In the past, it often happened that MLS clubs would sign big-name stars in the twilight of their careers who would come to the States looking for a golden retirement. Lothar Matthaeus and Youri Djorkaeff come to mind.
L.A. Galaxy general manager Alexi Lalas, who signed David Beckham last year, says he knows the signs. "If he says, 'I'm coming to the end of my career and I want to finish it out in the United States,' that's a red flag," Lalas said. " 'My wife likes the weather' or 'my wife likes the shopping' -- that's another red flag. If their perception is that they're coming on a extended holiday where they get paid, then you're in for some real trouble."
Thus far, it doesn't look like any of the league's big-name signings will go down that route, although Kansas City's Claudio Lopez and D.C. United's Marcelo Gallardo have yet to kick a ball. Even so, The New York Times points out that because most MLS clubs can't afford these expensive purchases, they've entered the global market for mining young, inexpensive overseas talent. For many years, D.C. United was the leader in that regard, from Bolivians Javier Moreno and Marco Etcheverry in the mid-1990s to Brazilian duo Fred and Luciano Emilio last year. This season alone, United has added another five South Americans, one of them, Gallardo, as a designated player.