Rooney, Zlatan underline key role for global stars in MLS

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As much as Major League Soccer pushes towards a model of developing young talent either from North America or South America, the stunning individual displays of ageing superstars this weekend proved there is still a place for them in MLS.

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There is still a place for the wondrous, flying flick of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s heel, the audacity of Wayne Rooney’s free kick and the beauty of Carlos Vela’s curler.

All three delivered stunning, memorable moments and their moments of brilliance were viewed all over the world. People in pubs in England will have smiled at Rooney’s free kick. There will have been a nod of appreciation in Paris for Zlatan’s flick. And in Mexico Vela’s hat trick, and stunning goal, will have raised eyebrows.

In a league still growing and far from reaching its potential, the role these superstars play is sometimes underrated within American soccer circles.

As much as we like to get behind playing philosophies and building solid, sustainable teams, sport is still an entertainment business. We remember moments and veteran stars know better than most how to provide them.

Look, bringing over stars from Europe doesn’t always work. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Andrea Pirlo may be the first to tell you their time in MLS didn’t exactly go to plan.

But from Thierry Henry to David Beckham, and now Zlatan to Rooney, there is still a place for stars who scores goals and create memorable moments which will be shown across the world.

MLS, despite plenty saying otherwise, doesn’t need to lose that ability to attract superstars approaching the end of their careers. It needs to continue to embrace.

If anything, it now has a one-two punch situation. With young, exciting players coming through, MLS is now seen as a breeding ground for young talent as well as a final showground for experienced stars. Attracting Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and others to MLS should be a priority, as well as developing academies and providing minutes to homegrown talent.

As long as that continues to be the case, everyone wins. Especially MLS.