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Giving MLS more star power

Martin Rogers
Yahoo Sports

Every soccer fan has his or her own opinion on how Major League Soccer should go about trying to improve itself as a product. Some are in favour of scrapping the playoffs. Others believe the knockout format provides necessary end-of-season excitement.

The concept of a system of promotion and relegation also divides opinion, but one topic which all MLS followers have an interest is that of which overseas talent might follow David Beckham into the league.

Commissioner Don Garber insists his organization "wants" rather than "needs" big-name imports, and he is right in insisting that a haphazard approach to signing superstars would be dangerous and counter-productive.

Below is Yahoo! Sports' list of the 10 players who should be on the radar of Garber and the CEOs of MLS clubs.

It has to be realistic, so the likes of Ronalidinho, Kaka, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not mentioned. Their age and current contract situations mean there is no chance of seeing them playing regularly Stateside anytime soon.

The following players, however, could be gracing MLS stadiums within the next few years, and they would certainly add something positive to an improving product.

1. Ronaldo (age 30, AC Milan, Brazilian). Past his best? Yes. Weight problems? Well, coming to the States probably won't help his waistline. But if you had to choose someone to put away a scoring chance to save your life, there would be no one better. Perhaps the most natural pure finisher the game has ever seen – and that sort of ability is never completely lost.

According to reports, the New York Red Bulls were close to signing him before he agreed to a 12-month extension at Milan. However, he loves the U.S. and it would be no surprise to see him in MLS within the next year or two.

Possible destination: New York Red Bulls or a second New York franchise.

2. Zinedine Zidane (age 35, retired, French). He retired after the 2006 World Cup and his infamous head butt on Marco Materazzi, but seems to be getting itchy feet and is pencilled in to play against the Los Angeles Galaxy in an exhibition in Australia later this year.

Indications are that he could be tempted to pull on the boots for a couple more seasons and he won't want to play at a lower level in Europe. Just imagine him and Beckham both playing central midfield together. Ouch, watch out league.

Possible destination: Los Angeles Galaxy, San Jose Earthquakes (who return to MLS as an expansion team in 2008).

3. Claude Makelele (age 34, Chelsea, French). Anyone with even a vague interest in the English Premiership knows all about the famed Chelsea defense. In the first two seasons of Jose Mourinho's reign, the west London side conceded only 37 goals in 76 league matches.

John Terry rightly took much of the credit, but the unsung hero was Makelele, who created a formidable barrier by playing just in front of the back four. Makelele has talked about his wish to play in MLS but just signed a one-year extension to extend his Chelsea contract to 2009. Perhaps even more noteworthy: He has a hot partner – Noemie Lenoir, a supermodel turned actress who starred in "Rush Hour 3."

Likely destination: Houston Dynamo.

4. Rafael Marquez (age 28, Barcelona, Mexican). The Mexico defender signed a new contract at Barcelona after the last World Cup to keep him at the Nou Camp until 2010. By then he will be 31, and there are strong suggestions in Spain that he could be interested in a move to MLS at that stage of his career.

Cuauhtemoc Blanco has been superb since moving to Chicago and has some productive years ahead. But by 2010, he will be 37 and the Fire's fanatical Mexican supporters could be ready for a new cult hero.

Possible destination: Chicago Fire, Chivas USA.

5. Fabio Cannavaro (age 33, Real Madrid, Italian). Italy's legendary defender would add some steel to any MLS defense. He received some criticism following his move to Real Madrid following the 2006 World Cup, but he won over fans by the end of the season.

Two years still remain on his Madrid contract, but Cannavaro has always kept himself in phenomenal condition. Even at 35 in 2009, he would be an exemplary addition to the league.

Possible destination: Toronto FC.

6. Thierry Henry (age 30, Barcelona, French). The former Arsenal striker has just joined Barcelona and will not be leaving any time soon, but several factors point to a future move to MLS. The newly single Frenchman is close friends with NBA star Tony Parker and has often listed New York as his favorite vacation destination.

He even has some presence here, having been featured on Gillette television advertisements alongside Tiger Woods and Roger Federer. He would terrorize MLS defenses with his pace and ability.

Possible destination: New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo, FC Dallas.

7. Juan Sebastian Veron (age 32, Estudiantes, Argentinean). Veron is currently back with his hometown club Estudiantes in Argentina and recently rebuffed repeated efforts to bring him to D.C. United. But while the deal is on ice for now, it may not be completely dead, with D.C. desperate to get a big-name drawing card to add some spice to its impressively solid and well-drilled squad.

Veron has plenty of ability and while his work ethic has sometimes been questioned, he would certainly be effective in MLS.

Possible destination: D.C. United.

8. Ryan Giggs (age 33, Manchester United, Welsh). Giggs was the predecessor to David Beckham at Manchester United, becoming a teenage icon after breaking through as a 17-year-old. He subsequently took a step back from the high life, but continued to excel on the field and has won a record nine Premiership titles.

His United contract ends next year and he is expected to retire, but he could be tempted by a switch to MLS.

Possible destination: New England Revolution, Colorado Rapids.

9. Henrik Larsson (age 35, Helsingborgs, Swedish). Larsson may be impossible to get – after all, he turned down a contract extension at Barcelona to return to Swedish club Helsingborgs. However, there were suggestions that part of that was due to him wanting his children not to grow up in Spain.

He may not have similar reservations about the U.S. Larsson is so much more than just a goal scorer; he would be a gem for MLS.

Possible destination: San Jose Earthquakes.

10. Pierluigi Collina (age 47, retired, Italian). OK, I know it's cheating by choosing a referee as No. 10. But Collina is a cult figure and a truly sensational referee. Scandalously pensioned off in Italy due to his age, the greatest ref in history would be a brilliant addition to MLS and would help improve refereeing standards that are far from perfect.

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