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):