Since its inception in 1996, Major League Soccer has been looked at as a little brother of sorts in comparison to its competitors across the pond.
On one hand, MLS didn’t have the resources and culture to compete with its overseas brethren, as years of history gave leagues all over the world the upper hand.
On the other, the league tried too hard to stand out from those that came before, as the Americanizing of the world’s game was seen by many as soccer suicide.
Finally, the league repeatedly took hand-me-downs from its older, wiser siblings, as players like Thierry Henry, Allessandro Nesta and Rafael Marquez were passed on to the league despite being used goods.
However, a new day is dawning in the American soccer universe, as MLS is finally beginning to attract players that legitimize the league to the rest of the world.
Recent rumors from MLSSoccer.com's Simon Borg linking Barcelona midfielder Xavi to the New York Red Bulls show the league is moving in a different direction: one that involved bringing in the world’s best to ply their trade on American soil.
For years, Xavi has been the midfield maestro of the brilliant Blaugrana, and has shown little signs of slowing down, as he was even named to FIFA’s official team of the year this past week.
Xavi to the NY red bulls after the World Cup. Football is MAD. He's just been named in the team of the year. Surely a top prem side???— Banwell FC (@banwellfc) January 17, 2014
Its hard to believe Xavi is going to New York after the WC... the MLS is gonna be big this year— Napoli Fans (@ForzaNapoliFans) January 17, 2014
At this point in his career, the 33-year-old midfielder is still an elite talent, as Xavi still has the ability to pull strings that few in the world can even see.
While rumors are, as always, simply rumors, New York manager Mike Petke went so far as to address the Xavi discussion this weekend to MLS.com:
You never know with Red Bull. If we feel it's the right fit in the field and Red Bull feel it's the right fit in the marketing sense, then anything can happen. As of now, I don't think we're going to be announcing in the next week that we're going to be signing Xavi or anybody. But it's a player that's coming up on a contract soon. You never know.
RBNY sporting director Andy Roxburgh addressed the rumors as well in Borg's article, saying that Xavi would be “sent from heaven.”
"If we'd ever sign him, I'd just retire. It'd be great," Roxburgh said. "I'd just come and watch him because he's just phenomenal."
Now, Xavi’s camp has spoken out against speculation of a stateside move to Spanish paper El Mundo Deportivo (h/t Borg), but the rumors alone show the state of MLS.
Even if Xavi’s move never comes to fruition, things are looking up for stateside soccer. The recent acquisitions of Jermain Defoe, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley show international-level players see Major League Soccer as a viable option.
The league still has a long way to go if it hopes to be mentioned in the same breath as its counterparts across the pond. There are still years of work ahead when it comes to making MLS an international threat.
However, Major League Soccer is on the rise, as Europe’s little brother is finally starting to come into his own.
What player would you like to see your favorite team sign? Comment below or tweet @R_Tolmich with your viewpoint!