PHILADELPHIA — It didn't take long for the question to be put to MLS Commissioner Don Garber Thursday.
Is Maurice Edu the next American-born soccer standout to be coming back to the MLS from Europe?
“Discussions are ongoing as recently as late last night and early this morning,” Garber said in an address to media about the pursuit by the league and the Philadelphia Union of Edu, a star midfielder and defender for the U.S. in international play. “So there's nothing I can report on that.”
There was a change in the narrative, though, from the Union side, with CEO Nick Sakiewicz strongly refuting reports Wednesday that the deal was being held up by MLS headquarters.
“I know everyone is excited and anxious and anticipatory and blowing up Twitter over that, but we just got to take a step back,” Sakiewicz said at the SuperDraft. “It's a very difficult negotiation. In any negotiation, there's stalls, there's stops, there's moving ahead, so it's very fluid.
“We're very much working with the league in concert as opposed to the rumor that wasn't true. And these things kind of turn. They can turn on a dime — positively or backwards. We're living it every minute and every hour counts. And we have till the 31st of January to get it done. That's the transfer window.
“We just want to make sure we do it right. Right for Mo. Right for the league. Right financially for the Union. We want him. And he wants to be here. But the negotiating process is very fluid and unpredictable.”
With MLS' structure as a single entity, Edu's return from a stint in Europe would involve the player officially being transferred from English Premier League club Stoke City to sign a deal with MLS. Edu would then be allocated to the Union, who swapped with D.C. United Tuesday for the first spot in the allocation order.
While both Sakiewicz and Garber distanced themselves from reports that the league had balked at the proposed salary figure, Garber allowed that the widely reported number of a $1.2 million salary was on the low end.
American midfielder Michael Bradley recently was transferred to MLS, leaving AS Roma and joining Toronto FC at a salary near $6.5 million per season. Before that, star American striker Clint Dempsey returned to MLS with the Seattle Sounders, although Dempsey has since gone back for a brief stint in Europe on loan to Fulham FC.
Overall, the trend of top-flight American players returning to MLS as opposed to fleeing it for the high-ranking European leagues is growing. U.S. National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he supported the shift and thinks a growth in the MLS will help the U.S. compete at a higher level internationally.
Matthew De George covers MLS and the Philadelphia Union for Digital First Media at the Delaware County Times. Follow him on Twitter @sportsdoctormd.