Major League Soccer enjoyed major headlines when Clint Dempsey, an iconic player still in his prime, decided to come home from the English Premier League and continue his career with the Seattle Sounders.
Clint Dempsey joined other talented players who stared in Europe and believe in the MLS product. Word is spreading.
This week Manchester City and France national team left back Gael Clichy said compatriot and New York Red Bulls talisman Thierry Henry’s glowing review has him considering a move to play soccer in America one day.
Henry, who played alongside Clichy at Arsenal from 2003-2007, said since his arrival in 2010 he’s seen the league grow exponentially in terms of fan support and quality on the field.
“If the opportunity comes for any player to play in the U.S., of course I’d take it,” Clichy said. “You can see big players going there and enjoying it because the football is getting better each year.”
The 28-year old Clichy, who competes on English Premier League fields while wearing the PUMA evoSPEED, could play for many more years in Europe, but he thinks his association with Manchester City could ease a transition to North American soccer. The Sky Blues recently partnered with the New York Yankees to form Major League Soccer’s 20th team, New York City Football Club, which will begin play in 2015. The magnitude of a Premier League team investing in American soccer for the first time is not lost on Clichy. The club also will be the first soccer team to play its games in New York City since the New York Cosmos competed in the North American Soccer League in the 1970’s.
Clichy has enjoyed a successful career in the Premier League, raising championship trophies with Arsenal and Manchester City. His current contract with Manchester City runs until 2017. After that, who knows? Clichy knows firsthand about Manchester City owner Sheik Mansour’s ambition. He has invested millions in the club and the community, and the expectations for NYCFC are sky high.
Clichy’s willingness to play in the United States is part of a growing trend among elite players and a clear sign that there is no longer a stigma attached to coming to America. In the early days, the MLS was seen as a place to go for that last paycheck. The quality of play and the quality of life has changed attitudes. FIFA World Cup 2014 could see as many as 23 MLS players representing their countries. These include Obafemi Martins of Seattle who plays for Nigeria, Rodney Wallace of Portland, a member of the Costa Rican national team, and Egidio Arevalo Rios of Chicago Fire and Uruguay. That would be a huge jump from seven players who went to South Africa for FIFA World Cup 2010.
David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Thierry Henry, Kenny Miller, Tim Cahill … Gael Clichy?