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365 Exclusive
MATHIS NOT TIPPING HAND OVER MAN CITY LINK
04/04/02
by Doug McIntyre

U.S. national team star Clint Mathis has responded to speculation that English Premier League-bound Manchester City want to buy the striker from Major League Soccer.

Mathis scored the only goal in the U.S. team’s 1-0 win over Mexico Wednesday in a friendly match at INVESCO field in Denver. Representatives from Maine Road were in attendance to track the MetroStars player, according to Telemundo broadcaster Andres Cantor.

Rumors started flying on both sides of the Atlantic last week when it emerged that City manager Kevin Keegan traveled to Rostock to personally scout Mathis against the Germans, where he scored both U.S. goals in a 4-2 loss.

Before leaving to join the national team for the games against Germany and Mexico, Mathis spoke to Soccer365 about a possible move to the light blue side of Manchester.

“They’re doing really well,” Mathis said of City, who need just one point from their final three games to guarantee promotion to the Premiership next season.

“You never know, there are always opportunities. The important thing is to concentrate on doing well with the MetroStars, hopefully get to the Wold Cup and do well there, and [we’ll see] what happens after that.

“I’ll definitely leave my door open,” Mathis told 365. “I have to weigh all the options and see what's going to benefit me and my family's future. But until it happens, I don’t even worry about it.”

Mathis’ contract with MLS runs through the end of the 2003 season, and the league likely wouldn’t consider selling him until after this summer’s World Cup Finals. Even then, they may demand that he be allowed to remain with the MetroStars until the end of their season. If MLS does decide to cash in on its first homegrown star, it will undoubtedly expect a record transfer fee in return.

MLS commissioner Don Garber has repeatedly said the league will try to keep young American stars like Mathis playing at home, so it will be interesting to see how MLS handles the future of the first bona fide international star it has produced in its seven year history.

With his latest strike, Mathis now has 8 goals in eighteen international appearances, including 5 in his last 4 matches. He has registered at least a point in his last seven starts for the U.S., and his red-hot form since returning from a long-term knee injury in January has also attracted the attention of two current Premiership clubs, according to a source.

If MLS decides to hold on to Mathis, they could recoup some of his increased salary and expose him to to the world’s best leagues by loaning him to a European side during the long offseason.

MLS stars Brian McBride (Preston North End) and Ben Olsen (Nottingham Forest) spent time in the English first division last season and Dema Kovalenko recently rejoined the Chicago Fire after starting five games this winter with Bundesliga outfit FC St. Pauli.

“[Playing in the Premier League] would be great,” admitted Mathis. “But at the same time I like playing here. I do want soccer to grow here and I think this league can make it. It’s just going to take time. And in order for it to grow I don’t think we need to get rid of everybody. Nothing’s happened yet. I’m here, and I’m very happy here.”
 

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Mathis has to weigh his options carefully. He has to absolutly make sure that he we be a regular in the first 11 a majority of the time in order for him to go to whatever European league he goes to. It would be a waste of his talent to go to Europe to sit on the bench.

If he is guaranteed a spot, he should go. The skill level of the MLS does not even come close to that of the EPL.....a player can only get better playing against better competion and Mathis is no exception. Plus, he will be paid much better in the EPL.

I think it would be great if the MLS can have our European based guys like a Reyna or a Kirovski or Stewart etc. but there is a reason why they are in Europe and not here....
 
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i agree 100 % , but what i really appreciate , is that mathis recognizes that the game needs to grow here first. If he stays , i think for himself it could be a mistake , but for the league , it could be a huge boost for the morale of the league and players , because it would truly show that we are serious about making mls a good league.
 

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Guys, this is a toughie. With a couple of goals in the WC, Mathis could become a hot commodity indeed. Big bucks would be offered for his services and MLS could use the money. But, a home grown superstar could boost the league a lot. I feel that MLS needs to reach a critical mass, as in an atomic pile. Once there, interest in the league would become self sustaining and you would see a 16 team league, new stadiums, and an influx of young American stars. Can one man provide this, or would an 8 figure transfer fee, be better? I sure hope the Jackamoes running MLS make the right decision.:D :cool:
 

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It's catch-22 situation, Doc. Which way proves better can only be seen over time.

On the other hand, many parents encourage their kids to play helmet ball, baseball and basketball because that's where the money is! If Mathis, Reyna, etc., can prove that soccer can mean big bucks also! Who knows?
 

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It's funny one of the biggest knocks on the NASL was that there was not enough home grown talent in the league and now that we finally have one, we want him to leave...:D ;)

Anyway, its a tough situation....I think if we want to prove ourselves as an up and coming soccer playing nation, we have to prove ourselves in Europe in front of European fans. Let them see how much we have improved with the talent we have.

