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On Defoe, Beckham, MLS, and England

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Is Beckham's national team career after his move to MLS any indicator of Jermain Defoe's future?

Defoe training with the National Team
Defoe training with the National Team
Scott Heavey

After months of speculation, Jermain Defoe has agreed to move to Toronto FC.  The England international will remain with Tottenham Hotspur until February 28th when he will officially join his new MLS side.  The move will no doubt be huge for Defoe, as he will become one of the highest paid players in the MLS.  He will be expected to make an immediate impact with his new side, but what does this mean for his time with the national team?

Traditionally, members of the England National Team play the beautiful game in England.  In fact, the entire starting 11 from the friendly against Germany in November played in the Premier League.  Moves away from England are rare, but a move to MLS is almost unheard of.  Before Defoe, the only player to move to MLS while consistently being called up to the three lions squad was David Beckham in 2007.  Beckham's move stateside shocked football fans and many questioned whether his days with the national team were done.

The whispers about Defoe's national team future are reminiscent of Beckham's.  So what does this mean for Defoe?  Well let's look at Beckham's national team career while a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy to see.  Beckham joined the Galaxy in the summer of 2007 and made an appearance with the national team that August at the age of 32.  That November, Fabio Capello did not call him up for a friendly against Switzerland and many speculated that Beckham's future was in jeopardy.

In 2008 Beckham came back and made eight appearances with the squad and even captained the team for one match.  After a successful 2009 with the squad, Beckham ruptured his Achilles tendon and his career representing his country was effectively over.

Despite moments of doubt, Beckham's national team career clearly did not end when he moved to the United States.  But how similar is Defoe's situation to Beckham's?  Defoe is currently 31 years old while Beckham was 32.  Beckham had previously been dropped from the squad for many months under new management and Defoe has stayed unused on the bench for most of 2013.  Prior to their moves to the United States, Beckham had 17 goals and Defoe had 19 goals for the national team.

While there are similarities with their England careers prior to their transfers, there are also key differences.  The biggest one being that Jermaine Defoe is not the same caliber of player that David Beckham was.  Beckham had been captain of the national team for over 50 matches and is one of the most famous players to ever play the game.  Defoe has largely been used as a substitute during his England career and has had his ups and downs as a Premier League player including spending a year at Portsmouth.  In fact, Beckham has captained more games with the England squad then Defoe has actually played with the team.

That being said, it is clear that Defoe's situation is not identical to what David Beckham's was in 2007.  At the same time though, it does not mean that Defoe's national team career is over.  Beckham proved that an English player can still be successful outside of Europe, and the quality of play in MLS is significantly better in 2014 then it was in 2007 thanks to the addition of players such as Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane, and Clint Dempsey.

Defoe looks to be a part of the picture this summer and having his season continue into the summer could help his chances.  With Theo Walcott's unfortunate injury, Defoe looks to continue being called in to national team camps and is likely to make the World Cup squad this summer.