Even when a big name like David Beckham, Tim Cahill or Robbie Keane arrived in MLS, they were still able to compete on the international stage for their respective countries, showing that playing in MLS kept the competitive enough to play for their country.
If stories out of the UK are to be believed, we could see the arrival of several aging stars this summer fresh from Brazil 2014.
The question is whether signing these players is a good move for the league?
The answer to that depends on the player. MLS is a physically tough lead, but most teams lack a clinical touch in front of goal. Players like Frank Lampard and Jermain Defoe, who have made a living scoring goals, would be a major success in MLS.
Samuel Eto’o I am not convinced would be. The Chelsea striker has lost his edge since choosing money over competition when he signed a world record contract with Russian side Anzhi back in 2011. He has been disappointing at Chelsea this year and his signing by MLS has all the markings of a being a gigantic mistake.
Ashley Cole is an interesting one as he is still one of the best left-backs in the world. But he is a left back. And it would be really unusual for MLS to make a left back a designated player. Full backs are just not paid that highly.
Which brings me to Rio Ferdinand, who I think could be a superstar here in MLS. He reads the game exceptionally well, which is important because as he ages he gets slowly. Being able to anticipate where the pass is going will help Rio overcome his declining speed.
If some, or all, of these aging Premier League stars where will they go? Defoe has been linked with a big money move to Toronto. The LA Galaxy have no room as they already have three designated players in Keane, Landon Donovan and Omar Gonzalez. It’s the same situation in Seattle with Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso, and Obafemi Martins.
One option is New York where the Red Bulls only have two designated players in Thierry Henry and Cahill.
But once you get past those teams it becomes increasingly difficult to see where it would make economic sense for a MLS team to sign a big star. Could it make fiscal sense to Portland? I don’t think so. Would the likes of Cole, Ferdinand and Lampard be interested in playing in Kansas City. Not so sure they would.
Signing veteran players is a two-sided sword for MLS. They have to pay high wages (relative to everyone else in the league) but that added expense does not always turn into more success on and off the pitch.
What do you think MLS should do with the likes of Lampard, Cole, Eto’o, Defoe and Ferdinand? Should they sign them or should they focus on developing their own home grown stars?