Since America’s Major League Soccer (MLS) was founded in 1993, it remained relatively unknown to most of the world till clubs there started signing big names like Kaká, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. But the popularity that these names brought to MLS can’t be compared to the storm Didier Drogba brought with him after he joined Phoenix Rising FC nine months ago and made history in the process as the first footballer to play in a club he owns.
Apparently, MLS needs more of that African sauce because, according to Metro, they’re scouting West Africa for young talent to bring into the league. If you’re guessing they’re more focused on Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon, then you’re right.
With their records in African and global competitions, these countries are unarguably the powerhouses when it comes to football on the continent. The talent they produced have gone on to do great things internationally, especially in European football. And MLS wants nothing so badly as it wants to be as big as European leagues.
MLS’s first wave of bringing in young talent from West Africa is already happening. Cameroonian player, Anatole Abang, is on loan to Romanian club, Astra Giurgiu from the New York Red Bulls. In the last two seasons, Seattle Sounders 2 signed three Cameroonian players; Nigeria’s Usman Ibrahim may likely join them soon. And just last month, New York Red Bulls signed 18-year-old Nigerian striker, Jerome Philip.
These are just a few of the many West African scouting successes that MLS brags of. Almost every month, we hear of young players who are in talks with certain American clubs.
When you consider the success of players like Drogba and Fanendo Adi, who was the only African footballer among the first 20 highest-paid MLS players in a list that was released eight months ago, then it’s not surprising that MLS’s formula is working. And we’ll be seeing more African players shining over there.