Cutting Landon Donovan Lost Sponsors for World Cup

PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- Jurgen Klinsmann didn't just take 16 years of experience and 12 years of World Cup performance off the table when he left Landon Donovan off the U.S. roster for 2014: He left a lot of sponsor cash there as well.

Never mind that Donovan has been a fixture on the U.S. Men's National Team since 2000. Or that his five goals in 12 World Cup matches are more than the three that superstars Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney have scored in the 31 cup matches between them. It doesn't even matter that he had five goals and seven assists in last year's CONCACAF Gold Cup or had a goal and an assist in the 2-0 win against Mexico that clinched a U.S. World Cup berth.

And, yes, forget this:

We can sit here debating Donovan's merits and whether or not he deserves a seat on the USMNT plane to Brazil instead of similarly aged Brad Davis and Chris Wondolowski or 18-year-old German dual citizen Julian Green, but there's no use debating what Donovan and the team's sponsors already know: He's not going. He won't be on the pitch, he won't warm the bench, it's just not happening.

Granted, someone could have at least given the folks at Nike  (NKE) a heads up before they tried selling his No. 10 national team jersey at full price. Not only does Nike not have the official World Cup sponsorship -- held by Adidas -- but it just lost arguably the most popular player in the U.S. and will have to eat the discount on his jerseys. At least they used U.S. goalie Tim Howard in their epic four-minute commercial instead.

Samsung didn't get so lucky. Boxed out of any mention of the World Cup in ads for its Galaxy products thanks to Sony's  (SNE) official sponsorship, Samsung tried to work around it in the U.S. by using the nation's most visible soccer personality not named Clint Dempsey or Michael Bradley. Here's how that worked out for them:

Yep, that's a big-budget four-minute ad for the Galaxy 11 that's heavy on special effects with Landon Donovan in a major role. This leaves Samsung in the awkward position of either shelling out to splice in Dempsey, Bradley, Howard or some other USMNT member or just hacking out Donovan's part and hoping U.S. fans really like Messi, Rooney and Ronaldo.

Gatorade is facing a similar problem. By defaulting to Donovan as its U.S. player of choice, Pepsi-owned (PEP) Gatorade missed a chance to one-up World Cup sponsor Coca-Cola  (KO) in the states by featuring Donovan prominently in its one-minute spot. Instead, he'll either be whittled out entirely or left in as a reminder that all the Gatorade in the world won't get you a seat on your country's national team.

Donovan is also linked to watchmaker Seiko, which had the foresight to get a huge campaign involving Donovan and U.S. women's team goaltender Hope Solo out of the way before the World Cup. It wasn't soon enough to keep Donovan from filming a promotional video in which he hinted that soccer perhaps wasn't his greatest passion anymore and that his services just might be able to be put to better use elsewhere.

It's not Klinsmann's job to make sure all of Donovan's sponsors are covered or that his team has as many brands attached to it as possible. He's out to get the best result for his team possible even if that means cutting Donovan in "the toughest coaching decision in my career" because he sees other players "a little bit ahead of him." That those players are less recognized or marketable at this point is none of his concern.

-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, the Boston Phoenix, the Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent. He previously served as the political and global affairs editor for Metro U.S., layout editor for Boston Now, assistant news editor for the Herald News of West Paterson, N.J., editor of Go Out! Magazine in Hoboken, N.J., and copy editor and lifestyle editor at the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, N.J.

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