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MLS gossip: Del Piero, Cisse, De Rossi all linked with moves to the US


Ah, it’s that time of year again.
Cisse
Cisse

The domestic campaigns in Europe are coming to a close and that means one thing: veteran players or players who are out of contract being linked with moves to Major League Soccer. Along with death, taxes and birth it is one of life’s constants.

Anyway… in the latest round of rumored MLS transfers, we have three players who have all played in the UEFA Champions League and have starred for some of the biggest clubs and national teams in the world.

Djibril Cisse, Alessandro Del Piero and Daniel De Rossi are the men in question.

Former Liverpool and France striker Cisse seems the most likely of the three stars mentioned to make an imminent arrival in MLS. Cisse, 33, currently plays for Bastia in Ligue 1 but has said it would be “cool” to play in MLS and will be out of contract this summer. Cisse told France Football that “there are a lot of offers from the USA. India too. I have two or three things in Poland and some which are a little funky, but the USA would be cool.” Cisse has scored six goals in 25 appearances for Bastia in the past two seasons but a hip injury has hampered the Frenchman who won the Champions League with Liverpool in 2005.

Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero spoke to ESPN earlier this week at the launch of the downtown stadium project for the new LAFC franchise which will begin play in 2018 in MLS. Del Piero, 40, may be a little too old to play for LAFC then but he was involved in this weeks event after his close connections with some of the owners. Perhaps Del Piero is being groomed to become a coach or ambassador with LAFC? The Italian striker also hinted that he is staying in shape and trying to sort out a new club in the next few months after his spell in the A-League with Sydney FC and then the Delhi Dynamos of the Indian Super League ended.

Rounding off the transfer news is AS Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, as the 31-year-old midfielder has spoken at a book launch in the Italy about emulating Steven Gerrard. De Rossi revealed he has come very close to leaving Roma in the past but after 14 years at Roma he is likely to become their captain when Francesco Totti retires and wants the same send-off as Gerrard, before hinting that he could well follow in his footsteps.

“As a youngster Gerrard was really a reference point for me, an idol for what he did on the field, but above all off it,” De Rossi said. “I would like to end with the same dignity as Gerrard. I want to leave Roma when I am still strong and in good physical shape.”

Does that mean De Rossi wants to head to MLS like Gerrard? Who knows. De Rossi heading to MLS would certainly be a few years off. One thing is for sure, more and more players around Europe are seriously contemplating moves to the States when their careers are winding down. That is both a good and a bad things for MLS but that discussion can be saved for another day…
http://prosoccertalk.nbcsports.com/



Drogba sets sights on MLS


Didier Drogba: Heading to MLS?
Didier Drogba: Heading to MLS?
Didier Drogba will not play for another English team when he leaves Chelsea and may follow Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard by ending his career in the United States.

The 37-year-old former Ivory Coast forward played his final game for Chelsea when the Premier League champions beat Sunderland 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

He told the Daily Telegraph: "There are some really fantastic teams in the Premier League but my love for this club. I can't share it with another English team.

"Since I put the news I am leaving Chelsea on social media, I was in the dressing-room and I was receiving some calls from teams which is really unusual.

"It showed that maybe I can still bring something to a team. Of course I'm interested in the USA. Now I'm going to have a few days and weeks to think about what is good for me next but all I want is to play."

His former Chelsea team-mate Lampard, who was on loan with Manchester City this season, is about to start a new career with New York City FC. Gerrard played his last game for Liverpool on Sunday before joining the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Drogba re-signed for Chelsea last year after leaving in 2012 following a highly successful eight-year spell with the London club.

The Ivorian has won four Premier League titles with Chelsea, three League Cups, four FA Cups and the Champions League and was voted the club's greatest-ever player by supporters in 2012.

teamtalk.com


EPL club Tottenham Hotspur announced as opponents for 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game

