With the close of the 2020 MLS season, the league has begun its post-season festivities. There have been drafts and re-drafts and waiver drafts and expansion drafts and all manner of player movement that exists only to keep players from truly getting paid what they’re worth in some sort of market. That also means that European transfer windows are about to open and MLS players can look to make a leap abroad, so long as the contracts they have are in the best interests of team owners to accept offers for them.
With Reggie Cannon and Brenden Aaronson already transferred to the Old Continent, others could join them. Let’s take a look at a selection of players who could head overseas before the start of the next MLS season.
Since being drafted by the Portland Timbers in 2017, Ebobisse has improved every year. In 2020 he showed that he can lead the line as he scored 8 goals in 1062 minutes. At 23 years old, what can Ebobisse be for the national team? If he stays in MLS he might become one of the better strikers in the league, but going abroad and playing against a higher level of competition could further sharpen his skills and push him toward the top of the USMNT striker depth chart.
It seems like this is a move that is bound to happen sooner rather than later. In fact, a rumor that KRC Genk are interested in the defender was published by MLS along with information that teams in Scotland, the EPL and Bundesliga are looking at him. Philly was the best team in MLS this year and McKenzie anchored the backline. While MLS attacks are getting more potent, a move to a more competitive European league would be a test to show that he belongs as a starter with the 2022 World Cup approaching.
A player that got a lot of hype, and for good reason, in 2020 was Orlando City striker Daryl Dike. The MLS rookie scored eight goals, notched four assists, and drove the team to its first ever playoff appearance. Dike is a powerful center forward with terrific finishing. For now, it’s been reported that Club Brugge are in the hunt for the player, but so far there hasn’t been more than an initial rumor of their interest.
American wingers in MLS are a bit far and few between compared to other positions. In 2019 Chris Mueller emerged as an interesting talent putting up five goals and four assists in 1370 minutes. He essentially doubled that production in 2020 scoring 10 goals and adding seven assists in 1477 minutes. Mueller improved his game over the season and in his first USMNT appearance scored a brace and added an assist against El Salvador earlier in December. At 24 he’s shown that he can still learn new skills and a move abroad would push his abilities to the next level.
In his secondish full season in MLS, Cole Bassett stepped up and led the Colorado Rapids to a 5th place finish in the Western Conference. The midfielder seems set to follow in the footsteps of another young attacker with a sense of flare - Brenden Aaronson. Basset scored five goals with five assists in 982 minutes this season. Colorado may not be ready to let him go just yet though and, like Aaronson, his time to go abroad may come at the end of the next MLS season.
Well, Busio wants to go to Barcelona and they’re interested, but will he end up there? After making a handful appearances as a 16 year old, Busio became a viable option off the bench last season and this year made the leap to regular starter for Sporting Kansas City. Over that time, he also discovered his best position as a deep playmaker. While it seems like teams are interested in moving on Busio soon, if the right move for him doesn’t come along his transfer may wait until the summer or beyond.
Defensive midfield is going to be a critical position for the USMNT in coming years and Sands has emerged as a promising talent in the role. After breaking through as a regular starter with NYCFC in 2019, Sands quickly began being recognized as one of the best central midfielders in the league and showed talent at center back as well. His skillset and fact that presumably has an avenue to Manchester City, if the CFG relationship is useful in that regard, may see him head elsewhere in 2021.
Wouldn’t this be interesting? There’s been some chatter about him going abroad as the MLS season came to a close and at 26, that window may be closing soon. Morris is in the form of his life and after bouncing back from missing 2018 with a stellar 2019, where he scored 10 goals and notched seven assists, he had an MVP caliber season in 2020. After being derided for being the poster child for everything that’s wrong with Americans in MLS (not by me, I’d never say anything like that ever), Morris is living up to his potential. Will that take him to being one of the best wingers in MLS for the rest of his career, or can he move abroad and challenge himself at the highest level?