On the other hand, a player like Mathis can make our domestic league grow and raise the interest. Unfortunatly the media here doesn't help as we have talked about. Even when ESPN shows a game weekly you still don't see highlites on SportsCenter..living here in NY City, where there are many immigrants from all over the world, you'd be lucky if you could see one highlite on the local news. If you don't have the MSG Network you'd be lucky if you know the MLS exists. THat is the problem. Unfortunatly if Mathis goes to Europe, we will never hear from him again except during World Cup time, he will disappear off the media map.

Tough situation....
 
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i disagree , if he goes to europe , we will hear more of him , hell when donovan was 16 and sitting on the pine at leverkusen plenty of people heard about him. If mathis goes to europe and makes any impact he weill still be talked about the same , probally even more. It all depends how the leahue handles it , and it also depends on how mathis plays in europe
 

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lilphenom...

Us soccer fans will hear about him weather mathis plays in the MLS, Manchester City, or in Siberia but unfortunatly the non-soccer fans won't. Like I mentioned, ESPN/ABC carry MLS games as well as US NT games and even Champions League as well as UEFA Cup action, but how many times do you see highlight on SportsCenter?? That is the problem.....
 

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The problem is that you cannot grow the MLS by having players play in Europe. Its impossible. The product on the field will suffer. An average fan with even the slightest interest in the game in the US will not be pursuaded to shell out $$$ for a game because of some guy playing in a European league.

Lets say Mathis has a good WC and his name is mentioned in the media a few times, would it not be beneficial to have him playing in the US and for fans to maybe want to go and see him play?

You cannot build a successful league by exporting talent.
 

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Barlinek..that is the problem...if he goes, you lose a great talent. But, that is the unfortunate part....the knock on the NASL was that there was not enough "home grown" talent.

Unfortunatly, the problem is that if you want to be better, you have to test your talents in the best possible leagues. Look as say Croatia for example. Croatia has a ton of talented players. But, the better ones go to Italy, Germany, Spain, England, France, etc. They go where the money is as well as to where the best competition is.

Its the same in all sports. Every great basketball player wants to play in the NBA...Pao Gasol isn't playing in Spain...Dirk Nowitzki isn't playing in Germany....Pedja Stojakovic isn't playing in Yugoslavia...they are all playing in the NBA....basketball players from Europe use the US and the NBA as a measuring stick and US soccer players use Europe as a measuring stick.
 

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Jure M,

What you say is true, but I think that the US situation is different. The game does not have foothold here in the US as it does in say Croatia. When young talented Croat's leave, the fans still go to the games, follow the new crop of players, but still show an interest in a Biscan or Balaban.

The problem with the US is that US fans quite simply care about pretty much what is in their own backyard. In order for the future of the game to survive in the US, sacrifices have to be made. One of those is for young talents to stay and grow the league. Sure they may not reach their full potential individually, but the league will. When the league does, that is when you can export some talent to Europe, or even slowly import some talent.

Even the US NT may suffer in the short run from a lack of experience overseas, but the league wil slowly bloom.
 

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Barlinek...great points. Thats why its a catch 22 situation. The thing is, how many people want to be the "sacrificial lamb" and stay here. Knowing that if you go overseas you will make a ton more money than in the MLS.

How much better would the league be if say Keller, Regis, Kirovski, Reyna, etc etc played in the MLS.

The thing is, that a soccer fan will follow Mathis and what he is doing in Europe, but the casual sports fan won't. The other problem and this is a big one, is that you never see MLS highlights on TV here. As I pointed out, ESPN/ABC have at least 1 MLS game a week yet you never see highlights on SportsCenter or on the local news. SO there is the problem...the MLS exists but you wouldn't know it watching the locals news or SportsCenter.

If I want Soccer Highlights, especially on Sunday's I have to tune into Telemundo or Univision to watch a Sports Highlight show at 11 pm or so, and they show soccer highlights from Mexico, the Spanish League, and the Italian League. Fox Sports used to have a show that was 2 hours every Sunday which showed EPL highlights and would have a "showcase" game that they condenced to about and hour. But I don't think that is on any more.
 

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Here is another take on this. At High School we Lose good talented footie players to other sports due to the simple fact there is no financial future in Footie, so many of them switch to Baseball, Am Football or Basketball. Some try to do both but it is hard to do that and be good at it. This may encourage kids that there is a chance to make a good buck if they see more European teams willing to shell out Big cash to MLS stars. This may be a good thing rather than a bad one. Yes it may hurt the league temporarily but in the long run kids may devote themselves more to the game, rather than a good youth rec. sport. Just a thought anyway.
 

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Oh and for Mathis why would he want to go to a trashy city like Manchester when he could go to one of the best places in England; like Goodison Park.:D
 

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There are 2 other problems....first of all, many kids that play in HS, rather than go play for a club team which plays a European System, they move right over to another "winter" sport, and then go to a "spring" sport, rather than devote their time to soccer.

