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Does The MLS Need Cristiano Ronaldo To Succeed?

Great players, like Kaka and David Villa, are off to a sizzling start in their MLS careers.  Making the switch over from Europe, Kaka now plays at Orlando FC and David Villa at New York FC. Both of these teams are new to the league. As more teams are added to Major League Soccer across North America, it looks as though soccer is finally catching on.

But one has to wonder, are the additions of new teams and a few superstar European players enough to build a competitive and entertaining league?

It's a start, but an influx of old talent does little to bolster tradition and hometown loyalty.

What the MLS is really lacking is a narrative, or some basic story as to why the MLS should matter to the average American. This why tradition and hometown loyalty are so important for the MLS while it is still fairly new. With so many teams in soccer, the main thing that anchors a club is the hometown fans, and if they don’t like the team, who will?

Arsenal midfielder Mesut Ozil and Chelsea midfielder Oscar, both mentioned in recent statements that Kaka should head to the Premier League in England. Arsenal perhaps?

But it seems the midfielder is enjoying his time in Orlando. For Orlando SC’s first season in existence they’re doing very well, currently sitting 4th in the eastern conference table.

It also helps that Kaka is still pulling moves like this.

Ricardo Kakà does things like this

Posted by Major League Soccer (MLS) on Sunday, March 29, 2015

With MLS’s season off to a thrilling start there are some other headlines eclipsing actual games. Another addition to the MLS was announced this week.

The lucky state with a brand new club, Minnesota home to the Vikings. This new team has the potential to tap into a “monster soccer market”, according to MLS Commissioner Don Garber

In a past 18 article, What States Most Effectively Develop Professional Soccer Players, we explore this phenomena and prove that the midwest is a hub for soccer talent. Not to mention the closest MLS club to Minnesota is the Chicago Fire, a town most Vikings fans would probably outright refuse to root for.

The hope is that this new addition will be a hub for midwest soccer talent.

According to a official releases from MLS, the previously announced goal of fielding 24 teams by 2020 will be met and likely surpassed. There are currently 20 teams in the league, including recent additions in New York and Orlando, with plans for a team in Atlanta by 2017 and a second franchise is expected in LA by 2018.  ()

Admittedly new teams play an important role if MLS is ever going to win the hearts and mind of American sports fanatics.  

To provide you with some context, last year NBC Sports Network averaged 104,000 viewers per MLS game aired. At the 2014-15 Premiere League season midpoint, NBC Sports Group reported an average of 479,000 viewers a game for the PL League games, making the Premiere League the most watched in the world. 

Some would argue if Major League Soccer truly wants to be considered a great league, it would need to adjust the schedule for players who might want to play in the World Cup or European Championships. As it stands, the current MLS season runs through the summer while almost all other top-class leagues – the Premier League, La Liga, Seria A –  have the summer off.

To attract European talent Major League Soccer should at least consider the change, or else the best players might be forced to choose one or the other: Go for national team success or commit to a second tier league.

Every young soccer player dreams about making it to the World Cup. And brushing those dreams aside might not come easy to most.

If a truly great player were to make a stand and join the MLS, national team managers might start making exceptions for MLS talent.

Cristiano Ronaldo could change all that if he did decide to join the MLS in 2018. If anyone is going to bring soccer greatness stateside, it would be the Real Madrid superstar. On and off the field Ronaldo is known. He’s won more than the three Ballon d'Or trophies and, on the more ridiculous side, he also owns his own underwear line. Something master marketer David Beckham beat him to. A claim not many NFL players can make.

If anything, a move for Ronaldo would bring part of the fascinating conversation around his persona into American news media. At least enough to let American soccer fans feel proud of Major League Soccer’s talent. A much needed boost, especially after David Beckham's retirement from the LA Galaxy.  

This is all supposing Ronaldo will complete his move by 2018, because if it got postponed some might view it as a move toward retirement. Something Ricardo Kaka, David Villa and Frank Lampard have already done, or plan to do in Lampard’s case. Admittedly, Cristiano Ronaldo is a much better player.

Major League Soccer has a ways to go before it will ever compare to European leagues. At the very least it’ll need to attract top-class talent, not former glory, and the return of Clint Dempsey seems the indicate the latter is more prevalent. The addition of new teams backed by retired legends won’t cut it.

With new MLS clubs popping up all over the country the league might soon be facing an identity crisis. New is always exciting, but what will happen when regular sets in will be a problem MLS will have to take head on.

What is the American way of soccer? A question the MLS will have to answer very soon if it will ever be a household name.  

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