Why International Stars Should Consider Destinations Besides NY and LA

Thierry Henry

Photo by Ronnie Macdonald

The weekly MLS Talk podcast (subscribe via iTunes) discussed this week among other things the newest international star giving “come hither” looks to the American soccer league: AC Milan’s Clarence Seedorf.  Seedorf of course is (reportedly) looking to make one last huge paycheck and expand his media presence, similar to Thierry Henry and everyone’s favorite Tottenham Galaxy player.  If he were to come to MLS, he has said he wants to play for, not surprisingly, Los Angeles or New York.

No offense to the great LA and NY fans, but I am tired of international stars overlooking the (now) 16 other MLS clubs when they want to play in MLS.  For budget reasons alone, not every international star can play for either the Galaxy or Red Bulls; at some point they have to disperse among other major league clubs.  Even if the Cosmos existed as an MLS franchise in 2013, that’s still only three designated player spots.

So as a service to the Ronaldinhos/Seedorfs/Anelkas/Pirlos of the world, the following are reasons why they would want to play for another MLS club.  These arguments are not just for this season, but for the future as well.  Share your thoughts in the comments section below:

Chicago Fire: Chicago is one of the top-five largest cities in America, and a business and shopping hub.  If you are an international star looking for a big-city American experience, Chicago’s your place.  The food is good, the nightlife is quality, and Chicago fans appreciate their sports teams.  Heck, they may even give you a statue if you do well enough.  It is also a very ethnically diverse city, where the traditional Polish and German immigrants now mix with people from around the globe.

Chivas USA: If you want the LA experience, Chivas is a second option.  The club spun out of an existing well-known Mexican club, so even if Chivas itself is not full of history the brand is a good one.  Spanish or Latin American stars would be an excellent fit for this club with its strong Hispanic support and namesake, but anyone who wants the benefits of Los Angeles without taking a Galaxy DP spot can find a home here.

Colorado Rapids: Although not located in downtown Denver, the Rapids are a short drive away from one of America’s most beautiful cities, as well as darn good skiing.  The management has ties to England and the Premier League, so our star would have the stability of playing for a club that understands European soccer.  And dismiss it all you want, but they are the 2010 MLS Cup champions so you are playing for a recent winner.

Columbus Crew: While not a huge name worldwide, Guillermo Barros Schelotto showed that an international player can succeed at Columbus and fit into the culture.  Columbus is one of the more storied MLS franchises and, if you want to come over to the States in the next few years, the team can make you the centerpiece and face of practically a new team.

D.C. United: At least one other person in town will speak your language, as your home country’s embassy will be a short distance away from your stadium (wherever that may be).  DC is a vibrant international city that can be quirky but caters to an international audience.  Increasingly great food options, diverse places to live, and a solid nightlife make this an LA-lite location.  And of course the club is the most decorated in the league’s history but undergoing a rebuild, so anyone making the trip in the next few years can partake in that.  And if you want to be involved in politics…….

FC Dallas: Increasingly Dallas is being seen as one of the centers of U.S. sports, and not just because of the Cowboy’s temple to excess.  Dallas is a big meeting and convention town, so all of those visitor amenities like food and nightlife are growing quickly.  The town also has a large Hispanic fanbase so like Chivas a Spanish or Latin American star would feel at home.

Houston Dynamo: Houston has many of the same advantages as Dallas, but it has an even faster growing Hispanic population.  And once its new stadium is built, it will have state of the art facilities that will be an attraction to any itinerant soccer player.

New England Revolution: Steve Nicol is obviously an experience international player and coach, so any overseas star could relate to him.  The fanbase is passionate and really support their team, which is not a small point in a country that seems to outsiders to disdain soccer.  And if they get a soccer stadium, then this is a premier destination for designated players.

Philadelphia Union: Much like Chicago, Philadelphia is a big city known for food and business.  As a new team, you have the chance to be the team’s first legend, which may be appealing to the bigger egos.  And you are a short trip away from the New York and DC media centers.

Portland: Even I admit, Portland, Oregon seems like a tough sell.  But consider this – what Pele was to the Cosmos, you Mr. EPL or Serie A could be to Portland.  Although the Timbers have a rich lower league history, the top-flight club could have its identity established by their international star and he would receive adoration from a passionate fan base.

Real Salt Lake: If you want to play for a winner, play here.  You would be playing for a team that is professionally run and poised to challenge for an MLS Cup in the foreseeable future.  And for those who think Salt Lake City is not a good destination, consider the international community flocking to it during the Olympics.  Growing tourist destination and all that entails are contained here.

San Jose: San Jose is in beautiful sunny California and not too far from the major California cities, a plus to expand your international brand.

Seattle: There is a reason MLS begins there season here seemingly every year.  Seattle is a soccer-mad city and their fans rival those of many European clubs.  If you want the packed-house passionate fan feeling you got at Anfield or the San Siro, this may be as close as you get in MLS.  And the team’s pretty good too.

Sporting Kansas City: Kansas City is a large media market, not as big as LA but still larger than Columbus’s and Salt Lake City’s.  That’s not saying much, but you would also be the face of the franchise, especially if Teal Bunbury goes overseas.

Toronto: Besides New York and LA, I think Toronto is the best destination for an established international star.  It is culture rich, full of good food and nightlife, and as diverse as a city can get.  You are not in the U.S., but you have an adoring fan base and are a few short hours from New York.  Their top advisor is a former World Cup star, their manager and general manager were established international names.

Vancouver: A combination of Toronto and Portland, Vancouver has the Canadian feel and a very passionate fan base where, again, you become the face of the franchise.

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