Arena suggests MLS should require more American players

Kellyn Acosta United StatesFRANCISCO LEONG/AFP/Getty Images

Bruce Arena thinks Major League Soccer needs to feature more young American players and is open to the league requiring teams to have a quota of U.S. players. 

The former U.S. national team manager voiced his thoughts on Fox Sports 1 following the U.S. national team’s 1-1 draw with Portugal in its first friendly since a shock World Cup elimination in October.

Arena was asked about the idea that the U.S. was not doing enough to discover young players and dismissed that thought, arguing that U.S. Soccer is not broken and talent on display at the youth levels is proof.

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“I do not agree with [the idea there are talented players falling through the cracks of the U.S. system] at all,” Arena said. “I think all the talented players are involved in our systems. We need to do a better job developing them. We see a variety of levels at the youth competition, we have very talented players on the field. When we look four or five years later, we can’t find them.”

Later, Arena praised the younger players on display in the Portugal draw and noted MLS must do a better job at finding them playing time.

“Today you saw a bunch of young players on the field,” Arena said. “They’re coming out of our system. So there’s some hope there. Obviously a number of them have moved on to European clubs as well.

“I think our system has to find a way to get younger players on the field. Major League Soccer is predominantly international players now.”

When asked by Alexi Lalas if MLS should mandate teams use players eligible for the U.S. national team, Arena replied: “It’s certainly a thought.”

Arena also addressed questions of what mistakes he may have made during the team's unsuccessful qualification campaign. He specifically pointed out making changes from the lineup that defeated Jamaica in the 2017 Gold Cup final to the 2-0 September qualifier loss against Costa Rica.

The U.S. made multiple changes to the team that beat Jamaica, bringing in European-based players Christian Pulisic, Fabian Johnson, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream and Bobby Wood.

“I think a mistake we made in the Costa Rica game was changing our team from the Gold Cup where we went away from that XI that won a Gold Cup and brought in five new players from Europe and on the day we didn’t play well,” Arena said.

He went on to defend the decision to start the exact same team from the victory over Panama in Trinidad, which ultimately resulted in the disastrous 2-1 defeat.

“We go back to the last game against Trinidad,” Arena said. “Did we do the same thing we did against Costa Rica and bring in new players when against Panama we felt we played one of our better games of the year? Eight of those players helped us win the Gold Cup. They had a lot of understanding for each other. They all passed physical tests. They felt right and were ready to go.

“The next day after the Trinidad loss, you reflect and say ‘Yeah, I’d have to make changes here, here and there’, however, we don’t get the luxury of doing that as coaches. So we went with the team we felt could win or at least get a result that day in Trinidad, and we failed and there’s no excuses.”