With MLS having signed a total of 88 Designated Players since David Beckham's 2007 arrival ushered in the rule, here is a rundown of the top 10 most significant additions to the league featuring Manchester United.
Over seven years since the ground-breaking signing of David Beckham, the MLS landscape makes for significantly different viewing. Needless to say, the rule introduced by the league to accommodate the former England captain’s arrival has played a decisive part in that process, now allowing clubs to pay up to three players on their roster above and beyond the salary cap limit.
With Frank Lampard the latest star name to arrive under the rule, MLS has seen an influx of European talent over recent years, with the following a rundown of the biggest names to make the move to the USA.
1. David Beckham – LA Galaxy, 2007
The benchmark by which all big-name signings are judged, Beckham’s interest in coming to the States even prompted the league to introduce the DP rule, nicknamed the Beckham rule, in November 2006, in anticipation of his arrival.
As a fashion icon, tabloid fixture and marketing giant who generated just as many headlines for his exploits off the field as on it, the former England captain was the exact type of player MLS coveted to capitalise on America’s burgeoning soccer market.
2. Thierry Henry – New York Red Bulls, 2010
While his global profile may not quite reach the heights of Beckham’s, Henry’s arrival in MLS was certainly an enormous coup for the league, as one of the most widely recognised stars of the game thanks to his enormous success with Arsenal and Barcelona.
He hasn’t quite produced up to expectations during his four seasons with the Red Bulls but his mere presence has been a major draw for the franchise.
3. Kaka – Orlando City SC, 2014
Recently signing with expansion franchise Orlando, who are set to begin play in 2015, Kaka may not be the player who once earned a £56 million move to Real Madrid, but the World Cup-winner proved last season with AC Milan that he still has a few good years left in him yet.
Still one of the most popular players in the game, the 32-year-old fulfills the club’s ambition to target the city’s sizable Brazilian expat population and should ensure that they are competitive in their top-flight debut.
4. Frank Lampard – New York City FC, 2014
After scoring a club record 211 times in 648 games during his 13 seasons at Chelsea, Lampard becomes the latest star name to hop across the Atlantic to help the game grow in the US.
Signing a two-year deal with the expansion side, the England international will turn 37 during his first season in New York but he is certainly a marquee name who should still be able to contribute on the pitch with a few of his trademark long-range strikes likely to be seen over the coming seasons.
5. Clint Dempsey – Seattle Sounders, 2013
Just a season removed from a 17-goal Premier League campaign with Fulham, the then-Tottenham Hotspur forward made the surprise decision last summer to return to the league where he first made his name with the New England Revolution.
The league’s highest-paid player, depending on the eventual details of Lampard’s contract, the US national team captain is one of the most recognisable figures in the American game, his return seemingly setting off a trend for a host of fellow domestic stars to return to MLS.
6. David Villa – New York City FC, 2014
One of Europe’s deadliest finishers for several seasons, Villa’s goalscoring record has cooled off in recent years, but the former Barcelona and Spain striker still arrives in MLS with a glittering collection of honours to his name.
After winning La Liga with Atletico Madrid last season, as well as having appeared in the Champions League final and this summer’s World Cup, the 32-year-old certainly still has much to offer the league and he’ll no doubt be one of the favourites for the 2015 Golden Boot.
7. Jermain Defoe – Toronto FC, 2014
A proven Premier League scorer, Defoe’s struggle to earn playing time under Andre Villas-Boas last season saw him make the surprise move to Toronto early this year, where he’s netted 11 goals in 14 games so far.
Already a huge hit with fans of the Canadian club, the England international has put the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup this summer behind him by spearheading his side’s quest for their first-ever play-off appearance.
8. Robbie Keane – LA Galaxy, 2011
In terms of on-pitch production, Keane has arguably made the most impact of anyone on his list, scoring 44 goals in 71 games for LA since arriving from Tottenham in August 2011, while winning back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012.
9. Michael Bradley – Toronto FC, 2014
At 26 years old and arguably the US national team’s standout player, Bradley’s return to MLS in January, after eight-plus seasons in Europe, was a hugely significant step for the league, highlighting a new ambitious era.
A regular with Serie A’s Roma during the 2012-13 season, the midfielder could no doubt still be performing for one of Europe’s top sides and, despite his name not possessing quite the same star power as some of the others on this list, the impact of his signing shouldn’t be underestimated.
10. Tim Cahill – New York Red Bulls, 2012
Having hit 56 goals in 226 league games for Everton, Cahill saw his form dip somewhat during his final six months at Goodison Park but, aged 32, still left for MLS in the summer of 2012 as a fan favourite and club legend.
After a slow start to life with the Red Bulls, the Australian international pushed on in his first full season to enjoy an MVP-calibre campaign, outshining Henry as the team claimed their first-ever major piece of silverware, winning the 2013 Supporters’ Shield.