In the world of American soccer these days, it seems everybody hates Traffic Sports. A soccer-centric Brazilian conglomerate dealing mostly in television rights, Traffic has also dabbled in other aspects of the game while moving confidently into the North American market in recent years.
Beyond an extensive TV rights portfolio, Traffic has quietly become a major player in lower level and youth soccer in the U.S. The company has interests including ownership stakes in several second-division teams and a budding business in trading player rights -- in the U.S. and several other countries around the world, the firm buys contract rights from young players, hoping to develop them and earn large transfer fees down the road.
But while that business model has flourished in Brazil, the incursion into the American player market has been anything but smooth. In the meantime, at least one player has spoken out against the company's practice of shuffling prospects around among affiliated teams, and sometimes even across continents. Some observers even argue that Traffic's business model is stunting the development of the young players it manages to sign.
In short, it's been a tough road. It seems many would like to see the company out of the American player market altogether. But Traffic's U.S. director, long-time USMNT member Fernando Clavijo, has a different story to tell.
"When you have any foreign company coming to the U.S. and investing money in soccer they should be commended," Clavijo said. "This is a Brazilian company. They have plenty to do in Brazil. And they're coming to the U.S. to invest money. There are plenty of people who come to the U.S. to take money, but for the last six or seven years, with the teams, the players, now with the league, we're making a really big push."
Developing players is not easy by any account, but Traffic has faced an even more uphill battle than expected in creating a market for Americans in Europe. Among those who have struggled to establish themselves under the Traffic banner are former American youth internationals Greg Garza, Bryan Arguez, and Tony Taylor.
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