An enlarging league, delight for the game at an all time high and international stars joining in high-caliber of play; the MLS would likely not be anyone’s first speculation if you had to estimate which American major professional league I’m describing.
That is exactly the route the MLS has taken in the past five seasons, and their trajectory continues to skyrocket as soccer’s global stars have currently chosen the MLS because of the increase in money and delight for the game in North America. With the MLS All-Star game on the horizon, let’s take a look back on who’s responsible for it and how far the MLS has come. A preview for the All-Star game is also crucial as this year the finest the MLS has to offer takes on European royals when they host Arsenal in San Jose.
It all began in 1996, the inaugural season for the MLS, with 10 teams and a couple marquis players. That year, the All-Star game was the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference.
Over the next 8 years the MLS was searching for a style of game that would bring devoted fans and players from every corner of the world. Some of the games included an MLS USA side taking on the group of international players that were in the league.
David Beckham, LA Galaxy, Advent in 2007
David Beckham was the most pivotal moment for the increase of game and the MLS of soccer in America. Whatever Beckham did, the soccer world took notice. He was the cool kid in school that everyone desired to be like, and there was speculation when he made the move to MLS towards the end of his career but he silenced those critics. The floodgates were opened, once players saw they could head to the MLS towards the end of their careers, but still control and make lots of cash just like Beckham.
Robbie Keane, LA Galaxy, Advent in 2011
The Ireland international was a star in his own right during his days as an European club player, and still had plenty left in the tank when he joined forces with Beckham. Beckham brought acclaim and the flash, but the goals were brought by Keane. He has scored 80 goals since joining the league and is scoring at an impressive clip, and with nine more he’ll break the top ten on the all time goals list for the MLS. Keane led his squad to another MLS Cup in 2014 with the game-winner, and as Beckham left Keane filled the void nicely while other stars in Europe started taking notice.
Kaka, Orlando City SC, Advent in 2015
A football icon from Brazil, Kaka, came over as the league was about to take another major leap. Introducing an expansion team is consistently rough, but Kaka is a worldwide icon who represented Brazil and Real Madrid for many years with class, in addition to graced the cover of football’s biggest game, FIFA 11.
Andrea Pirlo, Frank Lampard and David Villa, NYC FC, Debut in 2015
The final bits of the European royals puzzle that came across to the MLS were Italian star Spanish striker David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and arguably the greatest English midfielder to play the match, Frank Lampard. The MLS formerly sent most of its stars to the sunny West Coast, but these three icons give three columns to anchor the East Coast to the New York market. NYC FC has been off to a shaky start from a franchise perspective, but with the charisma of the big city and bright lights to go along with the possibility of playing with football celebs, NYC FC will be the place to be in several years.
MLS All Stars vs. Arsenal, 2016 All-Star Game, July 28th
The MLS All Stars took down their BPL contest last year 2-1, when Everton were conquered by them. The job will be slightly more difficult this season as they take on Arsenal, a powerhouse in English football. The MLS All-Stars have a menacing line up that can stack up well against any team. The squad will be led international talents Kaka, Didier Drogba and David Villa, Jermaine Jones and Matt Besler as well as by Americans Clint Dempsey.
The match will go down at the Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes. To find tickets to one of the biggest MLS events of the season, check out The King Of Tickets to appreciate the game live!