New York Cosmos midfielder Danny Szetela joins Schwartz on Sports to discuss the sad state of soccer in the United States.
There was a time when Danny Szetela missed a significant portion of his soccer career because of injuries. And now, he’s hoping that his career doesn’t come to an end, not because of injury, but because of the way the sport is governed in the United States.
Just like everyone else that is affiliated with the North American Soccer League, the Cosmos veteran midfielder is suddenly facing life after soccer as the league awaits a ruling from an appeals court on a request for an injunction that would restore the NASL’s Division Two classification from the United States Soccer Federation.
Players from the Cosmos and other teams have left for other teams and leagues, but Szetela’s optioned are limited. The 30-year-old Clifton, New Jersey native has been offered a contract in the Second Division United Soccer League for $3,000 a month with no health insurance while Major League Soccer teams are looking at younger players.
“For me, it’s a difficult situation,” Szetela told me during a phone conversation for my Schwartz On Sports podcast. “With no NASL, players lose jobs. The money and no health insurance is keeping players from signing in the USL and waiting and hoping that the NASL will survive.”
Szetela turned pro in 2004 when he signed with the Columbus Crew of MLS at the age of 16. He represented his country at every level including three caps for the U.S. National team in 2007 and a spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team. Szetela would go on to play for DC United of Major League Soccer but in 2010 he was forced to leave the game for a while because of injuries.
Then, in 2013, Szetela returned to the pitch when he signed with the Cosmos for reboot season. Five years and three NASL Championships later, Szetela and the Cosmos are in limbo and that may force the central midfielder to call it a career.
“It’s pretty sad to see right now,” said Szetela. “You have players already retiring and going on to a different career because it’s better for their families and they’ll be making more money. It’s better for me to look at other options that would be better for me and my family.”
While the Cosmos and the NASL play the waiting game, the future path of U.S. Soccer will be determined next weekend with the election of a new USSF President. The process of electing a new President has drawn criticism from many people in the soccer community, especially those in the lower levels of the professional soccer pyramid.
One issue, in particular, is a recent decision by the Athletes Council to interview only four of the eight candidates that are running for U.S. Soccer President. The Athletes Council represents every professional player in the United States whether they’re a U.S. citizen or not and they hold 20% of the vote.
Szetela called Athletes Council Chairman Chris Ahrens recently to voice his displeasure.
“Every candidate should have a voice to the Athletes Council,” said Szetela. “I tried talking to him and asked him what’s going on. He was telling me at first that he’s not the head of it. Do you represent all the players who play professionally in America? And finally, after a couple of times, he said yes.”
So the big question is why would a group that has 20 percent of the vote decide to interview just four of the eight candidates? It makes you think that something is not right with this election.
“It looks like it,” said Szetela. “From a player’s perspective or a fan that sees something like that come out, you can only think that something fishy is going on.”
While we wait to see who is elected USSF President and how the NASL legal battle shakes out, Szetela sits at home wondering if he’s going to have to retire because he won’t be able to make ends meet on the soccer pitch.
“It’s always a possibility,” admitted Szetela. “Do I want to retire? Of course not. I’m 30 years old. I’m feeling great. I have a lot of gas left in the tank. But at the end of the day, if there are no options and it’s not the right decision for me and my family then it’s always something that I have to consider.”
This should be an interesting week for soccer in the United States. Next weekend, we’ll have a new USSF President and we could know the fate of the Cosmos and the NASL at any time when the appeals court decision comes down. At the end of the day, the objective is for players like Danny Szetela to be able to continue their careers playing the sport that they love.