It was reported by Brian Sciaretta of Yanks Abroad on Friday that the Sporting Kansas City midfielder was set to embark on a one-week training stint with West Ham United of the English Premier League. Zusi has since begun said stint with The Hammers in East London, joined by fellow United States national team call-up Juan Agudelo, also of Major League Soccer's Chivas USA.
Zusi was expected to train with the Premier League club until the weekend, when he would hop aboard a plane for Carson, Calif. to meet up with his U.S. national team teammates. Zusi was one of three Sporting players called into the team for the January camp and ensuing friendly with Canada on January 29.
First things first, don't be mistaken, anytime a player goes on an "offseason training stint" with a European club, that player is being closely looked at and scrutinized by their host manager and technical staff. When news of Zusi's week abroad first broke, it was to be no different.
Fast forward a full weekend and Zusi's arrival in the UK, and the latest reports - this one from American soccer wonder-insider Greg Seltzer - claim that Zusi's time with West Ham is something more than an unofficial evaluation period. Seltzer says:
"I can now confirm that Graham Zusi is there on a full trial and not just as a training visitor."
What a "full trial" really is, could be one of a hundred different things. Zusi led MLS with 15 assists in 2012, which would suggest that foreign curiosity about Zusi would be high. As stated, anytime a player trains with a non-parent club, he's there to be evaluated as if a potential future signing. What a "full trial" insinuates is that not only are West Ham on that wavelength, but Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes has been made aware of those intentions and likely given his blessing.
Furthermore, this could mean that the two sides have held preliminary discussions (along with MLS, who hold the actual contractual rights to all players in the league) about potential compensation should the 26-year old from Longwood, Fla. impress himself upon Hammers manager Sam Allardyce enough, that a final deal could be agreed upon in a swift manner.
Zusi agreed a new contract with the club just a year ago, prior to the 2012 season.
Losing Zusi would obviously be a considerable blow for Sporting's 2013 campaign, but not an altogether crippling loss. Another U.S. national teamer that can fill an almost identical attacking role as Zusi was brought into the squad this offseason when Benny Feilhaber was acquired from New England Revolution in exchange for allocation money and future draft picks. Playing Feilhaber alongside the MLS leader in assists last year would have obviously been an attacking football dream, but if Zusi holds high enough monetary value to West Ham - equal to that of Sporting - then Zusi will surely be tempted by the chance to further his career in England, just as former teammate Roger Espinoza has done this offseason.
By MLS rules and regulations, a transfer fee paid to the league and a team from an outside third party goes one-third to the league, two-thirds to the club for which the player previously played. On the downside, if Zusi jumps abroad now and at any point comes back to MLS, he would then be subjected to an allocation lottery, a process used to place former or current national team players or players returning to the league on a team. In comparison, Sporting still hold the right of first refusal (read: negotiating rights) for Espinoza, as he left the club and league on a free transfer, netting the either group zero monetary return.