Saturday, June 23, 2018

MLS surpasses A-League as preferred destination for Premier League stars

August 5, 2015 by  
Filed under MLS

Australia’s A-League may well still be developing at a fast rate as it prepares to head into an 11th season, but the growth has not stopped it falling behind the MLS. It seems heading west is best for Premier League stars now.

The MLS was six years old when the A-League debut for its maiden season in 2004, but it was to the newly-formed operation Down Under to Australia where ageing or experienced Premier League stars opted to go in search of a final pay day.

Robbie Fowler, Emile Heskey, Harry Kewell, Dwight Yorke, Juninho and more recently William Gallas and Damian Duff are among the former Premier League players to have enjoyed spells playing soccer in Australia. Many more too.

So too have Italy legend Alessandro Del Piero and Spanish World Cup winner David Villa, albeit very briefly for the latter.

But reports that the tide is turning and instead of boarding planes to head Down Under, Premier League players are tending to follow a different path with the MLS proving a much bigger attraction to those in the twilight of their career.

It all started before David Beckham, but his spell with the Los Angeles Galaxy between 2007-2012 has really put the MLS on the map as a place to play. The names that have followed him in moving across the Atlantic seems to be growing by the day.

While some were stars of yesteryear – Celestine Babayaro, Ade Akinbiyi, Djimi Traore, Mikael Silvestre and Abel Xavier, the modern breed are taking to the MLS too.

Steven Gerrard, who has joined LA Galaxy, Frank Lampard, who is now with the New York City, and Didier Drogba, a recent addition to the Montreal Impact roster, are the latest to head to the United States to sign off their careers.

Along with them, the arrival of fellow footballing greats Andrea Pirlo, David Villa and Kaka underlines just how big the MLS is suddenly becoming.

Before them were the names of the likes of Arsenal teammates Thierry Henry and Freddie Ljungberg, Jermain Defoe, who has since returned to the Premier League with Sunderland, and Robbie Keane – all helping to build the reputation of the MLS.

Perhaps the most telling factor of all, however, to showcase the MLS’ position as the preferred destination of players over the A-League now is in the precence of one man: Tim Cahill.

The Australian enjoyed much success with Everton in the Premier League, but given the choice of returning home or heading to the MLS he chose the New York Red Bulls. Even after leaving the franchise at the end of last season, Cahill instead went to China for the final years of his career.

The A-League has lost its place as the place for Premier League stars to bring the curtain down on their career. The surge to prominence of the MLS is one of the biggest reasons.

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