Landon Donovan, soccer player for the Los Angeles Galaxy and strong candidate for best American to ever play the game, told ESPNFC that Brazil, the host for this summer’s World Cup, would likely be his last chance to compete in the prestigious event. “It’s hard for me to imagine, sitting here, that I’ll be able to walk in four years, much less play soccer,” said the 32-year old, who is the U.S. Men’s Nationals scoring leader. The next World Cup is scheduled for Russia in 2018.
For a player who began his career signing a massive six-year deal at the age of 16 with German club Bayer Leverkusen, who played in the prestegious Bundesliga league in 1999, Donovan took a sharp left from the career of many professional footballers by abandoning Europe to play in the US in 2001. This may come as a shock to some, but Major League Soccer, or MLS, is not considered one of the premiere leagues in the world (even though David Beckham plays here now and everything). Donovan was able to play for the San Jose Earthquake, an MLS team, in 2001 due to soccer’s special contract rules around loaning.
In essence, being on loan is exactly as it sounds — a player is signed with one team but plays for another. Sometimes the arrangement is financial: the second club will pick up some or all of the player’s contract for the duration of the loan. Other times it can be an opportunity for a player to get more playing time, or, like in Donovan’s case, a clash of civilizations. Whatever the case may be, Donovan’s loan to San Jose was fortuitous, as he led them to an MLS Championship in his first year with the team.
It also let him focus on the national team and the World Cup. Playing in 2002, Donovan was able to help the U.S. team reach the Quarter Finals, although they could not get by Germany, losing 1-0. Despite his individual dominance at home — playing for the Los Angeles Galaxy since 2005, Donovan has accumulated four U.S. Soccer Player of the Year awards. The U.S. team would be eliminated in the group stage in the 2006 World Cup after losing two games and drawing one in the group stage.
Donovan’s best World Cup came in 2010, although his team was eliminated in the Round of 16. In the 2010 event held in South Africa, Landon became the team’s all time leading scorer, making three goals in four games for an all time total. There is no danger of Donovan not making the roster for the Men’s National Team’s trip to Brazil, despite the fact that he has yet to play in any of the World Cup qualifiers. The team drew Group G for the 2014 World Cup along with Ghana, Germany, and Portugal.