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MLS

Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic the highest-impact signing in MLS history?

LA Galaxy forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic controls the ball in front of New England Revolution defender Jalil Anibaba in the first half at StubHub Center.

Kirby Lee

USA TODAY Sports

Since its conception in 1996, Major League Soccer has opened its doors to a number of world stars; which one has had the most impact in this league?

One of the reasons behind the United States getting the 1994 World Cup was the creation of a professional soccer league, and that's how Major League Soccer was born two years later. Season after season, MLS has proved its growth, gaining respect from other leagues around the world.

Over the years, several world-class players have decided to go to the American league, most recently the Swedish star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who now plays for Los Angeles Galaxy.

But with so many figures passing through the US league, who has had the greatest impact of them all? We review the signings whose commercial and sporting influence on the competition has been almost impossible to match.

David Beckham

He's atop the list for all that his arrival in MLS represented. With him, the Designated Player term was born, referring to players excluded from the club's salary cap. Beckham was a star in the States even before landing in the US league in 2007, selling 250,000 shirts as soon as he was presented with Galaxy, besides 11,000 new bonuses, including boxes for the season, which is why nobody can match the English midfielder in terms of business impact.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan's era is different, and when Ibra arrived in the MLS, he emerged as the highest shirt-selling player in his first year, over names like Carlos Vela or Josef Martínez. He debuted with a hat-trick against LAFC, earning records left, right and centre, and is only going through his second season.

The Swedish striker grabs the spotlight with everything he does on and off the field. His personality is not easy to endure, but the Lion has a far-reaching sporting and business impact. Everyone talks about him, and his challenge now is to lift the MLS Cup with LA Galaxy.

Steven Gerrard

He landed at LA Galaxy in the twilight of his career, with 17 seasons at Liverpool under his belt. But at Galaxy Gerrard didn't win a single title; however, he did get into the Top 5 players who sold the most shirts in a single season.

Andrea Pirlo

The "architect" generated a media boom after his move to New York City FC. He sold tickets right, left and centre, and during his three seasons in MLS, it became a habit to see a packed Yankee Stadium. However, he failed to conquer the league.

Other players of an international class have also left their sporting and business footprint on the MLS, although few resemble what monsters like Zlatan and Beckham have previously done. To mention a few, we have Kaká, Didier Drogba, David Villa, Thierry Henry, Alessandro Nesta, Ashley Cole and Rafael Márquez. All gave the league a boost in every way, making the world sit up and take notice of Major League Soccer, which each year is closing in on achieving its mission of being among the greatest leagues in the world.