MLS got its wish. It's now a selling league.
Nine MLS players moved to clubs around world during the January transfer window, which closed on Thursday night.
MLS January transfers abroad (seasons in league):
Tyler Adams, 2+ seasons (NY Red Bulls to RB Leipzig)
Miguel Almiron, 2 seasons (Atlanta United to Newcastle United)
Alphonso Davies, 2+ seasons (Vancouver to Bayern Munich)
Sebastian Giovinco, 4 seasons (Toronto FC to Al-Hilal)
Chris Richards, 3 months (FC Dallas to Bayern Munich)
Alejandro Silva, 1 season (Montreal to Olimpia)
*Zack Steffen, 2+ seasons (Columbus to Manchester City)
Victor Vazquez, 2 seasons (Toronto FC to Al-Arabi)
Yoshimar Yotun, 1+ season (Orlando City to Cruz Azul)
*Will stay in Columbus until July.
The current value of the transfer fees the MLS clubs received is about $80 million, which would only rank somewhere between 15th and 20th in the world in terms of payments received by a league over the cross of a year but would be more than double what they have ever brought in.
More important, they will reduce what has become a huge trade deficit for MLS over the last two years as clubs ramp up spending on transfer fees with the use of Designated Player and new TAM mechanisms.
The players range in age from Sebastian Giovinco at age 32 to Alphonso Davies at age 18, but what stands out about them is how little time they spent in MLS before moving on.
Giovinco, who exited Toronto FC on Wednesday night after four seasons with the Reds, is the only player who was with his MLS team for three or more years.
That players are leaving quickly will be taken as a sign of success.
Implicit in the pact that Atlanta United made with Miguel Almiron was that if he left Lanus and came to MLS it could make him a better player and help fulfill his dream of playing in the EPL. The New York Red Bulls showed Tyler Adams that by staying with them and playing two years with the first team and a third year in the USL he'd be better prepared for a move to RB Leipzig.
Their achievements mean that other players will follow. Other South Americans will pick MLS over, say, Portugal or the Netherlands as a launching pad to a major European league because of Almiron's record move to Newcastle United. That's already happened with Atlanta United, which has signed Gonzalo "Pity" Martinez, the 2018 El Rey de America, for the 2019 season. Other young players in the New York metropolitan area will stay with the Red Bulls instead heading straight to Europe because they've seen it work for Adams.
MLS is better off because it's had Almiron for two years and Adams for two-plus years rather than not at all, but it still seems like they were here today, gone tomorrow.
MLS is in the business of making heroes, but that's a tough business if it must make new heroes every two or three years. For all we know, Pity Martinez will become a bigger star than Almiron was, and the Red Bulls will produce another Tyler Adams out of their youth system. But the successors to Almiron and Adams will soon be gone, too.
In the short term, the lure of Europe and the big lights and the big money it offers is something MLS can't counter. But when you compare how the American pro leagues have their heroes to themselves for the entirety of their careers, 10 years, 15 years, sometimes 20 years, MLS faces a huge challenge if turns over its best and brightest every couple of years.