MLS must attract best players to grow: Infantino

AFP , Tuesday 7 May 2024

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said Monday Major League Soccer needs to sign more top players in order to boost the profile of the sport in the United States.

Gianni Infantino
File Photo: FIFA President Gianni Infantino. AFP


Infantino, speaking at a conference in Los Angeles, said he told MLS officials recently that bringing in the world's best players would take football to the next level.

"I told them you have to be a bit more bold, a bit more in the game," Infantino said at the Milken Institute Global Conference. "Bring in the best players."

Infantino said Inter Miami's signing of Lionel Messi, and the club's acquisition of other big-name players such as Luis Suarez and Sergio Busquets, had proven the demand for top talent amongst US fans.

The FIFA chief alluded to the record 65,612 crowd who flocked to the New England Revolution's recent home game against Miami at Gillette Stadium, home of the NFL's New England Patriots.

"The 'Messi effect' if we want to call it that way, you see Messi and Inter Miami filling stadiums, and not MLS stadiums but NFL stadiums," Infantino said.

MLS salary and roster restrictions mean that teams are unable to spend freely when it comes to signing top players.

However, the league has faced growing calls -- not least from broadcast partner Apple TV -- to relax those rules in order to enable clubs to target more top talent.

Infantino said bringing in top talent would ultimately reap dividends at grassroots level in North America, encouraging young players to believe they could forge a career in soccer.

"We want to see the best so we need to bring them the best players, but also the best game, and the best spectacle," Infantino said.

"For this, we need to invest in the players because we want to show to the kids who play soccer when they are at school or when they are very young, that there is a path in soccer to glory to become one of these world stars.

"This is what maybe they don't see yet. They see it in basketball, American football, in baseball and ice hockey. But in soccer, it's still kind of far away. You have to go to Europe. And is there really a great American soccer player?"

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