MLS planning World Cup signing spree

JOHANNESBURG - North America's Major League Soccer plans to bring in several faces from the World Cup in a bid to exploit the boom in interest in the event, the league's head of recruitment told Reuters.

MLS recently changed the 'Beckham rule' to allow clubs to sign up to three players who, like LA Galaxy's David Beckham, are not part of the salary cap system.

The move increases the space for top international players in the 16-team league and MLS executive vice-president Todd Durbin said they are looking to bring in players who are featuring in South Africa.

"The World Cup does offer a bit of an opportunity for us - it raises the profile of the sport generally in this country which is only good for our league.

"But it also raises the profile of certain players as well and to the extent that we can sign some of the players, the World Cup will help us advance what we are trying to do with the designated player," Durbin, who handles MLS player recruitment, said in a telephone interview.

MLS, which is averaging crowds of around 15,000 this season, hopes that some recognisable names could help boost interest.

"We are always in the market to try to sign great players for our league. We are always looking for two things - first and foremost a player who can improve the quality of play on the field, that is the primary goal and obviously if that player has name recognition that is an important factor as well for us," he said.

Durbin did not highlight any potential targets but France's Thierry Henry has been linked with a move from Barcelona to New York Red Bulls and AC Milan's Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf recently said he expected to move to MLS when his contract with the Italian club expires next year.

One World Cup player who is already heading to MLS is Switzerland striker Blaise Nkufo who will join Seattle Sounders after the tournament.

The expansion of the 'designated player' slots has led to more players and their agents turning to MLS as a career option said Durbin.

"There are markets that we may not have been as active in during the past, for example Italy, where we are now having significantly more activity and conversations with Italian clubs and agents of Italian players that are out of contract," he said.

As well as Beckham, current designated players include Colombian Juan Pablo Angel at New York, former Sweden international Freddie Ljungberg at Seattle Sounders and U.S international Landon Donovan with LA Galaxy.

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