The Premier League, La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 are the major Leagues that come to mind in world football. A certain League trying to increase their reputation gradually is the budding MLS.
Since it’s inception in 1993, the League has failed to command as much respect as their European counterparts but that narrative is taking a positive turn – slowly. Top names from European football going to ply their trade in the United States has further been a catalyst to help the League gain more fans and pedigree all over the world.
The moment David Beckham stepped foot in Los Angeles, MLS changed and began what would be the turning point for the League. It was a critical moment for what was, at that point, a young league in need of a spark. Beckham’s signing was that vital turning point, one that would alter the league forever by ushering in the era of the Designated Player.
In the 12 years since Beckham made the league mainstream, MLS has seen a number of other major stars follow in those footsteps. Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Kaka headline a vast list of legendary figures that have since called the league home, with varying results. The infatuation with these types of players has remained, whether the moves have worked on the field or not. Thierry Henry has also just joined – not as a player, but as the coach of Montreal Impact.
The latest name to have this branding effect was Zlatan Ibrahimovic who recently concluded his spell with LA Galaxy after joining the side in March. For some, Ibrahimovic is the guy who conquers any League he goes regardless of the circumstances. For others, he’s that proud guy who simply makes everything about his own ego.
For the MLS, Ibrahimovic was that guy who brought even more recognition and branding to the League. His reputation goes far and wide across Europe and his antics surely brought people paying more attention to the MLS.
His 31 goal stint (Transfermarkt) with LA Galaxy was one filled with many captivating statements, many of which only meant greater commercial figures for the MLS.
One player who could take up that mantle is Barcelona’s Luis Suarez. With a reputation as arguably one of the world’s best striker and more than 500 career goals to his name (Transfermarkt), a potential move to the MLS would be good branding for the League and would further continue the trend of seeing the League boast a couple of top players with world-class reputations which has been the case for the past couple of seasons.
Suarez, 32, is already in the latter stages of his Barcelona career and hinted the MLS could be his next likely destination.
As per Transfermarkt, Suarez only has till 2021 on his contract and is unlikely to be given a new deal beyond that considering his age.
And asked about a possible switch to the United States in the future, Suarez spoke glowingly of MLS and how a potential move could be an attractive one to him.
He told ESPN: “MLS is a competition which has grown a lot in the last few years and you can see that with the young players that have moved there in the last two years, above all the South Americans.
“That shows that the league wants to grow and not just bring in players of a certain age that are going to retire there. They look for that mix to make the league better.
“I have a contract with Barca and I am very happy here. In the future you never know, it’s an attractive league.
“Given that I have been lucky to have had success at the top level for a long time, what I would look out for [next] is stability for my family and the well-being of my children. They would all make the decision along with me and the United States is a nice possibility.”
A move for Suarez would have an Ibrahimovic-esque result and could usher in some big names with his arrival as well. In the coming months and years, a number of teams will be tasked with bringing top players – with reputation and pedigree, and Beckham’s Miami side is seen by many as the league’s next big spender.
The club has already been linked heavily to the likes of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez and there’s no reason to see why they can’t across even more big names from all over Europe.
The MLS still has one big disadvantage though. Due to their time-zone, it’s hard to see people from other parts of the world staying up until the middle of the night, watching games and then going to work the next day. That’s the biggest issue for the league, compared to European leagues you can watch in the evenings.
However, in terms of player quality and calibre, it’s only a matter of time before the MLS come very close to their European counterparts.