It is a testament the growing ability of U.S. soccer -- however slow that growth may be -- that MLS players, both American and foreign-born, are now in the same discussions as those who play in the various and far superior leagues in Europe. There was a time when not only did no American soccer league exist, but when the players in the league were almost entirely former U.S. collegiate players or cast-offs from a different country. The league is still vastly inferior to its rivals, but it's making progress. Slow, slight progress.
One sign of that progress is the demand for U.S. players abroad. Brian McBride is perhaps the most successful of these; his stint with Fulham in England earned him a wide British fan base and a devoted following. At 36, McBride signed with his hometown Chicago Fire (he is from Arlington Heights) and moved back to the U.S. Even at his age, Fulham wants him back. But this time the Fire aren't going to let him go.
This is usually where we soccer fans would complain about the MLS not letting its U.S. National Team talent go play in Europe, and how it holds back the national team, and blah blah blah, but the Fire are correct here. They're trying to win a title. McBride is 36. He doesn't even play for the USMNT anymore. English Premier League teams have a way of poaching talent, as well they should -- their league is the best in the world. But in this case, the Fire are right to keep McBride stateside.
Eamonn Brennan is a writer, editor and blogger hunkered down in Lincoln Park. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, MOUTHPIECE Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com.