As Major League Soccer continues to grow, clubs have begun to open up their wallets in search of players they crave instead of relying on free player transfers.
In recent years, MLS has earned the reputation of a “retirement” league across the globe, but that image is rapidly changing with clubs now showing a preference for players under the age of 30. That’s a dramatic change from the flashy headlines made by bringing in famous players on the back side of their careers.
Here we look at at the top three deals that made headlines in the soccer world.
Portland Timbers earn top honors
The Timbers brought in 24-year-old Brazilian midfielder Evander for a club record transfer-fee. The Timbers paid just shy of over $10 million, a figure that places the transaction among the to most expensive in league history.
Evander – an attacking midfielder – will occupy a Designated Player spot and is signed through the 2026 campaign.
He joins MLS from Midtjylland of the Danish Super League, where he enjoyed considerable success. In 167 appearances in all competitions, the slick midfielder racked up 50 goals and added 38 helpers.
The Timbers will rely heavily on the talented Brazilian to help the club make the postseason after a tough 2022 season that saw them miss the playoffs.
Young Croatian joins MLS champs, tasked with replacing Bale
Los Angeles FC conquered the MLS landscape in 2022, winning their second Supporters’ Shield while also capturing the first MLS Cup for the first time in franchise history, and doing so in dramatic fashion.
The club lost two key strikers this offseason – Cristian Arango moved to Pachuca of Liga MX and Welsh international Gareth Bale retired – leaving the champs thin up top.
Insert Stipe Biuk, a rising star hailing from Croatia who comes in as the second highest winter transfer at a cool $6.95 million.
The 20-year-old Croatian youth international penned a four-year deal that will see him signed through the 2026 campaign. In 66 games with Hajduk Split, the forward found the back of the net 6 times and registered 8 assists.
The young Croatian has the potential to light up MLS, and LAFC is already considered an MLS Cup contender for 2023.
Argentine striker arrives in Charlotte
Charlotte FC made a huge splash dishing out $6.41 million for striker Enzo Copetti who joins the franchise for its sophomore season.
The 27-year-old Argentinian flourished in his time with Racing Club, a giant in the Argentine Primera División. In 96 games there, Copetti netted 31 goals and served up 8 assists.
In their inaugural MLS season, the Crowns struggled to punch the ball in the net registering 44 goals on the campaign which had them ranked 22nd out of 28th.
MLS kicks off its 2023 season next week, so we’ll soon get a chance to see if the highest-priced January transfers will have an immediate impact or if they’ll struggle to adapt to the new league.
One thing for sure, with the New Apple MLS TV deal clubs will earn more money which will surely allow teams to spend even more to acquire players in their prime.