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The most prominent signings in MLS history


Lionel Messi signing for Inter Miami is a historical moment in the MLS. He is the most prominent player to ever perform in the league and the biggest name, so this can be viewed as a watershed moment for the competition as a whole. However, there are other signings just as important.

In this article, here are the most prominent signings in MLS history before Messi’s arrival, which is no doubt on a whole other level.

David Beckham

It cannot be denied: David Beckham was the man that changed everything in the MLS when he signed for LA Galaxy in the summer of 2007.

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After winning La Liga with Real Madrid and a long career in Europe winning every available trophy, arguably the sport’s most marketable player decided to try his luck in the United States. This would prove to be Beckham’s best decision as he became a major power in the country and turned LA Galaxy into a household name in the competition.

In fact, such has been Beckham’s success and impact that he still works in the league, being the owner of Inter Miami and being the one responsible for Messi’s arrival.

Thierry Henry

The Frenchman was one of the best forwards of his generation and won every available trophy in the game with Arsenal, FC Barcelona, and the France national team, so by the time he decided to join New York Red Bulls in 2010, it seemed that his prime years were withering away. And while that proved to be the case, his impact on the league was still felt.

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Henry had a strong performance in the MLS and raised the team’s profile across the world, with the signing of former Barcelona teammate Rafael Marquez helping on that front as well. The Frenchman was also a consistent performer, averaging at least ten goals per year, which is a very good production, considering that he was no longer in his prime.

Robbie Keane

The Irishman might not have the allure and worldwide appeal of other names on this list, but his stint in LA Galaxy, from 2011 to 2016, deserves a lot more recognition.

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A proven goalscorer during his prime years with Tottenham in the English Premier League, Keane was arguably the best player in MLS history, scoring 104 goals in 165 matches for LA Galaxy. He helped them win three cups and constantly challenge for the top places, which is something that gave the club a lot of legitimacy from a sporting perspective.

So Robbie Keane perhaps didn’t take the club to far greater heights commercially but he certainly did on the pitch.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Another LA Galaxy player that could be in the discussion for the league’s best-ever player, and one that would even say so himself.

Zlatan arrived in January 2018 to the United States and was a massive hit for the league. His charisma, his personality, his imposing figure, his goals, and his technique all made him a fan-favorite in the country as he scored 53 goals in 58 matches.

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The Swedish never lost a step in the MLS and looked as dominant as he ever did in the past. Plus, he also helped a lot of young players during his time in LA Galaxy, showing how much of a mentor figure he could be when push comes to shove.

In recent years, Ibrahimovic is probably the biggest example of a prominent signing that did work in the MLS and made a positive impact from every possible angle.

Wayne Rooney

Arguably the best-ever English player of all time, Rooney’s arrival at DC United in the summer of 2018 was a bit of a surprise. The Englishman never seemed like the type to go to America for his final years but he ultimately did so and the MLS managed to see some last moments of his greatness before he decided to go back to England.

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While Rooney was never as prominent as, say, Henry or Zlatan during their respective stints in the MLS, he had a very commendable 25 goals in 52 matches. Also, he seized his role as a mentor and as a leader for the squad, which is something that helped him later on when he started coaching.

It’s weird to say that Wayne Rooney was ever underrated but that was certainly the case during his time in the MLS.

Sebastian Giovinco

The Italian is often viewed as the first talented player to ever sign for a MLS side while still being in his prime. Giovinco signed at 28 years old for Toronto FC in 2015 and went on to become one of the league’s best-ever players, turning into an icon for the entire competition.

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While the league is still viewed as a retirement home of sorts for a lot of football fans, Giovinco’s move managed to make a bit of a difference. After all, there is an argument to be made that signings such as Miguel Almiron or Josef Martinez, players that arrived in their peak years and became icons of the league, wouldn’t have happened without the precedent of Giovinco.

It could be argued that the former Juventus man is also one of the few cases where his profile was actually boosted by his time in the MLS, which, in a way, makes him even more prominent.

David Villa

After a long period of success in Europe, Spanish striker David Villa, a serial winner with FC Barcelona and the Spain national team, decided to sign for one of the newest teams in the league, New York City FC, in 2014, which also did likewise with Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo. However, while the Englishman and the Italian never truly hit in the United States, Villa was a massive success during his four years in that country.

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He ended up scoring 80 goals in 126 matches and never scored less than 15 goals per year in the league. While he didn’t win any trophies, he made the team competitive and went on to become one of the best players in the league’s history.

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