Pending a work permit.
Those are currently the four most important words for a few players who are on the verge of bringing a new wave of American talent to England.
U.S. national team midfielder Robbie Rogers and center back Tim Ream appear destined to take their careers from the confines of Major League Soccer to the English stage. Rogers already has agreed to a deal with League Championship side Leeds United, while Ream has been inching ever-so-close to a move from the New York Red Bulls to Bolton. The relegation-threatened club, which also employs on-the-mend American Stuart Holden, just lost starting central defender and English international Gary Cahill to Chelsea in the transfer market and has been on the hunt for Ream for some time.
U.S. forward Edson Buddle may also be in the mix for a move to England after his agent, Richard Motzkin, revealed that the player was at Everton on trial this week as he seeks a move from FC Ingolstadt in Germany. Should the trial go well and manager David Moyes feel that Buddle is an answer to the team's scoring woes, the forward would join former Los Angeles Galaxy teammate and on-loan Toffee Landon Donovan at Goodison Park along with American goalkeepers Tim Howard and Marcus Hahnemann.
Before all of that can happen, though, there is the matter of obtaining the work permit, a must for non-European Union foreigners who wish to be eligible to compete in the United Kingdom like the three players hope to do.
The stipulations to be cleared for a permit include appearing in 75 percent of the national team's competitive "A" matches (World Cup, World Cup qualifiers, CONCACAF Gold Cup) over the two years preceding a contract agreement and having the national team be ranked, on average, no worse than 70th in the FIFA rankings over of the course of the last two years.
The United States has been well clear of the 70-ranking barrier, but none of the players clears the "A"-match regulation, meaning their signings, or pending signings, will likely be subject to an appeal process assuming the players are denied their initial permit request.
Of the United States' 10 "A" matches in the last two years (four at the 2010 World Cup, six at last summer's Gold Cup), Buddle and Ream have each played in two -- Buddle in the World Cup, Ream in the Gold Cup -- while Rogers has not played in a single one or even made the bench. Even though the three have featured heavily in a number of past and recent friendlies and all appear to be in manager Jurgen Klinsmann's plans for the immediate future, rules are rules.
It should be noted, though, that American midfielder Alejandro Bedoya received his work permit to play for Scottish power Rangers over the summer despite not meeting the "A" match requisite and only having five appearances in the recent Gold Cup as his supporting evidence.
Then there's the gray-area-laden "exceptional talent" loophole that has allowed players in the past -- such as Southampton's Japanese striker Tadanari Lee just this past week -- to get around the red tape altogether through a favorable FA ruling. As one can see, it is an inexact, and sometimes murky, science.
One American for whom the permit process is not an issue is FC Dallas' Greek-American center back George John, who last week sealed a loan to West Ham (where Buddle coincidentally trained last month). John, who holds a Greek passport, left an opportunity to play in front of Klinsmann's watchful eye for the first time at the U.S. January camp in order to seal his loan to the League Championship club, which could eventually evolve into a full transfer come March and prompted FC Dallas to add center back depth through the MLS SuperDraft and international market. After a failed move to Blackburn over the summer, John is well on his way to competing for a club that is currently in position for automatic promotion to the Premier League.
As for Rogers, who would aim to help Leeds return to the Premiership, and Buddle and Ream, who would aim to help keep Everton and Bolton afloat in the top flight, time will tell whether the vaunted work permit situation will work itself out. As for the Americans abroad in action over the past week, here is how they fared (season statistics encompass all competitions):
Clint Dempsey, M, Fulham -- Started, played 90 minutes in Fulham's 3-1 loss to Blackburn on Saturday. SEASON: 29 games, 29 starts, 12 goals
Landon Donovan, M/F, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Everton's 2-0 loss to Tottenham on Wednesday. Donovan also started, played 90 minutes and had the game-tying assist in Everton's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Saturday. Playing on the left, Donovan split the defense with an incisive through ball to Victor Anichebe, who scored the equalizer in the 69th minute to save a point for the Toffees. The match also included a reunion of sorts for Donovan and his fellow on-loan Los Angeles Galaxy teammate Robbie Keane, who came on as a late substitute for Villa. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Brad Friedel, GK, Tottenham -- Started, played 90 minutes, did not make a save and earned the clean sheet in Tottenham's 2-0 victory over Everton on Wednesday. Friedel also started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Tottenham's 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton on Saturday. SEASON: 21 games, 21 starts, 82 saves, 21 goals allowed, 8 clean sheets
Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa -- In the 18, did not play in Villa's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday. After inheriting starting duties with Shay Given injured, Guzan relinquished his place in the starting lineup upon Given's return to fitness, although he received heavy praise from manager Alex McLeish for his performance. SEASON: 9 games, 8 starts, 30 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets
Marcus Hahnemann, GK, Everton -- Not in the 18 for Everton's 2-0 loss to Tottenham on Wednesday or for Everton's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Tim Howard, GK, Everton -- Started, played 90 minutes and made two saves in Everton's 2-0 loss to Tottenham on Wednesday. Howard also started, played 90 minutes and made six saves in Everton's 1-1 draw with Aston Villa on Saturday. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 50 saves, 24 goals allowed, 5 clean sheets
Eric Lichaj, D, Aston Villa -- Not in the 18 for Villa's 1-1 draw with Everton on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game, 1 start, 1 goal
Zak Whitbread, D, Norwich City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Norwich City's 2-1 victory over West Brom on Saturday. SEASON: 11 games, 11 starts
Conor Doyle, F, Derby County -- Not in the 18 for Derby County's 1-0 victory over Coventry City on Saturday. SEASON: 5 games, 1 start
Robbie Findley, F, Nottingham Forest -- In the 18, came on as a 72nd-minute substitute in Nottingham Forest's 3-0 loss to Southampton on Saturday. SEASON: 21 games, 12 starts, 5 goals
Daniel Potts, D, West Ham -- Not in the 18 for West Ham's 1-0 victory over Portsmouth on Saturday. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Jonathan Spector, M/D, Birmingham City -- Started, played 90 minutes in Birmingham's 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town on Wednesday and in Birmingham's 6-0 victory over Millwall on Saturday. SEASON: 31 games, 31 starts
Mike Grella, F, Brentford -- Not in the 18 for Brentford's 0-0 draw with Walsall on Saturday. SEASON: 16 games, 3 starts, 4 goals
Frank Simek, D, Carlisle United -- Carlisle's scheduled match against Milton Keynes Dons on Saturday was postponed because of a frozen pitch. SEASON: 4 games, 4 starts
Anton Peterlin, M, Walsall -- Started, played 90 minutes in Walsall's 0-0 draw with Brentford on Saturday. SEASON: 24 games, 18 starts
Jon-Paul Pittman, F, Oxford United -- Started, played 72 minutes in Oxford's 1-0 loss to Crewe Alexandra on Saturday. SEASON: 15 games, 3 starts, 3 goals (4 games, 1 goal with Crawley Town)
Michael Bradley, M, Chievo Verona -- Not in the 18 for Chievo's 2-1 victory over Udinese in the Coppa Italia Round of 16 on Wednesday. Bradley started and played 90 minutes in Chievo's 1-0 victory over Palermo in league play on Sunday. SEASON: 17 games, 16 starts
Quentin Westberg, GK, Evian Thonon Gaillard -- In the 18, did not play in Evian's 3-1 loss to Dijon on Saturday. SEASON: 3 games, 3 starts, 8 saves, 3 goals allowed, 1 clean sheet
Oguchi Onyewu, D, Sporting Lisbon -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Sporting's 2-2 draw with Nacional in the first leg of their Taca de Portugal (Portuguese Cup) semifinal tie on Wednesday. Onyewu also started and played 90 minutes in Sporting's 2-1 loss to Sporting Braga on Sunday. SEASON: 20 games, 20 starts, 3 goals
Sacha Kljestan, M, RSC Anderlecht -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Anderlecht's 3-0 victory over Club Brugge on Sunday. SEASON: 27 games, 27 starts, 3 goals
Alejandro Bedoya, M, Rangers FC -- In the 18, did not play in Rangers' 2-1 victory over St. Johnstone on Saturday. SEASON: 25 games, 19 starts, 4 goals (16 games, 15 starts, 4 goals with Orebro SK)
Carlos Bocanegra, D, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes and was saddled with an own goal in Rangers' 2-1 victory over St. Johnstone on Saturday. Bocanegra had Marcus Haber's header in front of the goal inadvertently deflect off his chest and into the goal in the 68th minute, which leveled the scored at the time. SEASON: 22 games, 22 starts, 3 goals (1 game, 1 start with St. Etienne)
Dominic Cervi, GK, Celtic -- Not in the 18 for Celtic's 2-1 victory over Dundee United on Saturday. Cervi's loan to first-division side Greenock Morton expired earlier this month, and the club revealed it did not have the finances to extend his loan any longer. He'll return to third-string duties with Celtic barring another move. SEASON: 7 games, 7 starts, 37 saves, 8 goals allowed, 2 clean sheets (all with Greenock Morton)
Maurice Edu, M, Rangers FC -- Started, played 90 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Rangers' 2-1 victory over St. Johnstone on Saturday. Edu has been the subject of transfer talk, with French club FC Sochaux twice having bids for his services turned away by Rangers, which has publicly expressed interest in keeping the player in Glasgow. Edu's contract runs through the end of the 2012-13 season. SEASON: 27 games, 25 starts, 2 goals
DaMarcus Beasley, M, Puebla -- In the 18, came on as a 62nd-minute substitute in Puebla's 3-1 loss to Pachuca on Saturday. SEASON: 2 games, 1 start
Jonathan Bornstein, D, Tigres UANL -- Not in the 18 for Tigres' 1-0 victory over Queretaro on Saturday. SEASON: 0 games
Edgar Castillo, D, Tijuana -- Started, played 90 minutes in Tijuana's 1-0 victory over Monterrey on Saturday. SEASON: 2 games, 2 starts
Joe Corona, M/F, Tijuana -- In the 18, came on as a 58th-minute substitute in Tijuana's 1-0 victory over Monterrey on Saturday. SEASON: 2 games
Michael Orozco Fiscal, D, San Luis -- Started, played 90 minutes in San Luis' 2-0 victory over Estudiantes Tecos on Friday. SEASON: 2 games, 2 starts
Greg Garza, D/M, Tijuana -- Not in the 18 for Tijuana's 1-0 victory over Monterrey on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Herculez Gomez, F, Santos Laguna -- In the 18, did not play in Santos Laguna's 2-1 victory over Atlante on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Sonny Guadarrama, M, Atlante -- In the 18, came on as an 88th-minute substitute in Atlante's 2-1 loss to Santos Laguna on Saturday. SEASON: 1 game
Jose Francisco Torres, M, Pachuca -- Started, played 90 minutes in Pachuca's 3-1 victory over Puebla on Saturday. SEASON: 2 games, 2 starts