When it comes to European football, there's nothing that can match the quality of its leagues. Fans clamour around the finesse and excitement of domestic leagues like England's Premiership, Spain's La Liga, and Italy's Serie A (even though it isn't what it once was in terms of quality). There's also a plethora of excitement around Germany's Bundesliga and France's Ligue 1, with teams like Bayern Munich, PSG and Borussia Dortmund all giving us a reason to enjoy games over the weekend.
But one league that is catching the eye of spectators is the MLS, which has garnered a reputation for bringing in players from Europe when they're on the downside of their careers or struggling in the continent. We all remember David Beckham's mammoth move to LA Galaxy, which really jump-started MLS as a major player in soccer. Players like Alessandro Nesta, Thierry Henry, Rafael Marquez, Giovinco, and Didier Drogba soon followed, and now MLS has a number of star attractions that are bringing in fans from all over the world to their games. Almost every team has a star player, or household name if you will, and with recent additions such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney, MLS is now must watch soccer for diehard spectators.
When it comes down to it, the MLS is a league where former stars jump ship to for either a big payday or to play with ease, whether the league wants to admit it or not. For some older or ageing players, it is also a place where they can rekindle the magic they once had. Here are 20 veteran players who could prosper from joining MLS clubs.
There was a time when the Brazilian was among the best young players in the world, and while he's slowed down and didn't turn out to be what fans had hoped for, his pace is still a match for anyone.
Robinho has had a number of great years wearing the Real Madrid, Manchester City and AC Milan shirts, and now playing for Sivasspor in Turkey, the Brazil star could find himself in America sooner rather than later.
Teams like the Philadelphia Union or Real Salt Lake could get a good year out of him, but he did get in trouble in Italy late last year (Google it), so a lot of teams may not want to associate with the winger just yet.
19 Ricardo Quaresma
Quaresma was an interesting option for Portugal at the World Cup, and including him seemed to be the right decision given he scored a scintillating goal against Iran that was deemed as being the goal of the tournament for many onlookers. Playing for Besiktas in Turkey, Quaresma is the type of player that could wind down in the MLS, and still produce some magic. He's certainly got a presence on the field, which includes his bad ass look and no nonsense approach to the game. A team like Los Angeles FC or Orlando City can be a hot option for the forward.
18 Keisuke Honda
After a surprising World Cup outing with underdog favorites Japan this past summer, the former AC Milan player showed he still has what it takes to compete at a high level in Europe. But Honda would be a great fit for an MLS team who needs a designated playmaker after his time with Australia's Melbourne Victory. He's also coaching Cambodia's national team as we speak, so it makes sense for the attacker to wait a couple of years before making his mark in the USA. Teams like the Chicago Fire or even New York Red Bulls could benefit from having Honda as a quality playmaker.
17 Samuel Eto'o
Just mere days ago, Samuel Eto'o made a surprise move to Qatar SC, and it doesn't look like the 37-year-old Cameroon player is slowing down despite being in his late 30s.
The former Barcelona legend is obviously on the downside of his career, yet should he want to earn one more big payday and play one more year as a player on the starting 11.
Eto'o could join a team like the LA Galaxy, where a reunion with Zlatan Ibrahimovic would be imminent.
But should he want to be a big part of a club, clubs like FC Dallas or Houston Dynamo would be better options.
16 David Luiz
He's still a regular at Chelsea, and despite plans for him to feature in the starting 11 for the duration of the Premier League season, Luiz is on the downside of his career. This isn't to say he still has a couple of quality years left, yet a big turning point was Luiz's exclusion from the Brazil squad at this year's World Cup, which raises questions about his future.
In a few years time, Luiz could benefit from the riches of North America, and while a player of his stature could land anywhere in the MLS, teams like Orlando City, New York FC and LA FC could be luring options for him.
