The MLS (Major League Soccer) is the major professional football/soccer league in the United States and Canada. The MLS was founded in 1993 as part of the United States’ successful bid to host the 1994 World Cup.
Now, however, the MLS is no longer frowned upon as an amateurish league across the footballing world. The MLS is now widely regarded as the fastest developing league in world football, mainly due to the ever-growing popularity of football across these nations, which has seen more investment come into the MLS.
Beforehand, any decent American or Canadian footballer would simply move to Europe (primarily England and the Premier League) in a bid to play in a more competitive and high-quality league and further their career, like the USA’s 2014 World Cup goalkeeping hero, currently of Everton: Tim Howard.
However, more and more footballers are starting to move to MLS clubs, with the more notable players coming from the Premier League, such as ex-Tottenham and England striker, Jermain Defoe. This is a testament to how much the MLS has improved in terms of quality and investment in recent years.
In spite of this though, due to the MLS season ending in the midst of the European transfer window, amongst other reasons, players from the MLS often find themselves returning to the Premier League, either on loan or a permanent deal.
Therefore, we look at three former Premier League players, who currently ply their trade in the MLS, who could return to the Premier League in January.
Jermain Defoe (Toronto FC)
Defoe, 31, sought a new challenge having played in England for his entire career at that point, and was not getting enough game time for Tottenham. As a consequence, Toronto FC seized the opportunity to bring a top-class Premier League star to Canada, and acquired the English striker for over £8 million.
Nevertheless, this had not stopped rumours of his Premier League return, as the 5ft 9 hitman is reported to be homesick and not fully committed to Toronto FC, after just six months. This led to the Toronto president, Tim Leiweke, hitting out at Defoe and hinting at his soon-to-be departure, when he said:
''I personally don't think Defoe will come back. I think if he doesn't want to be here you get rid of him.
''My attitude is, if you want to be here and buy into what we've been doing, let's go... I will be with you every day. If you don't want to be here, get the hell out of our way''.
Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders)
Another signing from Tottenham, Dempsey signed a three-and-a-half year contract with Seattle Sounders in August 2013, for an MLS-record fee of $9 million. This mega deal ended the USA international’s seven year spell in the Premier League.
Although the 6ft 1 striker still has plenty to offer, it was believed that Dempsey was planning to return to his homeland, and saw the move to Seattle as the perfect chance to return home.
Still only 31, it is inevitable that Dempsey will attract plenty of Premier League interest in January, as he has the experience and quality to have a positive impact wherever he goes, having played for Fulham and Tottenham before.
Therefore, it is very likely that Dempsey will return to the Premier League in January, but only on a loan deal. This would represent the perfect opportunity for the Seattle Sounders star to maintain his fitness, as by then, the MLS season would have ended.
Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy)
Having scored 53 goals in 83 games for LA Galaxy, it is evident that the prolific Irishman has still got what it takes to succeed in the Premier League. He may be approaching the twilight of his career at the age of 34, but the all-time record Irish goal-scorer will surely be in many Premier League manager’s thoughts come January.
Like Dempsey, Keane may view a return to the Premier League on loan as the best way to keep in shape for the next MLS season. Also, he may wish to experience the unique English atmosphere for one last time.
Keane may now be too old to return to England permanently, so this is why only a loan return looks feasible for both him and LA Galaxy.