It seems that this season, MLS will be full of national and international talent. With the news of Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco signing with Toronto FC today, the league and the Eastern Conference becomes a very interesting topic.
Giovinco won't join the club until July, similar to Frank Lampard and New York City FC, when the current Serie A season is over. However, this signing of a player who has competed in the highest level of Italian soccer, in addition to his national team, speaks well for where the league is heading.
There was an article thrown about on Monday from Deadspin about how MLS is rigging the competition in favor of Toronto, but we'll save the negative talk for another time (hence, we won't link it). Let's focus on the positives here.
Giovinco is only 27 years old, which breaks the mold of well-known players coming to MLS only as a "retirement league." The Italian will also be paired with American stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, which makes for a dangerous attacking third, especially if Jozy can get back into form.
This signing of Giovinco is just one of many non-Americans making their way to the States. Orlando City SC has especially made it a point in cultivating its roster by acquiring 11 international slots, in order to bring in the best talent possible.
Many of these talented international players that Orlando has brought in also have green cards, such as Luke Boden and Kevin Molino. All in all, the Lions have 18 international players out of the 27 currently on the roster. This includes the three internationals who have yet to be announced (Martin Paterson, Carlos Rivas and Cristian Higuita).
Kaká is probably one of the biggest international signings for this upcoming year and is one of three Brazilians for Orlando. Meanwhile, Boden, Harrison Heath and Lewis Neal are three Brits that will be wearing purple this year. Other than that, the other 12 players come from all over: Colombia, Jamaica, Portugal, El Salvador, Honduras, Northern Ireland, France, Trinidad &Tobago and Canada.
Many of these players also play for their country in one capacity or another. Kaká, Kevin Molino, Darwin Céren, Donovan Ricketts, and Martin Paterson have played for their country recently. Several of the younger international players represent their country on the U-20 circuit.
These young signings represent tremendous progress for a league which has long been criticized as only having players come from overseas when they are ready to hang up the cleats. The youth aspect has been especially important for Orlando, which has made sure to build around budding talent mixed in with proven veterans.
There are many other teams who have followed a similar structure, however, Orlando has not played a game in MLS yet. The Lions have learned from other teams, as well as from their own research, and have figured out a good formula that will hopefully see the club building future stars for many years to come.