15 Alberto Gilardino
Currently playing for Spezia, Gilardino has played for a number of Serie A teams, most notably AC Milan while alongside legends like Kaka and Filippo Inzaghi. It wasn't long ago that Gilardino was linked to MLS, as he was expected to make a move to the Montreal Impact. A team like Toronto FC would be a good fit for the former Azzurri striker, as he would link up with Giovinco, who also played his fair share of soccer in Serie A.
But the Montreal Impact could use a player like Gilardino as a goal poacher, and it makes sense given their past when it comes to Italian players like Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta, as well as current player Marco Donadel, to name a few.
14 David Silva
It doesn't seem like Silva will be looking to move away from Manchester City this season, yet when the Spain national team doesn't have a place for the forward anymore, Silva's flair could make waves in the MLS.
A player of his caliber would be a good fit anywhere, yet it seems as if teams like the LA Galaxy or New York City FC would throw millions his way for the talent he possesses.
Plus, if David Villa stays in New York for a little while longer, that's a partnership that could entice Silva should he want to try playing soccer in the United States.
13 Petr Cech
The Arsenal keeper is still number one when it comes to the team selection, but it's unclear if new coach Unai Emery wants to turn to youth sooner rather than later in hopes of rebuilding the Gunners squad. Cech can surely still compete at a high level in Europe, but should the Czech Republic fail to make any big tournaments in the near future, the keeper could either play for a bottom-half-of-the-table club in Europe, or make the transition to the MLS. Orlando City, Chicago, DC United, and San Jose are four teams that could use some improvement at the back.
12 Diego Forlan
Currently a free agent and nearly 40 years old, Forlan might not be a designated player, but he can definitely help some MLS teams on their way to the MLS Cup. The 2010 World Cup Golden Ball winner is lethal in front of the goal, and should a few MLS clubs want someone to serve as a super sub or a player that can go an hour on most nights, Forlan would be smart pickup.
Should Atlanta United want to keep their hot start as a franchise going, Forlan could be perfect reinforcement.
If Forlan wants more playing time and sees himself as a key player, clubs like Minnesota United or Real Salt Lake could use his services for a year and see how it plays out.
11 Radamel Falcao
Falcao has been a staple at Monaco for a while now, and the “King of the Europa League” doesn't look like he'll be leaving the hopeful club any time soon. But a player like Falcao would be perfect for the MLS in roughly two years time, should Monaco fail to surpass Ligue 1's PSG or come up short in Champions League.
Falcao could join the likes of Clint Dempsey at Seattle to make a dangerous pairing, yet a team like New York Red Bulls should invest all they've got in the player to make themselves the standout NY team, just like they did years ago with fellow countryman Juan Pablo Angel.
10 Iker Casillas
Having been such an integral part of Real Madrid and Spain's success over the past 10 years, Iker Casillas now finds himself at Porto, and there's no question that retirement looms for the 37-year-old legend. But should Casillas want to try his luck at something he's not used to, a year in the MLS would be tempting for him. It would only make sense for him to join a club where he makes the starting 11, so a team like DC United or even Los Angeles FC could be two interesting options for him. But Casillas would be good anywhere, and it would be interesting to see him somewhere in Canada, should Vancouver or Toronto want to splurge on him.
9 Mario Gomez
One of the most clinical strikers in Germany's history, Gomez has found himself at Stuttgart, and not exactly the player he once was. There's no denying his talent, yet he's slowing down in Europe, which is understandable given the amount of time he's been around.
Retiring from international competition this year, Gomez features mostly as a sub, but the MLS would be a good place for him to start every match if that's his desire.
Gomez would be a big deal over at the Portland Timbers or Sporting Kansas City, as well as the Chicago Fire, where fellow countryman Bastian Schweinsteiger plays.
