With Ronaldo interested in becoming an MLS player, we look at how the league evolved into becoming one that could attract such talent.
Could Cristiano Ronaldo really end up at the MLS?
For a player capable of still competing at the highest level in Europe, it’s an uncommon thought. But the Major League Soccer is on a sharp rise in popularity, with several superstars having already moved stateside. And it appears Ronaldo could be next up.
His former Manchester United and Portugal teammate Nani revealed in an interview with ESPN in June that Ronaldo told him he will ‘probably’ end up in America. And, according to the latest bookmaker odds, it could very well happen.
Inter Miami and LA Galaxy are in the top three of 10 clubs that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner could join next summer.
So how did the MLS progress to the point of catching the eye of arguably the world’s most famous footballer? Let’s check it out here.
1994: The World Cup in the USA
Hosting the 1994 World Cup not only brought forth the MLS, it also brought some of most talented players in history stateside.
The tournament was a great success and players, like Ronaldo Nazario, made their bow onto the big stage. Arenas flaunted record attendances in games that were like no other. It opened the football world’s eyes to the untapped potential that laid in the United States.
1996: The first-ever MLS match
While Ronaldo took his first steps into football at a local club called Andorinha in Madeira, the MLS made headlines for a successful first match at the Spartan Stadium.
San Jose Clash (now known as the San Jose Earthquakes) and DC United met in Michigan on April 6, 1996, in front of 31,683 spectators and ESPN cameras. Eric Wynalda’s 88th-minute winner ensured a thrilling end for victors Clash.
2002: The USA national team stars on the big stage
The 2002 World Cup is still remembered for several reasons to be this day from Ronaldo Nazario’s legendary exploits to the United States reaching the quarter-finals.
The Yanks performed above expectations and caught the interest of fans in the US and Europe. Interest in football rose once again, breathing fresh life into the MLS. It was a turning point in the league’s history and helped make it a place that would interest superstars such as Ronaldo once more.
2005: Surprise success in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City isn’t the most populated state in America, but Real Salt Lake’s establishing in 2005 was another significant milestone for the MLS.
Regular attendances for games reached 18,037 in the club’s first season alone. It proved the league’s upward trend in popularity and helped set in motion important events.
2007: Beckham shows the way for Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo took over David Beckham’s No.7 jersey at Manchester United. And, like the rest of the football world, he would’ve observed the Englishman’s MLS move with great interest.
Swapping Real Madrid for LA Galaxy at the time was a surprising decision on Beckham’s behalf. Having perhaps the planet’s most famous player on the planet, however, saw interest in the MLS soar.
The Designated Player rule to bypass the salary cap was introduced. It convinced many more stars to follow Beckham’s lead. And should Ronaldo head to America, he will undoubtably take advantage of this loophole.
Image Credits: Betway Insider
2007: Trend-setters Toronto help boost fanbase
Unlike many famous European athletes, Ronaldo has a large fanbase in North America through his social media profile, and many endorsements.
His talents as a footballer are undoubtably the principal reason for his popularity. But Toronto FC’s founding in 2007 probably helped him in this regard.
The club’s 30,000-seater BMO Field football stadium kick-started a fresh approach to fan culture in the northern border and throughout the US.
The days of multi-purpose grounds are almost at an end, with most clubs now owning soccer-specific venues.
2011: Possible Ronaldo destination gets a long-overdue expansion
Several famous players, including David Beckham and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, have played for LA Galaxy. But a decade ago, Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes were the only other teams from the coastline.
That all changed, however, when Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps entered the scene. Aggregate match attendances rose by a league-record 36.7%.
Imagine how much they would rise again if Ronaldo did join LA Galaxy?
2015: New York gets a second club
The New York Red Bulls raised awareness of football in the Big Apple by signing Premier League legend Thierry Henry to play over in the Hudson River in New Jersey.
But the arrival of New York City FC, co-founded by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, in 2013 was what truly bolstered the MLS’ profile in America’s most populous and famous city by playing in the heart of it.
The impact was almost instantaneous, as attendances rose 18.5% in the club’s first MLS season alone.
2015: Ronaldo’s biggest influences?
Seeing Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Andrea Pirlo (New York City), and David Villa (New York City) all star in the MLS would’ve struck Ronaldo’s interest.
The Portuguese star turned 30 in 2015 and began considering his options for the twilight phase of his career. Seeing his peers thrive, particularly Villa and record-breaking goal exploits, would’ve stirred interest.
His former Real Madrid teammate Kaka, who joined for Orlando City a year later, helped make the MLS something of a football heaven.
2017: Atlanta United hits the scene
The founding of Atlanta United proved another important cornerstone in MLS history. Record attendances were made in regular season and play-off fixtures. The club’s extravagant Mercedes-Benz Stadium, meanwhile, changed the game in terms of attendances and fanfare.
Some of the information in this article was taken from Betway.