MLS Tries to Build Up Participation of Black Players and Coaches

Major League Soccer, the top division of American soccer since the mid-1990s, has a solid international flavor among its roster and coaching staff. However, MLS hasn’t seen the same level of black athlete participation as other top sporting leagues in the United States. Roughly, only about 22 percent of players in the league are black.

Part of the issue concerns how soccer players are developed in the United States. Many come up through a club system where people get better coaching based on how much money they can afford to pay coaches. This shuts out certain parts of the population from being able to play club soccer.

However, the MLS does have many black stars who have found a way through the system to excel at the professional level. What the league is hoping is that their success inspires others to follow in their path.

 

Wanyama Has Found Home in Montreal

01gekpbcff9x47t111wm
Victor Wanyama

Victor Wanyama had his shot at playing in the English Premier League for seven seasons. By the time the 2019-2020 season rolled around, the Kenyan international player went to the then-Montreal Impact in the MLS on a transfer. Wanyama, now playing for the renamed CF Montreal, has appeared in at least 20 or more matches in four straight seasons.

The defensive midfielder has been solid with Montreal. Wanyama will be in Montreal for two more seasons as a designated player.

 

Zardes Has Opened Eyes with Play

 

American-born Gyasi Zardes has had a strong 11 seasons in the MLS.  Zardes started his career with the Los Angeles Galaxy but has also spent time with the Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids, and Austin FC. Zardes also had a few cups of coffee with the United States men’s national team.

During his time in MLS, Zardes has shown a strong scoring touch. From 2018 to 2020 with Columbus, Zardes finished with three straight double-digit goal-scoring seasons. Zardes scored a career-high 19 goals during the 2018 season. Zardes has scored 104 goals in 292 MLS appearances.

 

Wood Has Had Strong Career

 

Bobby Wood, from Hawaii, took a while to come back to play in the MLS. During the early part of Wood’s career, he played professionally in Germany and the Bundesliga. Wood didn’t sign with the MLS until he came to Real Salt Lake in 2021.

Wood, who now plays with the New England Revolution, also saw a significant role with the US national team. Wood has 45 caps during his international career and has scored 13 times for Team USA.

 

Blake Has Helped Keep Union Together

 

Jamaican national and Philadelphia Union keeper Andre Blake has excelled during his MLS career. During the 2022 season, Blake recorded a career-high 15 clean sheets and helped Philadelphia reach the MLS Cup final before losing to LAFC. Blake has recorded double-digit clean sheets in three of 10 seasons.

Blake allows 1.22 goals per game. Blake has a 73.7 career save percentage. Blake’s career-high save percentage was 82.5 percent, which came during the 2022 season.

 

French-born Ebobisse Finds Way through American System

 

Jeremy Ebobisse, 26, was born in Paris, France, but was raised in Bethesda, Maryland. Ebobisse battled his way through the system. He played at the NCAA level, scoring nine goals in 37 appearances at Duke. 

Once leaving Duke, Ebobisse ground his way through the low levels of American soccer. He scored six goals in nine appearances for D.C. United’s under-23 team. He also played in five games for the Tier 2 USL’s Charleston Battery. Ebobisse signed with the Portland Timbers in 2017 but still needed time to develop as he played for the Timbers II in USL.

Currently, Ebobisse is a striker with the San Jose Earthquakes. Ebobisse has scored 26 goals in 71 appearances for the Earthquakes. He made one appearance with the United States national team in 2019.

 

Yedlin Has Been All Over the World

DeAndre_Yedlin
Deandre Yedlin

DeAndre Yedlin, a right-back who just turned 30, started with the Seattle Sounders of MLS in 2013. But Yedlin’s travels took him well beyond the Pacific Northwest. Yedlin’s success saw him spend a significant amount of time in the English Premier League with Newcastle United and a season with Galatasaray in Turkey.

While finding success during his club career, Yedlin has also been a regular member of the US national team. He has made 81 appearances since his first cap with the US team in 2014. Yedlin returned to the MLS in 2022 and has made 54 appearances with Inter Miami.

Playing with Inter Miami has provided Yedlin with an opportunity to play with Lionel Messi. Messi’s decision to join the MLS has given his teammates a bump, and Yedlin should benefit from the increased attention.

 

Morrow Pushes for Change

 

Former Toronto FC standout Justin Morrow isn’t just a black player who used to play in MLS. The fullback has also been working with the league to foster change. Morrow is the executive director of Black Players for Change, which is aimed at helping encourage teams to bring in more black players and executives into the league.

Morrow was named the MLS’ Humanitarian of the Year in 2020 thanks partly to his efforts for the Black Players for Change. Morrow worked his way up the professional soccer ladder the hard way. Morrow played four years in college at Notre Dame. After leaving school, Morrow played for the now-defunct Indiana Invaders, who were in the USL Premier Development League.

Morrow then played for the Cleveland Internationals and Chicago Fire Premier before finally landing with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2010. Morrow would find the most success after landing in Toronto in 2014.Morrow would stay with Toronto until 2021. He played in 207 matches for Toronto and scored 17 goals. Morrow finished his career with 32 goals in 322 appearances at all levels. Morrow made four appearances with the US national team.