MLS Playoffs: Americans play mostly supporting roles

Aside from David Ochoa, the 20-year-old Californian, we have not been hearing a lot from Americans in the 2021 MLS playoffs.

Ochoa's Real Salt Lake teammate, Bobby Wood, came off the bench to score the winning goal in the 2-1 win at Sporting KC, but Americans have been playing mostly supporting roles in the 2021 MLS playoffs.

Of the 10 goals scored in the conference semifinals, which concluded on Tuesday, Wood's goal was the only one scored by an American. In the first two rounds, just four of 25 goals -- 16 percent  -- have been scored by Americans. (In addition, one of the goals, Tajon Buchanan's tying goal for New England late in overtime against NYCFC, was scored by a Canadian.)

An average of 3.9 Americans per team started in the first 10 games of the playoffs, down from 4.5 for the first two rounds in 2019, the first year MLS had 14 teams in the playoffs and went to a single-elimination format throughout the postseason. Only a half dozen Americans are attacking players, and the majority of subs are also foreigners.

The two teams who will host this weekend's conference finals have started the fewest Americans in their respective conferences both over two games: Philadelphia (2.5) and Portland (1).

In the 2019 playoffs, the Union started five Americans, but two of them, Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie, were sold to European clubs in January. It has more young academy products moving into the first team -- Aaronson's brother, Paxten, started in Round One against the New York Red Bulls, and sub Jack McGlynn, another teenager, converted his penalty kick in the shootout win over Nashville SC  -- but they are still very young. The Timbers had two other Americans in their starting lineup in 2019, but Jorge Villafana and Jeremy Ebobisse were traded to the LA Galaxy and San Jose, respectively, in 2021.

For the investment in academy programs, the number of Homegrown Players starting in the playoffs is still tiny, up only slightly from 2019: 16.5 vs. 14.

Only 28 percent of American starters are Homegrown Players, though that's up from 22 percent in 2019. Most Americans are still products of college soccer or started their careers at foreign clubs before moving to MLS.

USA & Canada starters (2021 MLS playoffs)
Eastern Conference:
Nashville SC (8). USA 7, Canada 1.
New England (8). USA 7 Canada 1.
NY Red Bulls (5). USA 5 (Homegrown 2).
NYCFC (4). USA 4 (Homegrown 2).
Atlanta United (4). USA 4 (Homegrown 1).
Orlando City (3). USA 3 (Homegrown 1).
Philadelphia (2.5). USA 2.5 (Homegrown 0.5).

Western Conference:
Real Salt Lake (5). USA 5 (Homegrown 4).
Colorado (5). USA 5 (Homegrown 3).
Seattle (5). USA 5 (Homegrown 1).
Vancouver (4). USA 2 Canada 2.
Minn. United (3). USA 2 Canada 1 (Homegrown 1).
Sporting KC (2.5). USA 2.5 (*Homegrown 1).
Portland (1). USA 1.
*Hungarian Daniel Salloi is a Homegrown Player.

USA & Canada starters (*2019 MLS playoffs)
Eastern Conference:
New England (6). USA 6 (Homegrown 1).
Philadelphia (5). USA 5 (Homegrown 2).
Atlanta United (5). USA 5 (Homegrown 0.5)
Toronto FC (5). USA 4, Canada 1.
NY Red Bulls (5). USA 5.
D.C. United (4). USA 4 (Homegrown 1).
NYCFC (2). USA 2.

Western Conference:

FC Dallas (6). USA 6 (Homegrown 4).
Real Salt Lake (5.5). USA 5.5 (Homegrown 3.5).
LA Galaxy (5). USA 5.
LAFC (5). USA 5.
Minn United (3). USA 3.
Seattle (3). USA 3 (Homegrown 1).
Portland (3). USA 3 (Homegrown 1).
*First two rounds.
Note: Homegrown Players include players developed at other MLS clubs.

6 comments about "MLS Playoffs: Americans play mostly supporting roles".
  1. Anthony Petgrave, December 2, 2021 at 10:19 a.m.

    Thank goodness for Philadelphia & Nashville, especially Nashville, IMHO.

  2. Alvaro Bettucchi, December 2, 2021 at 11:52 a.m.

    No mention of the San Jose Earthqules! Why? There is so much youth soccer in northern California (not ever mentioned in the local media), the Earthquakes should be involved in taking advantage of our youth.

  3. humble 1, December 2, 2021 at 12:20 p.m.

    Interesting that this article comes out the same day as Mike W's peice on MLS Next.  DA and now MLS Next are pretty much feeders to college.  90+ percent.  Brazil Serie A teams are limited to 5 rostered foreign players.  Pretty sure MLS has no limit.  Mexico has a complex system to protect spots for national players, it is pretty ineffective.  Brazil is the number one producer of professional players in the world by far, far, far over any other country.  Our boys are a tiny fraction of Brazils, probably 5% or less.  Aregentina, per capita may surpase Brazil, they allow i think, 6 foreign players per roster in their Primera Division.  Roster limits do the trick.  USSF maybe has the authority, not sure.  Not rocket science, just need vision and actual commitment to the youth players in the USA instead of to soccer as a business.  Do not replicate Mexico or UK for that matter, look to the real leaders of youth soccer in our region.  Cheers! 

  4. Scott Matulis, December 2, 2021 at 1:24 p.m.

    All levels of American soccer are dominated by foreign players from ncaa to USLto MLS. You g Americans have no shot. 

  5. frank schoon, December 3, 2021 at 10:55 a.m.

    I hope no one is surprised by the stats....Yeah, but we are sending our players to Europe to play. How do you explain that Dichotomy. The point is we are sending basically Turbos, piano carriers, heavy equipment operators, no creative players no great technicians or thinkers.....

    And we're hoping that hiring characters like Fred Lipka will improve the situation....Good luck with that!!!  Remember the Dutch guys we hired....another LOSER...

    In the Fred Lipka interview, he never mentioned how important Pickup soccer is to the development of the players. All these so-called experts coming over here never mentioned one word about Pickup soccer....What these characters who come over here are doing is to rewarm the french fries, put it  in another bag and resell it .....Our  soccer will never develop our players unless PICKUP soccer becomes part of our culture. They are coming here for the money. 

    Ever wonder why colleges our bringing over young foreign players to play college ball instead of recruiting our boys to play. What is really the difference between our boys and them....Coaching???? or is that they play more pickup.  

  6. Santiago 1314, December 3, 2021 at 2:07 p.m.

    Yup SA, got the Analytics. For my comment, I Repost:

    1. Santiago 1314 replied, November 22, 2021 at 1:05 p.m.

      It really has become a Liga of Mini-Mes. 2nd Level S.American and Ct. American "Quickies"... It's NOT BAD Soccer, It's Just Different from Previous" American" versions of "Verticality".... Choppy Play and Choppy fouls, which if you watch Their "Home" Ligas, Is the same thing... But we are Exporting Our Best Young Talent out of The USA... Got to Fill the void with Something.... Not sure this Business Model is sustainable.... Dynamo Implosion is a Good Example... And It's in a "Hispanic Market" 

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications