The MLS, prior to a few seasons ago, was considered as one of the “retirement” leagues for the big stars in Europe.
David Beckham – for whom the Designated Player rule was coined and nicknamed – was followed by players like Thierry Henry, Gonzalo Higuain and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Now, instead of importing big stars from all across the world, they export budding talents. Year after year, more talents continue to be linked to various European clubs.
Who could make it to Europe from the MLS next season? The live odds and statistics on Overlyzer back a few players including the ones below.
24-year-old Brandon Vazquez could follow 19-year-old Colombian striker Jhon Duran to Europe in the summer of 2023.
Duran barely spent a year in the Major League Soccer franchise Chicago Fire after joining from Colombian first division side Envigado before Aston Villa shelled out £18 million to the league (£14 million transfer fee plus £3 million in add-ons) for his signature.
Vazquez of FC Cincinnati now looks to be preparing to take his place as the next forward of MLS extraction to make his way to Europe. He has one league goal this season but his performances since joining the league from Mexican side Club Tijuana have attracted the eyes of several scouts from several European sides.
His fine frame of 6 foot 2 inches could also speak for him as tall strikers are currently taking over Europe (a lá Erling Haaland and Victor Osimhen).
19-year-old winger Cade Cowell is already Borussia Dortmund quality, based on the profile of youngsters they have signed in the past.
The San Jose Earthquakes man reminds many of Jadon Sancho, Giovanni Reyna and Christian Pulisic, who all thrived with the yellow wall at their backs in the Westfalenstadion.
He has been a part of the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT) setup since 2021 when he was 17 years old, which shows his amazing talent and the potential he has.
His youth has kept him at the under-21 level, however, but his showings for San Jose have led to calls within the league for the interim USMNT manager Anthony Hudson to include him in the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup squad for tournament experience.
Cowell is an old school winger whose best ability lies in creating chances from the wing rather than playing inverted to get into goal-scoring positions. His over 80 appearances in the league demonstrate this fact.
Should he get a move to Dortmund, Red Bull Leipzig or Salzburg or any of the European clubs known for focusing on youth signings, his output could improve and any team who signs him will have a dangerous weapon in their hands.
26-year-old Miles Robinson was supposed to be the USMNT’s first choice centre back at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Unfortunately, he suffered an injury to his ACL in May 2022 which kept him sidelined until January 2023.
Since moving to Atlanta United, Robinson has made his name as one of the most feared defenders in all of America. He deposed long time USMNT stalwart Tim Ream, who ended up being his replacement for the World Cup.
Ream’s career is what many see for Robinson, but at 26, it is unlikely that he could go on to make over 400 appearances in European football. However, he is a player who can hold his own among the best centre backs in world football at the moment.
He will definitely be getting a lot of looks seeing as his contract with Atlanta is up at the end of the year. Many expect him to follow in the footsteps of Miguel Almiron who moved to Newcastle United in 2019.
The move has been delayed by a number of years but the feeling is that it could happen in the summer. Whether he will be renewed or move on to Europe/another MLS franchise remains to be seen.
Jesus Ferreira is another forward who is currently setting the MLS on fire with his ability.
The FC Dallas forward came up from the ranks of the club’s academy (a home-grown player) but in the two seasons he has spent at the club, he has earned a Designated Player contract.
This is no mean feat for a home-grown player as it implies that he is considered on the level of players like Beckham, Frank Lampard, David Villa, Gareth Bale, Lorenzo Insigne and so on.
He was also the USMNT’s starting number 9 at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which shows the level of respect that his talents have garnered in the American football (soccer) ranks.
More brilliant forwards and strikers are currently rising like the bamboo plant in the MLS, however. This means that the tougher challenge of European football will do the FC Dallas man a world of good for his shot at making that shirt his for a long time.
At 22-years-old, he has his whole career ahead of him and could thrive in the much tougher world of European football.
Of the players in this list and in the MLS who could move to Europe, none has a clearer path than left fullback John Tolkin.
The 20-year-old defender plays for the New York Red Bulls, one of the football (soccer) teams in the Red Bull sports conglomerate. He is already drawing comparisons to brilliant European fullbacks like Jordi Alba of Barcelona.
Typifying the idea of a modern fullback, Tolkin is adept at pressing from the front and running behind defences to whip crosses in for goal-scoring chance creation.
He is also a tireless fullback. He spends his match running up and down the wings, contributing meaningfully to attack and defense.
The management of New York Red Bulls will have surely put his name forward to the Red Bull football department ahead of a move to one of Salzburg or Leipzig in the summer. It will be a genuine surprise if he fails to make it to Europe.