Stoke City, Queens Park Rangers, Wigan Athletic...
Those are English clubs who have been interested in players from the United States recently. MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler was offered a trial by floundering QPR. Kei Kamara trained with Stoke City for a week. Wigan Athletic signed Honduran international Roger Espinoza.
And that's players from Sporting Kansas City.
Whether it's Landon Donavan with Everton, Geoff Cameron with Stoke City or even Thierry Henry with Arsenal (I know he used to play there, but the fact that they still want him back after playing in the MLS speaks volumes), the MLS is starting to get noticed abroad, and at home as a result.
Now, let's take a look at when this all started. Donovan has been the face of the MLS ever since his San Jose Earthquake days but it was the arrival of a megastar that kickstarted the MLS:
When he arrived to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007, the sports world finally turned its eyes to the MLS. Everyone wanted a look at the English superstar, (And underwear model for the ladies out there). Suddenly, the MLS had the press it needed, and boy did they capitalize.
In 2007, the MLS had only twelve teams. Some, like Kansas City and the then-defunct San Jose Earthquakes, were having financial troubles. Many games were played in cavernous NFL stadiums, which made small crowds look even smaller.
However, in 2007, everything changed. The average attendance at MLS games jumped 8.2% from 15,504 to 16,770. In those five years average attendance has jumped all the way to 18,807. One of the reasons for the jump in the last few years is the addition of Seattle, who's average of approximately 43,000 per game certainly add to the average.
In 2007, however, Seattle wasn't in the league. Since David Beckham has arrived, seven new clubs have been added to the MLS. (Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Philadelphia and the resurrection of San Jose.) In that time, the Kansas City Wizards rebranded themselves to Sporting Kansas City and have been one the most successful clubs in the league since they rebranded.
In addition to the new clubs, nine soccer specific stadiums have opened since 2007. Now the clubs have a place to call home, not a shared NFL stadium. Also the MLS has become more attractive to big names from across the pond. Names like Theirry Henry, Robbie Keane and Tim Cahill just to name a few.
In those past five years, the MLS has gained a lot of popularity. It now beats out the NBA and NHL (Oh wait) in attendance. It has a deal with ESPN for a primetime game every week. They also struck a deal with NBC Sports for another channel to show matches on. The MLS is getting bigger and bigger every year, and it probably couldn't be done without the jumpstart given by the arrival of David Beckham.
Fast forward to present day. David Beckham has played his final match as a member of an MLS squad. I would go as far to say it's an end of an era. The MLS is now at a place where it can move forward. Possible expansion into New York City and Orlando may be in the works. MLS players are getting attention abroad. Attendance is at an all time high.
We are entering a new era of Major League Soccer. An era that will be bigger than any other era in the history of the MLS. This will be the Golden Era of the league.
And we have David Beckham to thank.