Lionel Messi David Beckham MLS Barcelona GFXGetty Images

Messi to MLS? Barcelona superstar's wish could pave the way for game-changing move

It's not unusual to hear a big-name player namecheck MLS when asked about their future. Players do it all the time, with some expressing genuine interest in the league and U.S. lifestyle, and others simply using the threat of a stateside adventure to push for improved contract terms.

What is unusual, though, is that the latest star to reveal his admiration for American soccer is one Lionel Messi. Before this weekend's bombshell interview with La Sexta, Messi had never really expressed a desire to play in MLS.

But that has all changed. Messi has opened up the possibility that he could someday head to the United States in a move that would no doubt change the entire trajectory of American soccer forever.

Article continues below

"I always said that I have the impression that I would like to enjoy the experience of living in the United States, of living in that league and that life, but if it happens or not, I don't know," the Argentine told La Sexta, suggesting that this once-farfetched dream could someday, just maybe, become a reality.

The current reality is this: Messi's future at Barcelona remains very, very uncertain. After openly angling for a transfer during the summer, his request was denied by former Blaugrana president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

In the months since, he's done little to suggest that he will extend a contract that expires at the end of the season, admitting that he is unsure what his future holds, merely revealing that he hopes to leave Barca in "the best way".

For months, Messi has been linked to the usual suspects: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Inter. He's in search of stability, and, ultimately, a winning project.

MLS, in many ways, can offer both. So, can the league pull it off? How can an MLS club truly convince Messi that a stateside move is a legitimate option?

Well, America can provide Messi relative anonymity, as a country that is accustomed to housing the world's most famous faces. Several global megastars have called the league home in recent years, with many saying they enjoyed the freedom that comes with being slightly out of the limelight on a day-to-day basis.

Lionel Messi Barcelona GFXGetty Images

Wayne Rooney was able to head out on the town with his teammates, Steven Gerrard enjoyed the peace and quiet of Los Angeles beaches and Thierry Henry could explore every nook and cranny of New York City without the fear of being mobbed. It's easy to see why Messi, a private person but a public figure, would be drawn to such an environment.

MLS can also offer him a unique sporting opportunity, a chance to further his legacy, just like the great Pele did with the New York Cosmos. Many see America as this sport's final frontier, and Messi's claim to the title of greatest of all time would certainly only be furthered if he came to the U.S. and turned the sport upside down.

And, at the end of the day, the league can offer him money, lots of money, whether upfront or in the form of some sort of ownership stake like the one offered to David Beckham all those years ago. Messi has spoken of his desire to work with Barcelona when his career is all said and done, but having some interests in America certainly wouldn't hurt.

As ESPN's Taylor Twellman pointed out, the league's partnership with Adidas could also prove beneficial.

Messi is a long-time Adidas athlete and, in recent years, these massive apparel companies have had a huge impact on the transfer market. Messi moving to the U.S. would do wonders for the company's business stateside, and it's a safe bet that any push to bring Messi to MLS would require a little bit of help from the sportswear brand.

However, even accounting for all of those factors, there are only a few MLS clubs that could pull this transfer off. No disrespect to these teams, but it is hard to see Messi opting to leave Barcelona for Colorado, Cincinnati or Vancouver.

Wayne Rooney Thierry Henry Steven Gerrard MLS GFXGetty Images

The club that seems to have the best chance is New York City FC thanks to sister club, Manchester City, and the power of the ever-expanding City Football Group.

In August, ESPN reported that one potential pathway would see Messi reunite with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City for a bit before heading to NYCFC to close his career. That timeline seems somewhat realistic for all involved.

Messi himself has spoken of his relationship with Guardiola, admitting that he was "lucky" to play for the Manchester City boss. NYCFC, in a few years' time, could be finally moving into their own stadium, and the introduction of Messi would be one hell of a stadium-opening attraction.

NYCFC wouldn't be the only club in the mix, though. The LA Galaxy and Los Angeles FC certainly have quite the selling point when it comes to location, and both have ownership groups that have shown the desire to push the limits. Inter Miami is another obvious destination for similar reasons, and the Beckham connection certainly wouldn't hurt.

Atlanta United, Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders have also shown plenty of ambition in recent years and, although they don't have the cultural pull of those mentioned above, it wouldn't be too surprising to see any of them try to make a bid.

The possibilities, at this moment, seem endless, such is the door that Messi kicked open with one quick interview answer, one response of many newsworthy quotes from the Barcelona star.

Messi's future remains wildly uncertain, and any move to MLS would still require more than any transfer this league has ever seen.

But that move has never seemed more feasible than it does right now. What was once seemingly an impossibility now appears somewhat possible. 

Messi has been conjuring the impossible for years. Why stop now?