In college sports, they say recruiting is the lifeblood of every program. If that's true on the collegiate level, then scouting must be similarly vital in the professional ranks. For most major sports in the United States, scouting is limited to watching college players and some lower levels, but soccer is the global game so scouting is a global endeavor.
MLS teams are no different than any other professional soccer teams. Although they have the benefit of college soccer, they must look around the world for talent to add to their American skill.
For the Columbus Crew and first-year head coach Gregg Berhalter, the acquiring of scouts and the development of relationships is still a work in progress.
"We're building relationships all over," Berhalter said this week. "I don't want to get too in-depth in laying out a blueprint but we're looking at markets that we feel could be valuable and we're exploring it."
Berhalter and his staff only arrived in Columbus in November and have had a lot on their plate as they steered the Black and Gold back to the post season for the first time since 2011, but he is proud of the progress they've made on the scouting side.
"It's an interesting project I think and we're looking at a number of ways to get it done," he explained. "We're talking to a number of people in terms of the exact way we want to execute it. But we feel like, in this amount of time, we've made a lot of progress on it."
Berhalter's job during the season is coaching, but that doesn't mean the club stops scouting talent. According to the head coach, the club has scouts scouring the globe constantly searching for the next purchase.
"We're in full scouting mode," Berhalter said. "That's a 365-day job. We've had ongoing trips that have been executed and a trip this weekend. It's fully on."
When it comes to player acquisitions, it is hard to argue with the success this staff had in their first year. When taking a look at the players brought in from around the world, Berhalter has hardly missed.
Goalkeeper Steve Clark was obtained in December after spending most of his career in Norway. He has started all 33 MLS games for the Black and Gold, recording eight shutouts, and has a goals against average of 1.24. Michael Parkhurst came to the club after seven seasons in Europe and started in 31 of his 32 games this year for the club.
Those two Americans have been good additions to the club, but Berhalter also found foreign players to help his side. The signings of Giancarlo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis didn't generate major publicity at the time, but their inclusion on the Costa Rican side that made it the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup and their play with club certainly did. Gonzalez's performances earned him a purchase by Palermo of the Italian Serie A and the Crew earned the largest transfer fee ever received for a defender.
The manager also was responsible for the signing of former English Premier League central defender Emanuel Pogatetz. Although Pogatetz is yet to make an impact in the lineup - he was unfit when he arrived in the side - he is expected to help the club going forward.
The Crew also brought in forward Kei Kamara and although he cannot play until 2015, it would be hard to find someone who doesn't believe the striker won't be a good signing for Columbus.
All of this is a credit to the scouting of the club. Although signings like Parkhurst and Kamara may be obvious, the additions of Clark, Gonzalez, and Francis come from the search for talent.
One thing Berhalter hasn't done, that became common for the club before he arrived, is find talent in South America. Although that area of the world produces immense soccer talent, players from countries such as Argentina or Brazil can come with a high asking price.
This does not mean Berhalter is not also sending scouts to the soccer rich area, in fact, quite the contrary.
"We've been scouting intensively in South America," he said. "I think it's looking for the right guy."
Finding the "right guy" is what Berhalter and his staff have done so successfully since taking over the club. Rest assured, if there's someone in South American, or anywhere, that makes sense for the Crew, the scouts will find him.