Harry Kane
Major League Soccer’s best and brightest are headed to the Rocky Mountains this summer, and they’re bringing Tottenham Hotspur with them.
On Tuesday, MLS announced that the English Premier League club will take on the MLS All-Stars at Dick’s Sporting Good Park, the home of the Colorado Rapids, in the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game on July 29. Kick off is at 9 pm ET. The game will be televised live on FOX Sports 1, UniMás and Univision Deportes Network (UDN) in the United States, TSN and RDS in Canada, and in more than 100 countries worldwide.
Spurs will be the 10th different international club to take on the MLS All-Stars, who defeated Bayern Munich 2-1 last summer in Portland.
“The AT&T MLS All-Star Game continues to be one of the most entertaining and widely anticipated traditions for our league and for our sport in North America,” MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome another world-class opponent in Tottenham and look forward to a competitive match and a tremendous week of events. We know that the Colorado Rapids, one of our inaugural clubs, will be great hosts and that Dick’s Sporting Goods Park will impress both the fans in the stadium and television viewers throughout the world.”
Following last year’s dramatic victory punctuated by a game-winning goal from Landon Donovan, the MLS All-Stars are now 7-3-1 against international competition, including world-famous opponents such as Manchester United (2010 & 2011), Everton (2009), Chelsea (2006 & 2012), Roma (2012) and Bayern Munich (2014).
Tottenham will bring a familiar face in defender DeAndre Yedlin, who started at right back for the MLS All-Stars in 2014 against Bayern and was selected to the 2013 team by MLS Commissioner Don Garber, the first rookie since 2005 to receive the honor.
"We'd like to thank Major League Soccer for the invitation to take part in the 2015 All-Star Game,” Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino said in a statement. “The fact that this will be our only fixture outside of Europe during preseason says a lot about how we view this game. We enjoyed three tough matches last summer in North America and the quality of football in MLS continues to grow every year. 
“Preseason is an important time for us and we are looking forward to being a part of one of the biggest events on the US football calendar. We know the quality of the facilities will be top-class and we see this fixture against the best players from MLS as good preparation."
Founded in 1882, Spurs, as they are affectionately known, are a mainstay in the English Premier League and regular participants in European competitions. The London-based club lifted the Football League Championship, now the Premier League championship, on two occasions (1951, 1961), as well as a host of domestic cups, including the FA Cup, which the club have won eight times.
“Once again, we’re thrilled to mobilize soccer fans’ passions at the AT&T MLS All-Star Game,” said Bill Moseley, AT&T's director of marketing and communications. “Each year, the game shows off the sport’s very best, and we can’t wait to share this summer’s experience with soccer spectators everywhere.”
http://www.mlssoccer.com/

Beckham reiterates Miami interest

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expressed his interest in looking to partner with David Beckham
David Beckham says he is looking forward to becoming the owner of a new MLS franchise in Miami.

But the former Manchester United star did say "nothing has been confirmed yet, but it's something I am very excited about."

He adds that "Miami is something that really excites me because there is a great energy down there. They are ready for a football team in that part of the world."

Beckham was speaking at a promotional event at The Venetian casino in Macau. He is expected to attend Saturday's WBO welterweight title fight between Manny Pacquiao and Brandon Rios at The Venetian.

MLS had a franchise in South Florida from 1998 to 2001, but the Fusion folded after playing in Fort Lauderdale. Earlier this week, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James confirmed he is in preliminary discussions about involvement with a potential MLS franchise in Miami.

"The research is still being made out, but I think it can be huge," said James, a four-time league MVP and two-time champion. "But you never know. I think this is a great town for soccer. There are a lot of soccer players here. There is a lot of great youth soccer here."

Last month, a source told ESPN FC that Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross expressed his interest in looking to partner with Beckham to bring an MLS expansion team to Miami.

The source indicated that if Beckham and his partners are successful in landing a team, Ross will work in conjunction with the group, and that Ross wouldn't provide any of the start-up money needed by Beckham's consortium.

Beckham reportedly has an option to acquire an MLS expansion franchise at a discounted rate, believed to be $25 million. It also has been reported that Beckham's option expires at the end of the year, although ESPN FC could not confirm that detail.
ESPN UK


Miami preparing for an MLS expansion party


Orlando City has revealed plans for a major announcement Wednesday. The news is expected to be confirmation of Orlando as the home of the 21st MLS franchise.
It is the worst-kept secret in Major League Soccer circles, but that didn't stop Orlando City SC from revealing plans for a major announcement to be held on Wednesday.

The announcement? All signs point to it being official word that Orlando will be awarded the 21st Major League Soccer franchise.
“We are excited to make these two big announcements next week, which will solidify Orlando as a soccer market for years to come,” Orlando City president Phil Rawlins said in a statement released by the club. “We encourage all of our fans to come out on the 19th, which will be a historic day for the city of Orlando!”
The city of Orlando has been poised to become the latest MLS expansion city ever since the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted to approve funding of a soccer-specific stadium,a total of $35 million in tax-generated contributions to the project. MLS president Mark Abbott was quoted as saying that if the funding came through that MLS would grant Orlando City an expansion team.
That formal announcement, which will serve as a celebration of the completed mission of bringing pro soccer to Orlando, is set for Wednesday at Cheyenne Saloon.
The announcement is supposed to unveil two pieces of news. One is expected to be MLS expansion, while the other is rumored to be the announcement of a jersey sponsorship with Orlando Health, the current jersey sponsor for USL PRO side Orlando City.
Orlando City is expected to join MLS in 2015, the same year New York City FC is set to join MLS as its 20th franchise.
Wednesday was a good day on the Florida soccer front, with more news also emerging about David Beckham's plans for bringing an MLS team to Miami. The Miami Herald reported that Beckham was looking at sites for a potential stadium for an expansion team, with Marlins Park and a stadium on the campus of Florida International being identified as possible temporary homes for a Miami franchise.
With Orlando already set to join the league, Miami doesn't look to be too far behind, with a David Beckham-backed expansion bid potentially launching a team by 2016.


Landon Donovan to stay in MLS, signs long-term deal with L.A. Galaxy


Landon Donovan 
CARSON, Calif. — Landon Donovan has signed a multi-year contract extension with the Los Angeles Galaxy, keeping the United States forward with his MLS club.
The Galaxy announced the deal Wednesday with Donovan, whose current contract was up at the end of the season.
The 31-year-old Donovan has been with the Galaxy since 2005, winning three of his five career MLS Cup titles with Los Angeles. He is the third-leading goal-scorer in MLS history, trailing leader Jeff Cunningham by just three goals.
Donovan also is the U.S. national team's career scoring leader, playing in the last three World Cups.
He took a self-imposed sabbatical after the Galaxy's MLS Cup victory last December, only returning to the Galaxy in late March. He also returned to the U.S. national team last month.

The Vancouver Sun


Leander Schaerlaeckens: The U.S. team has been brought down to earth at the worst time possible


Following a scoreless draw against Canada, Jurgen Klinsmann's attacking style is being questioned in the days leading up to a pair of World Cup qualifiers.

Klinsmann


But four days later, the U.S. took a beating at the hands of Neymar and Brazil, losing 4-1 in D.C. The Americans nevertheless showed promise and a penchant  for creating chances against a powerful opponent, making the outcome somewhat acceptable. Finally, against Canada on Sunday, the U.S. notched a 0-0 draw against a team it should probably have beaten handily. And in that game, much 

of the progress made, much of the growth achieved in Klinsmann’s grand experiment

 to turn a stodgy team into a lithe, fluid outfit, was called into question. 

But four days later, the U.S. took a beating at the hands of Neymar and Brazil, losing 4-1 in D.C. The Americans nevertheless showed promise and a penchant for creating chances against a powerful opponent, making the outcome somewhat acceptable.

Finally, against Canada on Sunday, the U.S. notched a 0-0 draw against a team it should probably have beaten handily. And in that game, much of the progress made, much of the growth achieved in Klinsmann’s grand experiment to turn a stodgy team into a lithe, fluid outfit, was called into question. 

The U.S. was uninspired and sloppy on the ball and lacked the energy to pick a modest Canada side apart. The Canadians, frankly, could well have won this game as a 34th-minute goal by Nik Ledgerwood was dubiously disallowed and Simeon Jackson fluffed a sitter in extra time, whereas the U.S. came close to scoring just once, when a towering Clarence Goodson header was well-saved in the dying minutes. 

While a scoreless draw with Canada on a sluggish day is tolerable for the U.S. – if a tad discomforting – the uneasy conclusion drawn from this game is not.  Thus far, the United States' new system and philosophy, espousing a proactive, high-octane attacking game, has worked well against teams willing to reciprocate in their attacking, like Scotland and Brazil. Teams like Canada, however, who are content to absorb, clutter and disturb, present a problem the Klinsmannian ploy isn’t yet equipped to handle. And as the U.S.’s bad luck would have it, the CONCACAF region from which it will have to qualify for the World Cup is chock full of that sort of team. 

