Cherundolo calls for more MLS defections

LONDON - Hanover 96 captain Steve Cherundolo has called for the 'next generation' of American players to be allowed to leave the MLS for Europe.

One of a handful of American players to have forged a lengthy career in Europe, the veteran of three World Cup squads has been at the Bundesliga club since 1999 and played in 252 German top flight matches.

"I do want to play a year or two in the MLS," the Californian told Reuters in an interview.

"There is definitely a development there, more money invested, more and more younger players coming through the ranks.

"I would love to see the MLS release players to European clubs, give them more playing time and let them play at a level that challenges the players at every game at the season and not just the play-offs.

"There is no relegation (in America) and having that as a club in Europe, every game is important. I would like to see more younger players move to Europe."

Former England captain David Beckham incurred the wrath of L.A. Galaxy fans by joining AC Milan on loan last season only to tear his Achilles, ruling him out of much of the MLS campaign.

While the circumstances are different, the 32-year-old Cherundolo, wants to see his countrymen follow Beckham across the Atlantic.


"I believe there is a perfect club for every player," insisted the 32-year-old, who joined Hanover straight from university and has turned down all offers to move since.

"Some players never find it, some find it after three or four moves and some straight away," added Cherundolo, an avid surfer.

"I was lucky, I was inexperienced but willing and hungry. Hanover was second division then but it was a good match. I grew as a player and the club felt good. We both continued to grow over the years."

This season, in Hanover's best ever in the Bundesliga, the club are pushing for a Champions League spot, currently fourth, a point behind Bayern Munich with six games left to play.

"Champions League, that would be unbelievable. Something that will be so difficult to achieve. Now, we do need a little help from Bayern's opponents," he said.

"If we get a Champions League spot we will make a lot of people happy here but with a fourth place we will also make a lot of people happy."

It would complete an emotional comeback for a team shocked by the suicide of their goalkeeper Robert Enke in late 2009 and who narrowly avoided the drop last season.

"Through all of the tribulations of the team we learned a lot and they made us become more of a team," said Cherundolo.

"This particular team believes in its chances to win against anyone."

Cherundolo credited coach Mirko Slomka and his staff for helping them avoid relegation last season and instilling a winning mentality.

"This season we could have a bit of success," he said.

"Not fighting against relegation and to qualify for an international competition would definitely complete the circle from second division to Europe."