There has been many famous names that have played the beautiful game in an American League, Pele, Beckenbauer, Best, etc. Honestly the list could go on for a long time when you mention the now defunct NASL. But with the hype of argueably the biggest and most recognized name in the world, Beckham, there has been much attention to the league this year, and Beckham has not had the biggest impact aside from the press.
Though Beckham brought attention to the MLS from a world stand point, it has been the other international stars that have brought legitimacy to the league. Starting around the same time frame as Beckham, Chauhtemoc Blanco signed with the Chicago Fire bringing immediate success to the club. Scoring in his first game as a member of the Fire, Blanco has Chicago in a position to make a run and compete for a playoff spot. Combine Blanco with the young core that is around him now and you will see a powerful team in the years to come.
Claudio Reyna is one of the most recognized players in America and Europe. Nicknamed “Captain America” by his European counterparts, Reyna shocked the world by not resigning in the EPL and made the switch to help his former US National Team Coach Bruce Arena and his new position with the NY Red Bulls. Though he was the player that received the most attention, it was the addition of Juan Pablo Angel from Aston Villa that has really helped. His experience has been a tremendous help for US National Team up and comer Jozy Altidore. From his first day with the club, Angel has taken Altidore under his wing and is helping him to become a better player, on the pitch and off.
Even with the bigger names in larger markets, such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, there has been one player that has come on the seen and made such an impact that it has turned the team around. That player is Luciano Emilio from DC United. The Brazilian has had a phenomonal year thus far, and it can only get better from here. Starting 23 out of 24 games with 19 goals, Emilio has helped his club clinch a playoff spot already and has DC United sitting on top of the East standings. Surrounded with players such as Jaime Moreno, Fred and Ben Olsen, DC United has been able to feed the ball to Emilio and let him do what he does best, and that is score.
When all is said and done, hopefully the MLS will be viewed by all to be a world class league. Though it is not at that standpoint yet, with the influx of international stars coming to the league it can only help improve the standard of play that we are seeing now. The future is bright for the MLS and Beckham may be the “Ambassador”, but the rest of his counterparts are leading by example.