Tomorrow, Major League Soccer’s 2007 season kicks off with a match between D.C. United and the Colorado Rapids. It’s true, David Beckham has brought a lot of attention with him to MLS, but there are other noteworthy developments this season that will also attract new eyes to the league. Not only will every game be televised for the first time in league history, but there will be a tournament featuring four MLS teams and four Mexican clubs that debuts in July with a $1 million prize.
I was saddened to hear that Cobi Jones announced that he will retire at the end of the season. Growing up very involved in the soccer community, and with heightened exposure around the 1994 World Cup in the United States, Cobi quickly became my favorite player. We shared a jersey number and, I liked to think back then, a similar, spunky style of play. He is the only player who has remained with the same MLS team since the league’s debut in 1996, playing 281 games for the Los Angeles Galaxy. Part of me expected him to always be on the field.
Cobi’s involvement with the same team for so many years brings up an interesting point regarding player loyalty. It the rare professional athlete who remains with just one team, especially if doing so means turning down more money elsewhere. Similarly, in youth sports, there is a fine line between staying loyal to your team and putting yourself in a position to reach a future goal -- such as getting an athletic scholarship.
I personally observed what seemed like a lack of loyalty in the sport community growing up. I played on the same competitive fastpitch softball team for eight years. We were like a second family. I was crushed to learn after one of those years that half of our starting lineup was quitting to create a new team more attractive to college scouts.
I understand that you have to lookout for yourself and do what is in your best interest. However, I couldn’t and didn’t want to switch teams and leave my teammates and coaches of so many years—we had our fair share of exposure, too. Is breaking away from a close-knit team worth a bit more college exposure?
(Photo provided by Getty Images/Doug Pensinger)