15

7%

Western Europe

3

15%

13

6%

Central America

1

5%

12

6%

Rest of Africa

1

5%

12

6%

Asia/Oceania

0

0%

7

3%

Scandinavia

4

20%

5

2%

While all MLS teams are looking for talent from specific leagues, nations or regions they can exploit (Seattle in East Africa and Caribbean) the ability to persuade players in regions that they shouldn't be able to exploit is uniquely Seattle.

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