This is a monumental mismatch. In financial terms, anyway.
Brazil’s national team players have generated more than $1 billion in transfer fees. The U.S. team, their opponent in an exhibition match Tuesday at Gillette Stadium, is valued at $63 million by the website www.transfermarkt.com.
So, it’s no contest off the field. The Boys from Brazil have the ledger book, plus history and dozens of tactical and technical advantages on their side.
In fact, the U.S. has defeated Brazil only once in 17 games since 1930 – a 1-0 decision on a Preki goal at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the 1998 Gold Cup. After that match, Brazil defender Ze Maria said the teams could meet another 10 times, and the U.S. would not win once.
This will be the 10th meeting of the teams since ’98. Ze Maria has been right, so far.
And, until the U.S. is able to start winning games that count against the top competition, the team’s value is not likely to increase markedly.
But there is more to the economy of soccer than producing a respectable team at the international level.
Last year, the U.S. advanced from the group stage in a second successive World Cup for the first time. And players such as Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, and Clint Dempsey (who will miss this game with a leg injury) have been able to command significant transfer fees in recent years.
The U.S., though, has far to go to gain the prestige of Brazil.
“There are many reasons,’’ said Leonardo Scheinkman, a Brazil-born, Germany-based agent who attended the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. “First of all, Brazil is five times world champions. And, despite the technical fiasco of last year’s World Cup, it is still one of the top teams in the world.
“If you look at the clubs they play for, they are all the top clubs in the world – Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich; Philippe Coutinho at Liverpool, Neymar at Barcelona, and so on and so forth. You can call it pedigree, but if you’re playing on the Brazil national team you have to be good and you will be worth quite a lot of money.
“Then, you have another issue. After the 2002 World Cup, all the top Brazilian players started playing abroad and Brazil became an exporting country for sport. Every year, 1,000 players are exported from Brazil.
“Kids’ dream is to play in Europe, not Brazil. So, Brazil clubs are taking advantage. They are creating a product, training players to play in Europe. They go to the top teams in the world. And they also go to smaller clubs – Shakhtar Donetsk, Hoffenheim – and if they play well the bigger clubs want to buy them out and they have to pay what the market says.’’
The U.S. has had success at the international level and aspires to match the world’s best. What needs to happen next?
“You have to develop better players,’’ Scheinkman said. “You have good American players playing on decent teams but you don’t have them on the top teams in the world, yet.
“So, the U.S. still needs to develop better players to have perhaps a chance for them to go to bigger clubs. Landon Donovan went to Bayern Munich but he didn’t stay – so the level is still not there, yet. Hopefully, soon, if we work with kids coming out, they get better and then, perhaps, they can keep improving and make the jump.
“Or, instead of going to big clubs, they stay in MLS and the league keeps getting better. The objective should not be to go to Europe to develop. The objective should be to make MLS better, so they can stay and improve and make the league better, and not make the same mistake as Brazil. Because the product in Brazil is not good right now.’’