With David Beckham’s time in Major League Soccer now done and dusted, the perennial offseason chatter about who will be the next big MLS designated player is in full swing.
But Landon Donovan, the most accomplished player in MLS, may not be leaving the league to join another club overseas like Beckham.
He may just decide to leave the game altogether.
Even though he is still only 30 years old and in a good run of form, MLS and USMNT legend Landon Donovan has talked repeatedly about retiring this offseason.
The fact of the matter is, no matter what high-profile designated players MLS may or may not bring in this offseason, Donovan is still arguably the most important player in the league.
The current list of MLS DP’s is as follows: Julian de Guzman, Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Alvaro Fernandez, Rafael Marquez, Fredy Montero, David Ferreira, Alvaro Saborio, Eric Hassli, Fabian Castillo, Diega Chara, Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, Robbie Keane, Mauro Rosales, Hamdi Salihi, Kris Boyd, Freddy Adu, Shalrie Joseph, Javier Morales, Osvaldo Minda, Marco Di Vaio, Jerry Bengsten, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Barry Robson, Kenny Miller, Tim Cahill, Federico Higuain and Christian Tiffert.
Other than Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and possily Thierry Henry or Tim Cahill, who else are casual MLS fans going to pay to go watch?
The answer is no one.
Landon Donovan, as much or more than any other player in the league, puts butts in the seats.
And what are other teams getting for their DP money? The answer is not much.
The Seattle Sounders have gotten exactly zero goals in ten playoff appearances from Fredy Montero.
Toronto FC had the worst record in the league with Torsten Frings.
DC United had a horrific finish in the playoffs thanks to Hamdi Salihi and a whopping six goals on the season.
The Portland Timbers got seven goals from Scottish international Kris Boyd.
And the Philadelphia Union got one assist out of playmaker Freddy Adu.
Donovan, on the other hand, has delivered five MLS championships to the teams he has played for and a total of 124 goals in MLS career.
And let’s put aside the, “Donovan takes all his team’s PKs argument” too.
First off, it isn’t true and secondly, Donovan’s 108 career assists prove that he is a difference maker for whatever team he plays for.
Lastly, Donovan is still the face of American soccer. Like it or not, he is the most recognizable American player in the game.
Players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley may have passed him up in ability, or even importance to the USMNT, but the casual American soccer fan still identifies the game with Donovan more than any other American.
Donovan may not be as explosive as he once was. He may not exude the desire he once did (although he looked plenty hungry in the MLS playoffs this year). And, he may not be a guaranteed starter for the USMNT anymore.
But the fact is, MLS still needs him.
Donovan has the rare trifecta of what is important in an MLS DP. He is a recognizable face, a talented player and a draw at the ticket office. That’s more than you can say for most of the DPs out there.
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