Guys like Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo are not on their way to Major League Soccer anytime soon because there are other soccer leagues in the world paying more money for world-class star players in the prime of their careers. But MLS needs to continue adding world-class players if it hopes to continue its growth.
Clint Dempsey made the first list of this kind I did back in 2012. Who will be next from it to play for MLS?
Many soccer experts would agree that Dempsey is world-class and in his prime, but he landed in Seattle a few weeks ago. Why and how? Well, $32 million will attract the world’s best and he’s now back in his home country, playing in the league he got his start in.
Which brings the conversation to the top players MLS teams should pursue. The league should pay what it has to in order to get these guys to sign.
1. Jozy Altidore
Altidore is younger than Dempsey, but needs and deserves American accolades. Coming off a hat-trick in a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina and having scored in five-straight matches with the national team, he also enjoyed an incredibly successful stretch in the Dutch league with AZ Alkmaar. He was recently transferred to Sunderland in the Barclays Premier League, but Altidore would bring the same fire to MLS as Dempsey. Especially, if he could get paired up with another hotshot, like Dempsey is with Eddie Johnson. He could fit well with Kei Kamara or Graham Zusi of Sporting Kansas City.
Ronaldinho is still beloved the world over and has long been thought of when it comes to raising the profile of MLS. The Brazilian midfielder has left some of the spotlight behind but would be given a resurrection if he would sign with an MLS team. Ronaldinho is currently playing for Atletico Mineiro in Brazil. He’s known for his ability to move with the ball without even touching it and can strike with surprise. Portland could be a great destination for him.
3. Giovani dos Santos
Dos Santos made his biggest splash during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Mexican lefty is always dangerous and makes things happen with plenty of scoring and assists. His goal against the U.S. in that Gold Cup final was amazing. Dos Santos’ name comes up in MLS rumors all the time, and he would be a great fit with the Houston Dynamo.
4. Didier Drogba
Drogba is currently playing at Galatasary in Turkey after a short stint in China. Those stops followed up winning the Champions League with Chelsea. It seems that now would be a great time to bring his talents stateside. He has always been a winner and would bring all elements of scoring and panache to MLS. Drogba may end up as David Beckham’s first signing for the league’s new Miami franchise.
5. Herculez Gomez
Gomez is finding form and goals for his Mexican club and for the U.S. National team. He needs to be in an MLS uniform. The name ‘Herculez’ has plenty of marketing potential. He would be great to see alongside Chris Wondolowski in San Jose.
The following are a few players who didn’t quite make the list:
National team stud Michael Bradley should be in Major League Soccer. Kaka hasn’t done much recently, but would be a fun player to have in the league as well. Mario Balotelli would be a difficult player to deal with because of injuries and his attitude, but he could give a team some major punch at the forward position. Diego Forlan from Uruguay could make a difference for a team and the league.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com