Truth be told, the draw was as much a consequence of fatigue as it was of faulty tactics. What made the U.S. tick in earlier games was a holding midfielder who could shield the defense and free up his two fellow central midfielders to barrel forward, which they did to great effect against Scotland and Brazil. Playing a 4-4-1-1 instead, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were stuck playing deeper, needing to pass their way through a crowded midfield while the wingers needed to track back more as well. 

But even with a formation that didn’t do the U.S. any favors, the point of this revolution is to fundamentally alter the U.S.’s approach to a soccer game. Rather than letting the game come to them, the Yanks are to take the game to their opponents. And in the execution thereof they were roundly inadequate against Canada. It’s all good and well pummeling Scotland but the Scots fancied their chances – and said as much before the game – hoping to go for the win themselves in order to boost their own confidence up a notch. When an opponent sits in and clutters the center of the field – an approach the U.S. itself has used to great effect against the likes of Spain under Bob Bradley – like Canada did, the U.S. will have to learn to play through it. Or when an opponent presses so frenetically, like Brazil did, that the Americans have mere tenths of seconds on the ball before they are closed down, the U.S. will have to learn to overcome that.

If the Scotland and Brazil games were encouraging in their own right, and showed promise for this World Cup cycle, the Canada game was a sobering lesson in what lay in wait for the U.S. as it tries to get to Brazil. Because if it fails to unlock those CONCACAF logjams, this entire process will have been in vain.

Goal.com

Cal FC's ride ends; Red Bulls booted

TUKWILA, Wash. -- As Osvaldo Alonso and Fredy Montero saw things, it was just a matter of time.

Alonso and Montero each scored a pair of goals in the second half, and the Seattle Sounders tallied five times in a span of 20 minutes on Tuesday night to end Cal FC's run through the U.S. Open Cup with a 5-0 fourth-round victory.
Andy Rose also scored for Seattle, which was kept off the board for nearly 50 minutes by the amateur side from Thousand Oaks, Calif., before Alonso converted a penalty kick.
"The first half was a hard half because they were very strong in their defense," Alonso said. "But the second half, we entered the field feeling happy and positive about the fact that if we scored the first goal, then the next goal and the next goal and the next goal were going to come."
That's precisely what happened. Montero ran onto a long through ball from Cordell Cato and ripped it into the back left corner late in the 58th minute. Rose got the last head on an airborne ball in the box and sent it into the right side midway through the 66th minute.
Montero curled in a 25-yard direct free kick from beyond the top left corner of the box midway through the 68th -- a goal that initially was called offside, but then allowed. Alonso finished it with a straight-on 35-yard blast late in the 70th minute.
"It was like just waiting for us to score a goal," Montero said. "Lucky for us, it was a penalty. We knew the diffrerence was going to be the first goal."
The Sounders, going for an unprecedented fourth straight U.S. Open Cup, will be on the road for the quarterfinals on June 26, visiting Major League Soccer rival San Jose. Seattle is 15-0-1 in Open Cup play since joining MLS as an expansion team in 2009, but has played just three road games during that time: two in 2009 and one in 2010.
Cal FC, coached by former U.S. national team star and television analyst Eric Wynalda, went further than any other U.S. Adult Soccer Association (fifth-tier) team in the modern era in the Open Cup (1995-present). Despite being together for barely a month, it was the first USASA team to knock off an MLS side when it beat the Portland Timbers in overtime last Wednesday in Oregon, 1-0.
"All in all, if you look at the goals we set for ourselves, we did exceed a lot of people's expectations," Wynalda said. "They recognize what happened tonight. That first goal really was a punch in the gut. When we had to make the switch to try to get more forwards on the field, it opened up and (the Sounders) showed their quality.
"We just wanted to get to about the 60th minute and throw some forwards on the field," Wynalda added. "But we never got there."

