There’s no doubt about it, the MLS is growing in popularity, talent, and excitement. What’s behind this surging movement? Star power. Ever since David Beckham joined the Los Angeles Galaxy back in 2007, the MLS has become a destination for superstars seeking a new challenge and American internationals seeking a quality home within their nation. At this point, the sheer number of great soccer players has raised the MLS bar to new heights, and has provided a growing number of fans with more excitement from the talent on the pitch. Looking ahead, the new arrivals look set to merely add to this wonderful aura about the league.
Guys like Robbie Keane and Obafemi Martins have brought sheer talent to the MLS, scoring goals galore and making a strong impact to their respective clubs. But last year, the move by several key members of the USA Men’s National Team to MLS clubs brought prestige and awareness to a league that has so often struggled for legitimate recognition.
American soccer fans have grown used to the likes of Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jermaine Jones, and Michael Bradley wearing their national jerseys, playing at World Cups, and succeeding for their country. But each fall they’d return to Europe and largely disappear. They’d play at a club that was rarely televised, or they’d spend months on the bench. Dempsey was the most successful at Fulham for 5 glorious seasons, but even his status faded after an ill-advised move to Tottenham.
Back in the MLS, these players have found new life. They have become key components to their respective clubs and have made an impact. These players delight the fans, giving them recognizable names to cheer, and providing a far better show on the pitch.
Internationally, the caliber of foreign star players moving to the MLS has increased too. Kaka has already shown his class with debutant club Orlando City SC, while Sebastian Giovinco has brought Italian flair and tantalizing speed to Toronto FC. Another famed name to arrive is David Villa, though he certainly has yet to make his mark, having been injured recently.
But two fabled names on the cusp of joining MLS may push the league over the top. Liverpool and Chelsea legends Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will be welcomed with open arms, and will certainly be destined for success. Two players whose games are based around hard work and stunning strikes will be certain to light up the MLS. Their arrival in July is heavily anticipated.
Meanwhile, household stars that have made careers in the MLS like Kyle Beckerman Omar Gonzalez speak to how far the league has come, and what a special home it can be for great players.
Perhaps one of the league’s main attributes is the fact that these stars are spread out through the entire MLS and not just reserved for one or two super clubs. This means that there is a true competition afoot, where perhaps a dozen clubs have a very real shot at winning the MLS Cup. With great players involved in nearly every MLS game, the excitement levels are rising, making American soccer a place where soccer’s stars are finding a perfect home.
The MLS has been a constantly morphing league since its early days over a full decade ago, and 2015 is no different. Along with 2 new teams, and 1 disbanded (so long, Chivas USA), Major League Soccer is bringing over several superstar names, as well as a few familiar faces in American soccer. These newcomers will be hungry to re-awaken their careers and cement their names in soccer lore. However, as past players have found coming to America, the play is not as easy as it looks, and the hot summer conditions makes competing physically a tough task. Here is how I expect this season’s MLS arrivals to fare:
And so in conclusion, I anticipate more success for the Americans headed to the MLS than for any of the foreigners. Still young and hungry for success (and humbled by the EPL), both Brek Shea and Jozy Altidore need to get their careers back on track. With definite talent, I expect both players to succeed admirably, especially Altidore. I think that Steven Gerrard will certainly be a hit with LA and the strong supporting cast there, but I do predict struggles for Kaka, David Villa, and Frank Lampard. They are headed to fledgling clubs with high hopes as international superstars, but their teams collectively are makeshift projects that have yet to play with one another. Growing pains will be apparent, and the high expectations of their big names will be put to the test straight away in the MLS. It might get rough in New York… But however the season pans out for all these newcomers, it will surely be a joy to behold! The MLS season gets underway soon