Now, whenever the MLS league is brought into a debate, one question I often hear a lot is:
Why do old players go to the MLS?
Its a question that I can understand why its so commonly asked by the fact that players who are in their prime do tend to make the switch to the US.
You probably recognise the likes of Steven Gerrard, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
These are just a few of the big-name players who all went to go play in the US from previously being with European based clubs.
But what do all these legends of the game have in common, bar a few exceptions?
Well, its that they are well into their thirties, a period where players start to slow down and think of retiring.
Now having followed the MLS extensively for the past few years, getting to know how it works and what is great about it, I will give you 5 reasons why old players decide to pack their bags and play in the MLS within this post.
Table of Contents
1. Still Want To Play At A Competitive Level
The first factor is that these footballers simply want to stay competing at a high level.
Now you may be asking, if they are at clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool, then why would they leave.
Well, it can be down to the fact that the player either wants to start a new challenge.
Or due to them being in the later stages of their career that they feel they can’t keep up at the very top.
So, therefore, leaving to go to MLS will enable them to play soccer, but not to the same stress and intensity as a league like Premier League, which is renowned for being fast-paced.
It also gives them a new challenge, especially if they have played the majority of their career in only a few leagues.
Such as Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard who have, and decide to switch countries for the first time.
2. The Small Aspect Of Money
MLS works a lot differently from other leagues in the world, as they have a salary cap system.
This means that each club can only allot certain salaries to their squads.
One exemption to this is the designated player rule, which allows MLS clubs to pay wages to a player that isn’t counted towards the salary cap.
So because of this, clubs in the league can offer bigger than usual wages to tempt players to come and play in the league.
However, despite this being the case, while old players are offered a lot of money to play in the MLS and will be making a lot more than other squad members.
They will likely have taken a cut from their previous clubs.
A few examples include Blaise Matuidi, who put pen to paper on a $1,5 million base salary a year.
This is compared to his reported salary of around $7.5 million at Inter Miami, which is quite the pay cut.
But while the money is less, the attraction for players is they can be one of the three designated players, still be earning a fair bit while also taking on a new challenge.
Now what is smart about making these moves for older players with a reputation is they drive interest to the league.
For the past couple of seasons, the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Carlos Vela have almost single-handedly sold a lot of seats for LAFC and La Galaxy games.
So its also seen as an investment from MLS that if they can get a big name, they will not only make get more eyes on their club but also come out with positive financial figures at the end of the season.
3. The Lifestyle
Talking of new challenges, the other new aspect that old players can look forward to when moving to the MLS is the lifestyle.
Now, who doesn’t like palm trees, beaches and playing soccer in warm weather?
Some players who have been playing in Europe have got used to a lifestyle which they have done for years.
Therefore, the idea of switching to the US, a place that interests many footballers, where they can take in new scenery while still enjoying playing in a top league, will sound good to them.
You have Johnny Russell, who is a designated player for Sporting Kansas City, who spoke out about how he always had an interest in going to the US.
He even mentioned in an interview that for many years it was in his plans for him to try out the US lifestyle and take his family out there.
The same goes for Steven Gerrard, who was keen on the idea of experiencing Los Angeles with his children, so he took up the move to La Galaxy.
Finally, you have Ryan Shawcross, who switched up cold rainy nights in Stoke for the heat of Florida and is most likely to work with Phil Neville.
So as you can see, lifestyle can be a big factor in why players would move abroad.
4. Major League Soccer Trying To Grow
The MLS is one of the newest leagues in the world.
It has been around since 1993; however, compared to others, its still pretty new.
However, its been deemed as one of the fastest-growing leagues in the country, as per the words of the MLS commissioner Don Gaber.
With audiences getting bigger, more people showing an interest in soccer in general within America and of course, big signings, the interest is racking up.
What this has to do with old players and them wanting to join is simply they are interested in the project.
David Beckham was one of the first notable signings to take up joining La Galaxy that really put MLS on the map.
So while making these signings require a substantial investment from the clubs.
As I was talking about earlier with Zlatan and Vela, investing money not only helps the clubs to profit but the league to gain more attention.
As you can see, there are numerous reasons why old players go to the MLS.
However, in the end, it all boils down to the attractive lifestyle, being involved in a growing league, and of course, a huge part is also to do with money.
What do you think about this topic? Do you think there are potentially other reasons involved?
Let me know your thoughts down below 🙂
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