Espn

Impact president denies talks with Italian star Alessandro Del Piero

Italian soccer star Alessandro Del Piero will not be joining the Montreal Impact, the president of the Major League Soccer club said Friday.
Joey Saputo, whose club signed former Bolgna forward Marco Di Vaio as its first designated player last week, denied reports originating in Italy that the team was in talks with Del Piero and that the Juventus striker had recently stayed with the Saputo family in Florida.
Del Piero was in Florida, but it was with his former Italy teammate, Impact forward Bernardo Corradi.
Saputo said that while the club expressed interest last summer in luring Del Piero to North America, there had been no further talks and the team was no longer interested.
"I can say no members of my family are in Florida," Saputo said. "He did meet with Bernardo Corradi, who was in Florida for the four days off we had.
"I know they played tennis together. I know that Corradi was talking to him about Montreal and how great it is. But there's been absolutely no talk on our part with Del Piero."

http://www.cbc.ca/sports


MLS Doesn’t Need a “Linsanity” to Promote Their League





The MLS will stick to promoting their league with champions, not a over-saturated heart-warming story.
“Linsanity”,“Tebow Time”… Who Need’s It?: What has happened to the way sports is marketed and advertised? Within two weeks Jeremy Lin has become the biggest story in the NBA since LeBron’s infamous “decision”. Lin’s story is heartwarming no doubt, but the kid has only played six games; yet the media has created him into the story of the year. The NBA has struggled to grow their fan market and has seen a rapid decrease in their numbers, but is this how they are going to sell their product? A six game starter wavier pick up who graduated from Harvard is getting more press then the last three NBA champions combined. Is the NBA that desperate to gain attention from the press and trends on twitter to over-saturate the first positive story that comes around? And the NBA isn’t the only United States sports league who is selling their product off a single player/storyline. The 2011-2012 NFL won’t be remembered for the brilliant Super Bowl performance by the New York Giants, but from cotton candy pop culture reference that is Tim Tebow. Both Tebow and Lin have fantastic stories, but the media and attention of the fans should be on the one thing that matters in sports–champions. It’s come to the point that sports such as baseball are using “Linsanity” and “Tebow Factor” to describe their own players. Unlike it’s fellow American sports Major League Soccer will stick to what a league is supposed to be known for–the best players,the best teams the best competition. You can have your social media gimmicks and pun headlines and we’ll stick to the play on the field; not what’s trending on twitter or the latest skit on Saturday Night Live.


MLS vets Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry shine in EPL wins
  • Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry soon will be heading back to their respective MLS clubs, and Saturday demonstrated further how much they’ll be missed by their EPL teams.
  • Donovan had yet another assist as Everton upset visiting Chelsea, 2-0, while Henry scored the late game-winner as Arsenal won 2-1 at Sunderland.



Everton was leading Chelsea by one and looking for the insurance goal when Donovan picked up a loose ball following a tackle by veteran defender Phil Neville in the 71st minute.
Donovan cut in from the right wing, beat two Chelsea defenders and slipped a perfect pass through to forward Denis Stracqualursi. The Argentine beat goalkeeper Peter Cech and Everton was on its way.
It was Donovan’s sixth assist in nine games for Everton, who have gone 4-2-3 over that stretch and are unbeaten in six. The Toffees climbed to 9-10-6 and 10th place in the English Premier League while Chelsea dropped into fifth thanks to Arsenal’s win.
Before the match, Donovan told Everton’s website how much a victory over Chelsea would mean as his second loan spell draws to a close.
“Since the day I got here there has always been the belief this team can compete with any team in the Premier League,” he said. “When I was here last time (in 2010) we beat Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City and should have drawn at Tottenham, so there is no fear in this club.”
Donovan will head back to the L.A. Galaxy this time around having proved that his previous success at Everton was far from a fluke, in addition to the big wins over Chelsea and City (Jan. 31).
His final appearance at Everton will be Feb. 11 against visiting Blackpool in an FA Cup round-of-16 game.
At Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, Henry entered in the 66th minute and according to his coach, Arsene Wenger, “finished the story of the legend.”
Sunderland took the lead in the 70th but Arsenal equalized five minutes later on a goal by reserve midfielder Aaron Ramsey. That set the stage for Henry’s heroics. In the first minute of stoppage time, the Frenchman snuck between two defenders and knocked home a well-hit cross from Andrei Arshavin.
It was the third goal of Henry’s loan (two were game winners) and his 229th all-time for Arsenal, where he starred in 1999-2007.
“It just shows you as well that these players never lose it. Exceptional talent survives,” Wenger said.
Henry’s final game with Arsenal before he returns to the New York Red Bulls will be Wednesday as the Londoners visit AC Milan in a UEFA Champions League round-of-16 match.
sportingnews

Is this a brave new dawn for Major League Soccer?

