Major League Soccer is no longer a rest home for footballers past their best but here are 10 players that went to the US too soon.

MLS pioneer David Beckham

MLS is steadily improving with each passing year and is shaking off its reputation as a graveyard for players who have seen better days.

But some of the players lost to top teams and top leagues over the last few years shows that many of them may have gone over to the US too soon.

David Villa claps New York City’s fans

David Villa

The 35-year-old Spanish World Cup winner scored 13 goals in 36 games for Atletico Madrid in 2013/14 after leaving Barcelona. 

His next stop took many by surprise as he joined New York City. And he hasn’t looked back since notching 47 goals in 71 games and two in four during a short loan spell at New York’s sister club Melbourne.

Villa could undoubtedly have done and continued to do a job for a host of clubs in any of Europe’s top five leagues in the last three years.

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Sebastian Lletget has proved his quality in MLS

Sebastian Lletget

Given that Sebastian Lletget is American it was perhaps inevitable he would return to MLS one day. But surely not at the tender age of 23 having impressed coming through the ranks at West Ham United? 

Lletget was one of a group of West Ham youngsters who were handed their first team debuts together in a 5-0 FA Cup thumping to Nottingham Forest of the Championship. But Hammers fans felt the all action midfielder was never truly given a fair crack of the whip in East London and he was released before joining LA Galaxy.

And he wasted little time proving any doubters wrong with a streak of man of the match performances and goals. He has racked up eight goals in 54 games for Galaxy and established himself in the US national team this year.

Giovinco celebrates

Sebastian Giovinco

Diminutive Italian attacking midfielder Sebastian Giovinco was one of the most highly-rated prospects in world football in his younger years. The Italy international stunned football by leaving Juventus to join Toronto back in 2015 at the age of 28.

If proof was needed that Giovinco had joined MLS too soon then it comes in his goal record. A staggering 45 goals in just 70 games and countless assists, the skilful Atom Ant – as he is affectionately known – could surely have done a job for a host of Europe’s top clubs and perhaps still can at just 30 years old.

Giovani dos Santos in action for LA Galaxy

Giovani dos Santos

It’s hard to believe but former Tottenham Hotspur and Ipswich Town star Giovani dos Santos is still only 28. A graduate of the famous Barcelona academy, the Mexican was a real coup for LA Galaxy when he signed in 2015, with David Beckham helping to push the deal through.

Two years on dos Santos has 19 goals in 47 games and has proved he had enough quality to have continued playing at the top level in Europe.

It never quite happened for him at Spurs but perhaps we will see him in England again one day in the near future.

Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane

To be fair there aren’t many teams Ireland legend Robbie Keane hasn’t played for. Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City, Inter Milan, Leeds United, Spurs twice, Liverpool, Celtic, West Ham and Aston Villa have all enjoyed Keane’s goals – and less so his annoying celebration.

But 83 goals in 123 games for Galaxy between 2011 and 2016 suggests he could have cut it back in Europe at the top level.

Obafemi Martins celebrates scoring for Birmingham

Obafemi Martins

Ex Newcastle United and Birmingham City striker Obafemi Martins is still only 32.

Now playing in China, the Nigerian somersault specialist spent two years between 2013 and 2015 playing for the Seattle Sounders where he scored more goals than at any club in his career so far, 40 in 72 games.

Tyrone Mears revitalised his career in MLS

Tyrone Mears

Right back Tyrone Mears is another with a list as long as his arm of former clubs. From Manchester City to West Ham, Derby County, Marseille, Burnley and Bolton Wanderers, like Martins, Mears ended up in Seattle with the Sounders.

He established himself as a key member of the first team and played 65 games over two seasons, often making the MLS Team of the Week. Now aged 34 and playing for Atlanta United, Mears’ time in Europe has gone but his performances suggest he had more to offer back at home before moving to the US.

Bradley Wright-Phillips

Bradley Wright-Phillips

Former Manchester City academy graduate Bradley Wright-Phillips was slowly slipping down the leagues during his time in England. Spells at Plymouth Argyle, Chalton Athletic and Brentford all produced goals.

But when he became one of the pioneers to make the surprise move to MLS with New York Red Bulls at the peak age of 28, it seemed a strange decision from both club and player.

But my how Wright-Phillips has proved any doubters wrong, firing an incredible 73 goals in 116 games. He enjoys it so much in New York is brother Shaun got in on the act but was nowhere near as successful, playing just 21 times and netting a single goal.

Jermain Defoe

Jermain Defoe

One player who has conclusively proved he went to MLS too soon is Jermain Defoe. The goal machine had played for the Hammers, Spurs and Portsmouth before joining Toronto in 2014 aged just 31.

He continued his prolific goal rate with 11 goals in 19 games in MLS and returned to the Premier League with Sunderland where he scored 34 goals in 87 games.

His 15 this season was not enough to keep Sunderland up but it was enough to earn him a place back in the England squad and a lucrative move to Bournemouth, where he played online at the start of his career.

Fulham legend Clint Dempsey

Clint Dempsey

American Clint Dempsey represented Fulham with distinction with 50 goals in 184 games for the West Londoners in five years between 2007 and 2012. A spell at Spurs saw him bag seven goals in 29 games before the striker returned to his homeland in 2013 to play for the Sounders.

Now 34 it is unlikely we will see Dempsey back in Europe anytime soon but his impressive tally of 38 goals in 82 games for Seattle suggests he still had a lot to offer in Europe.

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