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Jeff Cunningham pursues Europe option
by Ridge Mahoney, January 2nd, 2011 3:26PM

TAGS:  americans abroad, mls


[MLS] An impasse in negotiations with Columbus has prompted striker Jeff Cunningham, the No. 2 all-time goalscorer in MLS history, to test options overseas.

Agent Jan Schiefloe is finalizing arrangements that will send Cunningham to Danish club Randers and an unspecified Norwegian club next week. He will train with the teams in hope of getting an offer to continue his career overseas. Cunningham -- with 132 goals second only to Jaime Moreno -- entered the Re-Entry Draft in December after netting 11 goals last season for FC Dallas, which declined to pick up his option.

“I am quite surprised that more MLS teams haven't pursued Jeff,” said Schiefloe in an e-mail. “In the last two years, he's scored 28 goals, which is second in MLS after Conor Casey (29). I see many MLS teams looking near and far for a proven goalscorer, and time and time again pay big money for players who don't produce, while Jeff, who is proven over 13 seasons in MLS, can be signed now at a relative bargain.”

Cunningham, 34, passed through Stage 1 of the Re-Entry Draft unclaimed; apparently no team wanted him at the 2011 salary stipulated in his contract (his base salary in 2010 was $220,000 and players normally receive a five percent increase for each option year). The Crew picked him in Stage 2.

In Stage 2, unless a player has agreed with the league on a salary, teams that claim players must negotiate a new deal. Last week, the Crew and Cunningham were said to be far apart in their discussions.

“We made an offer that was rejected and he made a counterproposal that was a bit far-fetched,” Crew technical director Brian Bliss said to the Columbus Dispatch a few days before Christmas. “That was the last conversation we had.”

Like a few of the 11 players selected in Stage 2, Cunningham is being asked to take a hefty cut from his 2010 salary.

If Cunningham and the Crew cannot come to terms, Columbus will retain a right of first refusal for his rights within MLS. He scored 62 goals in 208 games during his first seven MLS seasons (1998-2004) for the Crew, and has also played for Colorado, Real Salt Lake, and Toronto FC as well as FC Dallas.

He scored 33 goals in 66 games after joining Dallas in early August of 2008. He hit his high-water seasonal mark of 17 goals in 2009 to lead the league, a feat he also accomplished in 2006 with 16 for RSL.

  1. Joe Grady
    commented on: January 3, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.
    Good luck Jeff, I hope you make it in Europe, I really do. But a 34 yo American just moving over there? Doubt anything good is happening with that. Your 'upside' is already known. Surprising how "crappy" MLS can be to it' vets, but it IS a business.
  1. Joy Hottington
    commented on: January 3, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
    How is MLS being crappy to him? He had a chance to be picked by all teams for $220k. They deemed (correctly) that he isn't worth it. I'd pay him $150k if I was an MLS team with a need for an older goalscorer with no upside. Perhaps he can find more $ in Europe... I'd be surprised.
  1. Laurent Alves
    commented on: January 3, 2011 at 3:54 p.m.
    Good Luck Jeff.I remember when you would stop by my soccer store in Tampa and chat about soccer. I was very lucky to watch you play for USF in Tampa,Florida. You have always been a class act. I wish you much success.
  1. Brad Matheny
    commented on: January 3, 2011 at 11:38 p.m.
    Jeff Cunningham is the best of the best. I remember training with him at 6am at USF, just so he could get a third work out in everyday: because he had decided to go pro. He deserves the top salary from the MLS, who he has helped develop the brand since almost the beginning. He should also fetch a pretty penny in Europe. Big up Jeffrey, much respect!!

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