Earlier this week Foster Langsdorf retired from professional soccer. This news wasn’t picked up by major news outlets, and Loons fans can be forgiven for not knowing this news. Foster played 42 of his 67 career MLS minutes with Minnesota United, the remaining 25 came with the Portland Timbers. Langsdorf is a Portland kid, who played his final few years in academy with the Timbers. So why should we worry about someone who rarely played for the Loons retiring you may ask? The trend of some players retiring before they reach the prime of their career isn’t good for the league.
Sometimes a player retires early due to injuries, sometimes a player just realizes they won’t make it to a professional level, but sometimes a player retires in this country because it doesn’t make economic sense to.
The USL/”Lower Division” Soccer
The sad reality is many of the teams in these leagues can’t afford to pay their players better then many jobs outside of soccer can pay them. Let alone when you start considering factors such as medical insurance, and helping to support a family. It’s widely reported that the average USL salary ranges somewhere between 40,000-60,000 USD. At the bottom end of MLS players are earning around 60,000 USD. While that is certainly a livable wage, and much better then what many earn outside of the Championship (if they earn anything at all). There are many playing for the love of the game who gladly take that pay cut.
However, for arguments sake, lets take Foster Langsdorf. A Stanford graduate who got a degree in Management Science & Engineering. For context, Foster was a standout in college who ended up being one of the top goal scorers in program history, and finished his collegiate career as the Pac-12 career leader in points (86) and goals (37). If that wasn’t enough Foster was twice named the PAC-12 Player of the Year. However, Foster also did well in the classroom at Stanford being named Honorable Mention Academic All-Conference for three seasons (you’re not eligible your Freshman year).
When I reached out to an old coach of Foster’s they had not been in touch to find out why he retired just yet, but described Foster as a very intelligent man. He saw Chris Wondolowski type potential in Langsdorf, someone who could finish chances with the best of them. Wondo took time to find the place where he would be given a chance and has carved out a career as a club legend even playing in a World Cup. Who knows if Foster would have achieved these things, but obviously it made sense to hang up his boots. I do not know why Foster chose to retire early, however it would be safe to assume Foster will get a much better paying job, and realized soccer no longer made sense.
The Bigger Picture
That thought, by it’s very nature, is sad. Someone walking away from a life long dream is something we all go through at some point or another. To make that decision while you are “living that dream” so many would give everything for is even tougher. However, we all need to make decisions with our self and the ones we care about at heart. That being said, when it comes to soccer players in the top divisions of the sport in this country it should be something we are past.
I fully realize these teams need to make money, and we don’t want the league system to collapse like NASL did. However, this soccer ecosystem is nothing like the NASL. If this league and this federation are serious about the goals they have set themselves, they players/staff who aren’t amongst the highest paid need to be paid like they are appreciated too. This goes beyond them, because the best way for some of these people to stick in the sport is by supporting them. It extends to people who work in the sport, and take their time to provide this growing soccer culture. If the money isn’t there for this ecosystem, then we cannot take it to where we all want it to be. So go support your local teams beyond your local MLS market, and support your local people involved with the sport, it all makes a difference!
It’s safe to say a player who is good enough for a Bundesliga club to loan them out to the 2. Bundesliga wouldn’t be retiring for financial decisions at 25. Do we know Foster retired for financial reasons? No, but there have been plenty of players who have in the past. Will there be outliers even if you do pay them like other leagues/sports? Of course, however just because you can make an excuse for something doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem.