Top 5 Biggest Signings In MLS History (That Aren't Lionel Messi)

Published on 17 July 2023 at 13:00

Since its original inception back in 1993, Major League Soccer has been doing all it can to enter the truly mainstream footballing conversation on the levels of Europe's top 5 leagues. Mammoth new stadiums, national TV contracts, and even entire new franchises have been established to spread the popularity of the beautiful game in the United States, but perhaps no effort has been more indicative than the poaching of Europe's truly elite talent.


Here on HLDivision Sport, we're going to be looking at 5 of the biggest signings in MLS history and how they've impacted the growth in football culture across the pond. From World Cup winners to renowned journeymen, these are the players who came close to changing the landscape of club football in America for years to come.


5) Bastian Schweinsteiger

Even if his time at Manchester United hadn't gone as smoothly as planned, Schweinsteiger was still an immensely dependable midfielder in his 30s by the time he made the move to Illinois and join a Chicago Fire team desperate to reach the playoffs once more. 


The former World Cup winner made an instant impact on his stateside debut, scoring in a 2-2 draw against Montreal Impact, as his presence and skill helped guide Chicago Fire to both the top of the MLS standings and a return to the elusive playoff spots.


Soon retiring from professional football all together, Schweinsteiger showed he still had all the hallmarks of a true midfield veteran, even if his stint in Chicago is most remembered for one journalist's particularly embarrassing question about how the legend would help Chicago win the FIFA World Cup.


4) Wayne Rooney 


Boasting an impressive return of 25 goals in 52 games, Wayne Rooney's transfer from Everton to DC United was nothing short of a success for the Washington-based outfit.


Rooney arrived in America committed to showing the world that he was still capable of delivering the goods, and more than made his mark in his time as a player for DC United. 


After all, who could forget his iconic efforts against Orlando City, where the former Manchester United striker played both defender and creator to help his side secure a monumental 3-2 win over the Californians. 


3) Thierry Henry


After enjoying great success and an immense trophy haul at Barcelona, French legend Thierry Henry was brought in by the Red Bull conglomerate to be their great new star alongside their wonderful new stadium. 


With 52 goals scored for the City that never sleeps, Henry transformed New York Red Bulls into one of the premier sides in all of the MLS, laying the foundations for Bradley Wright-Phillips later success as striker for the club.


Credited with boosting the appeal and professional aspect of not just the club but the entire MLS system as a whole, Thierry Henry remains as influential in the history of the MLS almost as much as he does in the Premier League. 


2) Zlatan Ibrahimovic


LA Galaxy announcing they had signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic signalled a true seismic change in how the MLS was perceived outside of Europe and within the mainstream footballing conversation.


Having already produced iconic moments worthy of an entire club's worth of players, Ibrahimovic was seemingly EVERYWHERE in American media, including featuring in late night talk shows and the press alike. 


The rapturous reception the Lion received on his debut in 'El Trafico' against bitter rivals LAFC, followed by his hat trick heroics on his debut to catapult LA Galaxy right back into favourites contention, showed that the MLS might be finally be shifting gears in a positive manner. Especially iconic was Ibrahimovic's parting words of "You're welcome" when he later departed for AC Milan.


1) David Beckham


The one that truly started it all. 


Already one of the biggest, most iconic footballers in history (and most recognisable names in all of popular culture) Beckham and LA Galaxy seemed like a connection that every writer in Hollywood wished they had thought of.


Beckham's impact on the beautiful game in America simply cannot be understated: besides winning two MLS Cups and Supporter Shields, Beckham's introduction to the MLS saw the implementation of the 'Designated Player' rule, pioneering the way for other major talent from across the World to make their way to the MLS: a true trailblazer whose impact on the league will remain in footballing folklore forever.


Who do you think is the most monumental transfer in MLS history? Let us know over on our official Twitter today!


Image Credit-Jamie Smed

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