Are Designated Player Signings Good or Bad For MLS?

Last month the website commented on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Nicolas Anelka, Guillermo Franco and Adrian Mutu showing some interest in moving to America to play soccer, and how a move in the foreseeable future would be a good thing for MLS. And I agree.

In 2007, David Beckham came to the Los Angeles Galaxy in a transfer that made an immediate impact on the club’s revenue and social status among other clubs throughout the world.

“It was incredible,” said former Galaxy teammate Alexi Lalas to ESPN. “The amount of jerseys that have been sold, the amount of sponsorship that has been sold. … The appearance fees the Galaxy can now command. The Galaxy brand is now international. This all contributes to the increase of the overall value of the team … and much of that can be attributed to the signing of David Beckham.”

What franchise would not want the same success the Galaxy experienced after signing the midfielder?

This is why I agree that bringing Ibra, Anelka, or Franco to America would be a good thing for any MLS club. However, are we enticing big names to defect to the U.S. as a publicity stunt, or to actually make an impact on the pitch?

Well, I’m sadly reluctant to say, it is all one huge publicity stunt, a clever tactic by the clubs management to raise the socioeconomic status of the club.

Look at the evidence. Since 2007 six internationally renowned players have come to the MLS. Beckham (Galaxy), Cuauhtémoc Blanco (Chicago Fire) and Juan Pablo Angel (New York Red Bulls) all in 2007. Fredrik Ljungberg (Seattle Sounders) in 2009, and Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls) crossed the Atlantic in 2010.

Each club thrived at this newly found national and international exposure and profited greatly in attendance and merchandise. In 2006 the LA Galaxy’s home attendance averaged at 20,813 per game, but in 2008 it increased over 25% to 26,008.

After New York signed Henry and Marquez, away games were selling out ticket sales, all to see them two play. Ljungberg basically put the Seattle Sounders on the map in their MLS inaugural season in 2009.

But how many championships have these clubs won? None.

None of the four clubs with big name signings have captured the MLS Cup. In 2008 the Red Bulls reached the Cup Final, but fell short. The Galaxy were a penalty kick away from the Championship in 2009 but failed.

They all reached the playoffs at one point or another during the four year span, but have yet to prove their worth where it matters.

It’s not all bad. There’s some light at the end of the tunnel. These men have given their club something very few people can do; they have given them an elevated status, and this is the first step in establishing a team and a league as a real deal. Once these status’s are at their peak, it will be much easier to lure someone with the likes of a Cristiano Ronaldo, or Gareth Bale; basically, someone that can contribute greatly on the pitch. It’s a long process, but with the rise of soccer in America, it’s going to happen.

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