The MLS has quickly become one of the most important leagues in the CONMEBOL/CONCACAF region.
Even though the MLS is not known for exporting players to Europe, that trend has been changing of late. Joevin Jones signed with SV Darmsdadt, but he won’t be the last player to make the jump from the States to any of the top European leagues. In fact, several young players have proven to be talented enough to play in a more competitive league in the near future.
Without further ado, here are three MLS players who have enough talent to play in Europe in the coming months.
A central midfielder can operate in a number of roles. There are defensive-minded players, attacking-minded ones, and some can operate in both roles with equal ease. That is where Kellyn Acosta fits best. The FC Dallas midfielder is considered as one of the top box-to-box midfielders in the league. And considering his progression over the last 12 months, he is one the premier candidates to make the jump to Europe in the coming months.
Acosta spent most of his youth career as a highly-touted prospect, and he has done nothing to change the experts’ opinion. The 22-year-old central midfielder came through FC Dallas’ youth ranks, and has already amassed 95 MLS appearances; as well as taking part in the USMNT squad that won the 2017 Gold Cup last July. In fact, the player himself said he would like to move to Europe during the current transfer window. There might not be offers on the table right now, but his time will come sooner than later.
Acosta became an important member of the USMNT this year as well. He has earned call-ups for their four World Cup Qualifiers in 2014 and started four of the team’s six matches in their title-winning Gold Cup run. A move to Europe only seems like the most logical step in his development.
Zack Steffen is the only player in this list that has experience playing in Europe. But even though he returned to the MLS to play for Columbus Crew, all signs indicate he should return to Europe sooner rather than later. But this time he can do it on one of the top leagues. Steffen is quite young for the goalkeeper position since he is only 22 years old. However, he looks far more experienced as soon as he steps on the pitch. In fact, MLS’ official website cites Steffen as “a talented goalkeeper with great potential and someone who has performed on the biggest stages for the United States youth national teams.”
Steffen started his career in Europe when he signed for SC Freiburg II in 2015, but returned to MLS in August last year. This year he became the starter for Columbus, but the sky is the limit for him. And considering his potential, it is only a matter of time before he becomes the starter for the USMNT. He would fit perfectly in the Bundesliga, although his playing style could also fit in the Championship or even the Premier League if any team needs a young, potential-filled shot stopper.
At 22, the world is his for the taking.
Several MLS experts have wondered why Steve Birnbaum has not moved to Europe yet. And honestly, it is quite hard to answer that question. The DC United defender has had several chances to move overseas, but none of these opportunities have turned into reality so the 26-year-old centre back remains as one of the top defenders in the league.
Birnbaum has alternated in the starting XI for DCU this season, but he is one of the most promising defenders in the country. He is quick in his movement, possesses an accurate touch, and is a viable aerial threat on both ends of the pitch. And while being 26 years of age does not make him a young player, he is relatively youthful for the centre-back position.
Birnbaum has been on the radar of several European clubs. In fact, he had offers from Israel, Holland, and Germany last year, but he decided to stay on U.S. soil. He did not feature for the USMNT in the 2017 Gold Cup, but took part of the squad in the 2016 Copa America Centenario. The potential is there, as he fits the mould of a Bundesliga/Premier League player if he gets back to his pre-2017 form.