Players such as David Beckham have boosted the league but homegrown talent is vital for the future of MLS.
David Beckham has decided to extend his career at LA Galaxy.
Photograph: Alex Gallardo/Reuters
The winning goal in last season's MLS Cup, the competition's championship game, will have been enjoyed not only by Los Angeles Galaxy fans, but Major League Soccer bosses too.
As a 30-second snapshot of the MLS, footage of the solitary strike and the passage of play that preceded it – beamed to TVs, computer screens and mobile devices around the world – made for the perfect brand campaign, featuring the United States' leading goal scorer, the league's latest poster boy and the most famous player on the planet, who has just signed a new two-year deal with the Galaxy and reaffirmed his commitment to football in the US and Canada.
Indeed, while David Beckham's involvement in the goal was fleeting (a flicked header to Robbie Keane, who, in turn, set up Landon Donovan), his impact on the sport in his adopted homeland could have lasting effects.
Beckham's much-publicised arrival in the US in July 2007, and that of the Designated Player Rule (named informally in his honour and which exempts a limited number of players from capped salaries), paved the way for other big names from Latin America and particularly Europe to follow.
A trickle soon become a stream, with Thierry Henry, Rafael Márquez, Torsten Frings and Keane among those to have joined the MLS on lucrative terms in the past 18 months.
The MLS had needed to boost its image, but also the standard of football played within its stadiums. The latter had been such that Premier League chaff such as Jaime Moreno (25 appearances for Middlesbrough) and Predrag Radosavljević, better known as Preki (86 appearances for Everton and Portsmouth), were able to carve out glittering careers on American and Canadian soil.
Moreno, the first Bolivian to play in the Premier League, made 329 appearances and scored 131 goals for DC United during two spells at the club; while Preki, an American of Serbian extraction, retired at the age of 42 after 71 goals in 218 games for the Kansas City Wizards. Both are listed in the MLS All-Time Best XI.
Those places could soon be under threat given the high-calibre imports the league is now able to attract – but it is young homegrown talent, rather than ageing overseas stars, who will ensure that any spike in interest following the arrivals of Beckham, Henry and co is sustained long after they hang up their boots.
There is the danger that all the good work that has gone into enhancing the MLS in recent years could be undone if the league allows itself to be seen solely as a refuge for fading stars seeking one final bumper payday and the chance to roll back the years and reassert their authority over opposing players.
To their credit, it's an issue the MLS commissioner, Don Garber, and the league's administrators recognise, making a tweak to the Designated Player Rule to encourage and facilitate investment in young foreign imports.
But, of course, it is the emergence of domestic talent that is fundamental to the game's growth in any country, and particularly in one as patriotic as the US. It is hoped that the implementation of a league-wide youth development programme will bear fruit in the years to come – but who of the current crop of players look like having what it takes to eventually succeed Beckham as an MLS ambassador?
While there should be no urgency to pronounce the arrival of the first world-class US or Canadian footballer, given how Freddy Adu failed to bear the colossal weight of expectation heaped upon his barely teenage shoulders, there is cautious optimism that Brek Shea and Juan Agudelo might make the grade.
Shea, a 6ft 3in central midfielder, has already made 84 appearances for Dallas FC and a further nine at international level after impressing the US coach, Jürgen Klinsmann. The 21-year-old's performances in 2011 saw him shortlisted for the MVP Award and caught the eye of Arsène Wenger, who invited him to train at Arsenal during the MLS off-season.
In a similar arrangement, Agudelo has also spent time in the UK this winter. The 19-year-old linked up at Liverpool with compatriot Marc Pelosi, who recently joined the Merseyside club's academy set-up from De Anza Force in California.
Agudelo, a Colombian-born forward who is now a US international, became the youngest player to score for the senior team with the winning goal against South Africa last year. At club level, Agudelo has an ideal mentor in New York Red Bulls captain Henry, with whom he has already forged an impressive strike partnership.
Are Shea and Agudelo a sample of the rich crop of young football talent emerging from within the MLS or further evidence – alongside transatlantic pre-season tours, the launch of football academies in the region and sundry commercial tie-ups (for example, LeBron James, one of the biggest sporting stars in the US, last year acquired a minority stake in Liverpool and has since become a walking billboard for their latest clothing lines) – of European clubs identifying a footballing superpower in the making and an ideal market in which to promote their brand?
