07 Jan What impact could Ronaldo have on MLS?
Earlier this week the agent of Real Madrid and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo, Jorge Mendes, dropped a hint that the forward could move stateside once his current contract expires in 2018.
“After that, perhaps he will go to the United States. Only God knows what will happen,” Mendes is quoted as saying.
Even with current world-class talents such as David Villa, Steven Gerrard and Kaka (and eventually Frank Lampard) being recruited to MLS, should Ronaldo make the move in three years’ time it would be a major coup for the league, from both a footballing and financial perspective.
On the pitch, Ronaldo would transform whichever team he joined into immediate favourites for the MLS Cup. He’ll be 33 when his current Real Madrid contract ends, and would no doubt still be able to command a starting spot in almost any club side in Europe. In the MLS he would be head and shoulders above everyone else.
A move in 2018 would also be perfect timing as the World Cup in Russia would take place over that summer, probably the last World Cup that Ronaldo will play in (assuming Portugal qualify). A potential move to the US would be able to capitalise on the increased interest in football among the American public.
In terms of the effect on the standing and financials of MLS, Ronaldo could have the same impact that David Beckham did when he joined the LA Galaxy in 2006. Both players transcend football; they are global icons with worldwide fan bases, and have the biggest brands queuing up to offer them sponsorship deals. David Beckham played a huge role in getting MLS to where it is today, and Ronaldo could be the catalyst for the next step.
When Beckham arrived there were 12 MLS teams; with the additions of Orlando City and New York City this season there will be 20, with Atlanta, LA and Miami all hoping to join within the next few years. Interestingly, the Miami franchise is being led by Beckham and the team would be a frontrunner for Ronaldo’s signature.
Beckham’s debut for the Galaxy drew a crowd of more than 66,000 fans at the Giants Stadium, where the Red Bulls generally attracted around 15,000 to each game. MLS attendances have been steadily increasing each year, with the Seattle Sounders recording an average crowd of 44,000 that would place sixth in the Premier League.
Despite the increased popularity, many still see the MLS as a place where top players go to earn one final big pay cheque before they call it a day. Ronaldo could give MLS the credibility it so craves, help to draw bigger crowds, increase revenue with merchandise sales, and give the league a global audience.