The other problem...the NCAA, yes College soccer. NCAA rules now prohibit a player who is on scholarship in Division 1 and 2 from playing on a club team in the offseason. The rule states that during the school year, a player cannot play for a club team until the school year is finished. Which in the New York area is a killer since most club teams follow the traditional fall/spring European season....then in season you are allowed 20 hours per week of practice time which includes games. Games if I can remeber are counted as 2 hours toward practice time (it could even be 3) so if you have 2 games thats 4-6 hours out. Then also you can only practice 6 days a week. Off season, you are only allowed 8 hours of practice together as a team. Then after the school year ends, you can go play with a club team, but, you can't have more than 4 players from any 1 college team on the club team.
 

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I still think that whatever Europe does has to be forgotten if you want to build the game on this side.

Look at it from the viewpoint of the World Football League (or NFL Europe, or whatever its called). Pretty much noone in Europe cares the slightest bit about the game. Its even lower on the radar screen there than soccer is in N. America. The ONLY way the NFL can start to even fathom of making on impression in say Madrid is to grow the game from a grassroots level. Noone there cares how popular the NFL is here, and it the same way for soccer here. Noone cares that maybe some former division 1 stricker is now kicking field goals for Tampa Bay Bucs. That is not the way to get any attention.

Maybe we should just live with the fact that Soccer may never make it here as a prime-time sport. Marketing, etc.. can only do so much. Regardless of any deals the Yankees may have with Man U, Baseball will never fly in Europe, and soccer won't here.

There are so many problems with the game here that its mind-boggling. Even if you had a very good calibre of soccer in the US, the fans and media may still not care. So i'm not sure if talent or level of play is as big a factor as some may believe. Serie a is usually very boring to watch, yet that in many people's eyes is as good a calibre as there is. If you put that on prime-time US TV, the people will not watch it, much the same with the MLS on ABC (Man the odd time I try to watch, its just horrible stuff).

Man, i don't know.

:confused: :)
 

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Call the Psych's

Kerry, I am sorry, but I find myself fully agreeing with you again! Call the funny farm!

Really, Mathis may not lose too much if he stayed here in the MLS. Obviously, there is a gulf between the quality of competition, but it is closing (albeit painfully slowly).

But, weighing for staying are:

1. Guaranteed starting every game and every minute

2. Acess and availibility to National Team activities and matches during the interlude between World Cups.

3. The development of that certain "something" it takes to be a "star." This includes media attention, fan appreciation and adoration, and a sense that each performance is scrutinized and personally important.

4. A certain protection that the ref's in MLS might give him. He will be a marked man as an up and coming Yank in the EPL. Defenders and lesser players have a vested interest in showing that he doesn't belong, even if it takes cheap shots to do it. There's nothing wrong with staying healthy.

5. MLS needs a star that can do more than sell shampoo (sorry Paul Caligria sp?). The League might invest some effort in seeing that he gets national media attention, endorsements etc. Some of this might make up for the obvious cash disparities.

6. Finally, to be the "Go To Man," you've got to be the best on your squad by a fair margin. Beling that guy takes different attitudes and skills than just being another very good team player. It is important that he get playing time on a team in which he is recognized as The Man. City, by being on the cusp, may be just that squad, but Mathis needs to be sure he is needed. There's no doubt what his standing will be on the MetroStars.

7. Finally, all this might change drastically, depending upon his WC performance. A great performance or a dismal performance will change the equations.

These are just random points, guys. It has got to be a tough decision for Mathis. I hope he has some quality advice from people who know both the score and him, personally. Whatever he does, I like the kid and wish him all the luck. May he stay HEALTHY and enjoy life!

Oldplayer
 

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The level of soccer will not grow until our best athletes are playing the game since childhood. Which is starting to occur. I see young kids and high school kids that live for the game. Guys like Mathis choose soccer over the Big 4 because they love the game.

In the same vein, soccer will not be shown on tv highlights or be featured on Sportscenter until the people that run sports tv are fans. I hardly watch Sportscenter. I hate basketball and I hate baseball. The hosts of these shows are fans of these sports. They don't know and don't care about soccer. How much weight do you think Ty Keogh has at ESPN? Heck, we don't even like him. I've been putting up with soccer bashers for 30 years. In the newspapers, on tv, and in my personal life. :rolleyes: As MLS players retire and head to the broadcast booth, maybe things will change. Until then, I will suffer MLS gladly, but the fools at ESPN not at all.:D :cool:
 

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All This Is Premature ...

... Mathis and others may end up in Europe at the end of the year, only if the USA does well in the World Cup.

Man City has stated that they will be in the market for "BIG NAME" players for the next EPL season, which they will be participating.

The question is, How does one become a "BIG NAME Player"? ... PLAY WELL IN THE WORLD CUP, have a EU passport and/or play in a "soccer mad" nation. Most American's cannot fulfill the 2nd criteria, and the 3rd is self-explanatory.

Mathis and the other Americans have only one chance that I can see to impress ... PLAY WELL IN THE WORLD CUP.
 

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One of the requirements to play in the EPL is to play for your National team. So we will only have to worry about losing about 20 players to England.:D
 
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