Kaka, Andrea Pirlo, David Villa, Steven Gerrard, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Sebastian Giovinco – an illustrious group headlining the ever-growing star power of Major League Soccer.
And Orlando City captain and Brazil international Kaka expects more big names to swap Europe for the United States.
One of football’s greatest players, Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid, and Manchester United recruit Zlatan Ibrahimovic have publicly declared their interest in moving to MLS in the future.
In an interview with Omnisport, 2007 Ballon d’Or winner Kaka said: “In my opinion, we will see a lot more players come to join the league because every year it is improving.
“Probably we will see in a few years more players, big players from Europe, coming to play in MLS.”
On New York City trio Villa, Pirlo and Lampard, LA Galaxy’s Gerrard, Montreal Impact striker Drogba and reigning MLS MVP Giovinco of Toronto FC, Kaka – a two-time MLS All-Star – added: “It’s very exciting when I can see players like this in the league because they can bring more visibility and credibility to the competition.
“At this moment, the league, [with] this kind of mix … these players [can] help bring more sponsors and media. With that, you can help improve youth teams, academies, so everyone can grow together.”
Kaka knows MLS better than most, the 34-year-old first moving to the US as a designated player in 2014, before Orlando were even introduced to the league.
The former AC Milan and Real Madrid playmaker has watched the franchise grow from the ground up and they are now attracting some of the biggest crowds in the league.
Orlando’s average attendance in their inaugural MLS season in 2015 was 32,847, a figure only bettered by Seattle Sounders. In 2016, Orlando managed to attract 60,147 fans to a league match against Real Salt Lake in March and Kaka takes great pride in helping the club make their mark in American football.
“I’m enjoying my time here. It’s a great experience, helping this phase of the league and the development of it,” said Kaka, who has scored 11 goals and tallied 12 assists in MLS since moving to Orlando.
“It’s another phase of my career, another step and I’m glad that I’m a part of it.”
“It’s nice because I’ve been in football since I was eight years old, so to be part of a club that has just started and you can see everything building, brand new, it’s good,” he continued.
“It’s a good experience because I want to stay in football when I stop playing and this will help me understand more about football off the field also.”
After narrowly missing out on the play-offs last term, this campaign has been an inconsistent one for Orlando.
Long-serving coach Adrian Heath paid the price for the team’s mixed form, with Jason Kreis appointed in July. The team continues to hover around the Eastern Conference play-off spots, but making the finals remains the goal for Kaka and his team-mates.
“We have a good group, good players and we can really do well,” he said. “We just changed coach and it is not easy when you have to change coach during the season but I still think we can make the play-offs this year.”