Opinion: Atlanta United’s Miles Robinson has an interesting decision to make

Miles Robinson has a very interesting decision to make, one that likely will affect his career and his life as a professional soccer player.

That decision could be impacted by Aaron Long.

Atlanta United made Robinson a four-year guaranteed contract offer. Vice President Carlos Bocanegra disclosed the offer to the centerback Monday. Discussions began months ago, and Bocanegra said he hopes that Robinson makes a decision by the end of the year.

If Robinson chooses not to sign, he will become a free agent after the 2023 MLS season.

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Being a free agent within MLS isn’t the same as in MLB, NBA or NFL. It’s not a guaranteed pathway to very large amounts of money. But unlike in those leagues, it can provide a pathway to the freedom to play almost anywhere in the world in whatever country’s best league.

Only 25, Robinson is young enough and has a proven record of excellence with the U.S. men’s team that if he becomes a free agent, clubs in Europe likely would come calling.

However, he is coming off a ruptured Achilles that sidelined him for most of the recent season. Bocanegra said Robinson is progressing well and is expected to begin training with the team at some point during the preseason.

That brings it around to Long.

Long, 30, just became a free agent after six standout seasons with the Red Bulls. Long suffered a season-ending Achilles rupture in 2021. He returned to play in 29 games last season. He now is with the U.S. men’s team in Qatar. Robinson would have been there if not for his injury.

The path that Long takes should factor into Robinson’s decision-making.

If Long signs with an MLS team, Robinson can decide if the offer made to him by Atlanta United meets the market standard. For comparison, Long made $1,080,000 in guaranteed compensation as of Sept. 2 last season, according to the Major League Soccer Players Association. Robinson made $737,500.

If Long goes to another league, Robinson will know the transfer fee and salary and can use it as a baseline.

Atlanta United wants Robinson to sign. If he doesn’t, and he plays well enough to generate interest from clubs in Europe and he wants to go, the franchise would get a percentage of the agreed-to transfer fee for him. If he doesn’t sign with the club and becomes a free agent, the club will get nothing in return when he goes elsewhere. That’s tough to take after the club drafted him No. 2 in 2017 and helped develop him.

It’s going to be interesting.

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