8 Javier Mascherano
The rough Argentina defensive midfielder has put in enthralling performances in a Barcelona shirt, but he starts a new chapter in China as part of the Hebei China Fortune club this year. China is a great destination for players to ease up a little and make a fortune (no pun intended), yet Mascherano is a player who could be an integral part of LA Galaxy's defensive core, should the five-time MLS Cup winners want to focus on bringing in defenders. Mascherano is also used to the heat, so California could be a tempting place for him to keep honing his craft.
7 Mario Balotelli
Currently looking for a new club, Mario Balotelli is rumored to be returning to Serie A, where he played for both Inter and AC Milan.
The Nice player, who wants out of France, is looking to be Italy's main forward for the Euro Cup in two years, yet if he fails to make an impact, he could see himself in the MLS, where many teams would be excited to have him compete.
Both Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact have a history of players from Italy on their roster, so it would be a no-brainer for those teams to approach the controversial striker.
6 Alexandre Pato
You'd think calling Pato a veteran would be unkind at 28 years old, but he did make his Milan debut over a decade ago. After having a great season in Serie A in 2009, Pato never prospered as the next big thing for Brazil, and after stints in Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Chelsea and Villareal, Pato joined Tianjin Quanjian, where he has scored 23 goals in 34 appearances.
While he's doing a great job in China, it's evident Pato has followed the money, and if he doesn't find a place in Europe after rejuvenating his career, a rich team like Seattle Sounders could be a likely destination for “the Duck.”
5 Juan Mata
Mata looks as if he still has something to give Jose Mourinho's Manchester United side this season, but the he has had ups and downs during the latter half of his career. While he was omitted from Spain's national team at the World Cup this past summer, Mata's international career may be over should he not feature at the Euro Cup in two years, and that could lead to the forward moving to America.
There would be plenty of suitors for Mata, yet a pairing with Wayne Rooney at DC United could be something special for the fans and the league.
4 Joe Hart
For many Premier League fans, Hart was never the keeper he was touted to become, and after playing for Manchester City for quite some time, Hart has moved to Burnley where he became the number one choice in between the posts.
The 31-year-old is looking to return to the national team, however, Jordan Pickford from Everton truly showcased why England would be wise to have him as their starting goalkeeper for the foreseeable future.
In that case, should Hart fail to make the national side, the MLS could come knocking, and there would be a half-dozen teams looking to Hart as their backbone. Hart could help struggling teams like the New England Revolution or the Houston Dynamo, to name a few.
3 Sergio Ramos
The Spain captain's time at Real Madrid is winding down, and there's no question that the polarizing player has had a great career for both club and country.
He's only 32 years old, but the amount of playing time has spanned nearly 15 years, and he's competed at a high level ever since playing for his local team Sevilla.
The defender may want to not play as ruthlessly as he does in the MLS, but a no-nonsense teams like Portland or New England can surely tempt him when his time in Europe concludes. There's also New York City, where David Villa plays, which can be an easy transition when a fellow countryman is already there.
2 Emmanuel Adebayor
Remember him? Fans of Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester City surely do, as the charismatic striker was once a player that could have played for any club. While he wasn't always consistent, the Togo representative actually still plays in Turkey, and if he should decide to leave Basaksehir, the 34-year-old would be a good option for a new team like Nashville, who is expected to join the league in 2020.
Should that be too long a wait, teams like Columbus Crew, the San Jose Earthquakes and the Colorado Rapids are in need of more quality strikers, and goals, for that matter.
1 Andres Iniesta
Also leaving Barcelona this year was Andre Iniesta, who concludes a legendary career at the Catalan club and for the Spanish national side. The new Vissel Kobe player, at 34 years old, will no doubt be a huge playmaker for the league, but in a year's time, don't be surprised to see Iniesta in a New York FC shirt, or maybe even a New York Red Bulls or Columbus Crew jersey.
He still has a lot to give, and he's been one of the best playmakers and goalscorers in European football history. Iniesta is a player that brings a certain aura about him, so expect to see him at a club that shares that sentiment, like one of the California teams should he skip out on the East coast.