Danny Dichio, the former QPR, Sunderland, West Brom, Millwall and Preston North End striker, certainly sees evidence of the former, and believes it won't be long before a new generation of talented youngsters graduate to take their places alongside the likes of Shea and Agudelo. He should know. Dichio joined the MLS side Toronto FC in its inaugural year in 2007, before making 59 appearances for the club. Since retiring two years later, he has become the head coach of its academy team.
Dichio says: "There is a strong current crop of youngsters coming through in the US and definitely Canada. Where we are in Toronto, we have a very diverse culture in the city, varying from Europe to South America and then Africa and Asia. A lot of these kids' parents are immigrants who have been brought up on football, so it is in their blood."
That football is not in the blood of the rest of the population is the argument of those who believe that, for all the strides made by the MLS in promoting football and improving its standard, there will only ever be enough room in their hearts for their own version of the sport and others indigenous to the region.
Perhaps with that in mind, the MLS has been tailored somewhat to audiences familiar with the mechanisms of American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. Peculiarities include player drafts, a franchise system (whereby players sign to the MLS itself rather than the clubs it owns), regional divisions (namely Eastern and Western conferences), and a schedule that includes a regular season and play-off fixtures.
That there is no tier system, meaning no promotion and relegation, may seem a concession too far to many European observers. But, despite arguments that the existing model can stifle competitiveness while generating dead rubbers and surplus play-off games, Dichio says there's not much chance of it changing any time soon: "The North American fan loves the play-off system as they have it ingrained in all their sports. Relegation or promotion is not really heard of here.
"The owners who are paying a small fortune for an expansion club now would not be happy to see their investment possibly go down to the second tier and hit their financial situation very hard."
The formula, flawed or not, seems to be working. The MLS is now the third-best-attended sport in the US, after American football and baseball, and the tenth-most-attended football league in the world, above the English Championship, the Scottish Premier League and Brazil's Serie A. Although average attendances have remained in the 15,000-20,000 bracket since its founding year in 1996, total gates have doubled in that period to 5.5 million.
That is because of the growing number of MLS franchises, which now total 19. They include three in Canada, with Montreal Impact set to join Toronto and last year's debutants Vancouver Whitecaps next season. And it is these "expansion teams", taking the game into new territories, that are key to its growth, according to Dichio: "The league is still young and so many of the clubs are in their early stages. Some of the clubs in the league have fantastic support already; they just need to build some history first and see if people can continue the love of the team and the game in that city."
Expanding TV coverage is also playing a part in bringing football to new homes, and the 2011 MLS Cup was broadcast in 115 countries. But Dichio says the quality of football journalism, as well as the game itself, still has some way to go: "A lot of journalists over here are not football people and are generally told to cover soccer as a cost-cutting expense for their newspaper, as well as cover baseball, basketball and American football. They don't even watch Premier League games.
"[Journalists] see when Premier League teams come over in pre-season and seemingly struggle in the heat. They see this as proof that MLS teams can compete with them on an even basis, which is ludicrous!"
They may not be able to compete at that level yet but, only 16 years old, the MLS has yet to come of age. However, with established stars and emerging talent filling its rosters, that time may not be too far off, Dichio believes: "The standard of play will steadily keep improving if the players keep coming in from around the world to play alongside the ever-improving local talent coming through the newly improved academy programmes at every club."
It is inevitable that Beckham's time in LA will be judged, by those on one side of the Atlantic at least, on quite how the MLS has benefited a player of such prodigious talents. (To the tune of many millions of dollars, would likely be the unanimous verdict.)
But perhaps a better question is how – in terms of stimulating the game's growth in the US and Canada by helping to raise both its standard and profile – he has, consciously or otherwise, benefited the MLS.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport