- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2007

The globalization of soccer in Europe’s top five leagues continues unabated, with American representation doubling in the 2006-07 season, according to a new study.

While top-level leagues in England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France had a decrease in home-grown participation, the number of U.S. players in those leagues doubled, the largest increase of any nation, according to the Annual Review of the European Football Players’ Labor Market.

Twenty U.S. players competed last season, part of a global increase that has accounted for close to 40 percent of players in those leagues, led by Brazil’s count of 140 players.

That trend is most evident in the English Premier League, in which more than half the players came from other countries last season. Germany’s top league had 3.9 percent more foreigners last season, and Spain’s had 2.5 percent more.

The report, sponsored by FIFA, showed that players coming from Eastern Europe, North America, Asia, and Oceania to Europe’s top clubs had increased to the “detriment of Western Europeans and Latin Americans.” A total of 91 nationalities compete in the big five leagues today.

The report also showed that player mobility between teams has increased, with an average player changing teams 3.4 times every 10 years. The possibility of a player staying with the same club for three seasons is down to 39.9 percent. The most stable team is Spanish giant Barcelona, where 76 percent of the players have stayed with the team since August 2004.

Meanwhile, Major League Soccer has also had an increase in foreign players. This season, 130 foreign-born players compete in the league from 53 countries, led by Canada’s 16 and Argentina’s 12.

Migraine man — It seems the concussions D.C. United midfielder Josh Gros thought he was suffering might have been migraine headaches after all.

“I’ve had four occurrences this year when my vision got blurry and I was throwing up and it felt terrible,” Gros said. “It was scary, but they were migraines.”

Gros, who says he has a history of concussions, was told recently by a concussion expert in Pittsburgh that he suffers from migraines. He has been prescribed beta-blockers to help control them.

“Growing up, whenever I had an occurrence they called it a concussion, so I assumed they were concussions,” Gros said.

Gros came off the field early in a game Aug. 18 at Columbus because of blurred vision following a header. He vomited in the locker room, and it was presumed he was dealing with another concussion. He sat out the next four games and there were reports that his career might even be over.

But Gros returned to play all 90 minutes against the New England Revolution on Sunday and Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.

“I feel great,” Gros said. “It’s been a tough two weeks going up and down talking to a bunch of doctors and finally I found out I was cleared to play.”

Money for the women — For the first time, teams at the FIFA Women’s World Cup will receive prize money from FIFA, soccer’s governing body. The winner of the World Cup in China will earn $1 million. The other prize money will be distributed as follows: runners-up $800,000, third place $650,000, fourth place $550,000, quarter-finalists $350,000 and ninth-16th place $250,000.

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