Major League Soccer just celebrated its 25th year of existence. The league has grown exponentially since 1993 and is now comprised of 24 clubs.
In addition, MLS has also attracted some big name players over the years. The list includes household names such as David Beckham, Thierry Henry, David Villa, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, just to name a few. While many fans of the international game often claim that these well-known players come to the states for “retirement”, these stars have helped raise the profile of the domestic league.
To be fair, it is true that if you are a top athlete, playing soccer abroad gives you the chance to play at a higher level along with a larger pay scale. It works the same in other sports as well. Take for example NBA basketball. There are leagues in other countries throughout the world, but when players such as Dirk Nowitzki of Germany or Tony Parker of France get the chance to play professionally in the states they take it. The reason, the basketball league in the states is better than those back in their home countries. Right now there are 108 international players in the NBA.
It’s the same thing with soccer. The top leagues in the world are currently in Europe, followed by Mexico and South America. Then there are leagues like MLS, the Chinese Super League, Australia’s A-League and Japan’s J-League. So if you’re a player of the caliber of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, you are going to want to play in one of the more popular, prestigious and lucrative leagues in the world.
So for this fact, it’s very encouraging to see that currently there are 145 Americans playing soccer abroad.
Some of the more high profile Americans playing internationally include:
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic who will be joining Premier League side next season.
18-year-old Josh Sargent who is beginning his career with Werder Bremen of Germany’s Bundesliga.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin is currently a starter for England’s Newcastle United.
Striker Timothy Weah plays for Paris St. Germain and just joined Scotland’s Celtic on loan for the remainder of this season.
Goalie Ethan Horvath is the starting keeper for Brugge in Belgium’s top league.
The continued growth of MLS as well as the number of American born professional players is a sign that the state of the game in the United States is very bright.