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Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo to MLS: Which teams would be the best fit if Manchester United star comes stateside?

21:34 EAT 06/10/2022
Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal 2022
Could the Manchester United star end up in MLS? GOAL takes a look

It's a rumor, or pipe dream, that has gone on for years: the thought of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the biggest star in soccer's history, finishing his career in Major League Soccer.

Ronaldo, and his longtime competitor Lionel Messi, have long been linked with a move to the U.S. For them, it would present one last stop of their career, and a chance to make boatloads of money while simultaneously raising their profile in the United States. It would also present them with the chance to join a list of trailblazers that include names like Pele and David Beckham.

But, at least thus far, Ronaldo has always been resistant. The Portuguese star has always stated his intentions of playing at the highest level, namely Europe, for as long as he possibly can. Ronaldo is obsessed with furthering his on-field legacy, and the best way for him to do that would be to continue to pour in goals while lifting more trophies.

However, as we head towards the 2022 World Cup, Ronaldo's world is changing drastically. He's suddenly something of an afterthought at Erik ten Hag's Manchester United, despite scoring 24 goals in all competitions last season. He appears to be on his way out of Old Trafford, with his highly-publicized homecoming looking set to end with a whimper.

Should he leave, he'll have no shortage of suitors, one of which will be MLS, and it is more than likely that he continues on in European soccer. But is it possible he comes to MLS and, if it is, which clubs could he end up at?

GOAL takes a look at what a potential union between Ronaldo and MLS could look like:

  • Beckham Inter Miami

    Inter Miami

    The club most often linked with Ronaldo is, realistically, the one in the best position to pull it off.

    The allure of South Beach, working with David Beckham, and the chance to be a defining figure for a new club - all are possible motivators for Ronaldo.

    But the biggest factor in this move is that Miami can actually afford it.

    The club will have up to three Designated Player spots this winter, with Gonzalo Higuain set to retire, Rodolfo Pizarro on his way out and Alejandro Pozuelo out of contract. That's a lot of room to not just sign Ronaldo, but build around him with players that want to play with him and, perhaps most importantly, players he'd want to play with.

    It's a match that is seemingly made in heaven. In Miami, Ronaldo gets a great place to call home and a club that he can help truly elevate to one of MLS' elite. And, in Ronaldo, Miami get that big splash they so desperately crave not just in MLS, but on the world stage.

  • Chicharito Galaxy celebrate 2022

    LA Galaxy

    From Beckham's current club to his former club.

    If there's a team that knows how to sign a star, it's the Galaxy. Beckham, Robbie Keane, Steven Gerrard, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez... the list goes on and on.

    Hollywood could certainly tempt Ronaldo, who has always been a larger-than-life figure. In Los Angeles, he could live among the biggest stars in the world, do the talk show appearances, make the movie cameos.

    But, for the stars that have played for the Galaxy, one of the biggest draws has always been the normalcy of it all, not the glitz and glamor.

    In Los Angeles, everyone is someone and, because of that, there's a different culture when it comes to fame. Celebrities are treated differently there than anywhere else because there are simply so many of them.

    So, for someone like Ronaldo, who has hardly had a chance to breathe in public since he was a teenager, a chance to live a normal, private life could be an incredible opportunity.

    It's what drew Gerrard to LA when he swapped the familiarity of Liverpool for Hollywood.

    “Life off the pitch has been pretty much straightforward,” he told CNN back in 2016.

    “Los Angeles is a fantastic city. The weather’s good. I go about reasonably unrecognized and I’ve got peace and quiet out here. There’s so much to do out here for myself and my family."

    Could that be the right decision for Ronaldo, who is also a big family man? Possibly. And could the Galaxy pull it off? Well, with three DPs in their squad, they'd have to part ways with either Kevin Cabral or Douglas Costa.

    But history has shown the Galaxy are willing to do whatever it takes, especially when it comes to bringing in a signing that could truly change the game.

  • Gareth Bale LAFC 2022

    LAFC

    Any link between Ronaldo and LAFC has to be met with one response.

    "There's no way in hell they can pull this one off, right?"

    Over the last year, in particular, LAFC have proven themselves the best in MLS in making the impossible possible.

    Signing Giorgio Chiellini? Done. Adding Gareth Bale from Real Madrid? That too. Getting both of those players on non-DP deals? Still hard to believe.

    Right now, the Black & Gold have those two alongside DPs Carlos Vela and Dennis Bouanga, who was somehow signed from Saint-Etienne after Bale and Chiellini arrived. In theory, they have an open DP spot, but Bale will be taking that on next year no doubt.

    So, theoretically, there's no way for LAFC to bring in Ronaldo, simply because the rules wouldn't allow it. But, if there's one thing that we've learned watching MLS teams build rosters, it's that rules are at least meant to be bent, if not broken.

    Could anything stop a possible marriage between Ronaldo and LAFC should the two sides want it? Probably not as LAFC could theoretically have the ambition, allure and money to somehow make a play for the club's biggest star yet.

  • Johnson NYCFC MLS Cup 2021

    New York City FC

    Just imagine it now.

    Cristiano Ronaldo working out a deal with City Football Group to join New York City FC. And, after that first MLS season, in order to stay fit, he returns to England for a loan spell at the Etihad across town from his longtime home.

    What a story it would be for Ronaldo to swap Manchester United red for New York City blue given the club's affiliation with his longtime rivals. But few can say no to the Big Apple. Can Ronaldo?

    Living in New York is always a draw for foreign stars, who can forsee themselves sitting courtside at Knicks games while bringing their kids to Broadway shows. It's a city that has appealed to the likes of David Villa, Patrick Vieira, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, as well as Thierry Henry over the bridge with the New York Red Bulls.

    But there are some obvious drawbacks. The City affiliation may not work for Ronaldo, even if he was reportedly close to joining Man City before his Man Utd homecoming. And the thought of Ronaldo closing his career playing in a baseball stadium isn't quite the goodbye many would expect.

    Is it possible? Sure. But are there a lot of hurdles in the way? Definitely.

  • Everyone else

    Aside from the four teams mentioned, it's hard to imagine Ronaldo joining any other team in MLS.

    The New York Red Bulls used to make plays like this, but their culture has changed completely since Henry left Red Bull Arena.

    Orlando City could be in the mix, especially considering the allure of Disney for a player with young children. But, having been linked to Ronaldo for years, it doesn't seem they'd quite have the status to convince him to join.

    The Seattle Sounders, Toronto FC, Atlanta United and the Chicago Fire are all big-market clubs, but are those cities right for Ronaldo? The same can be said about D.C., despite the presence of his former teammate and current D.C. United manager Wayne Rooney.

    There is a saying, though, that a rising tide raises all ships, so even the teams that miss out on Ronaldo would theoretically benefit. Just the mere presence of the Portuguese star would increase the league's reputation exponentially and greatly increase the cost of a ticket to see him play.

  • 20221002_Cristiano_Ronaldo

    The verdict

    Overall, this all remains unlikely.

    Ronaldo has always been determined to remain in Europe, and there would certainly be plenty of suitors. They may not be at the highest level, but Ronaldo could continue on his quest to conquer Europe.

    There will certainly be options from big clubs, even if the elites are probably out of the Ronaldo game. And there could always be a Portuguese homecoming, should he want one last go around in his homeland.

    Don't write off Middle Eastern clubs either, with reports saying that a Saudi Arabian team offered Ronaldo more money than most could fathom.

    That said, it is all one to watch and certainly fun to think about as Ronaldo's career at Manchester United may be nearing its end.