World Cup 2018 has kicked off, meaning every fan of an MLS club will no doubt be spending brainpower fantasizing over how some of the participants in Russia would excel if dropped into their favorite side.
With that premise in mind, we've turned our transfer browsing eye toward soccer's showcase event. Usually with these lists, I lean toward suggesting highly reasonable targets. This time, we're pushing the boat out further.
The age of MLS teams luring players able to weigh other big options has arrived, so let's go more dreamy with our picks for this World Cup edition. We chase big show names now, people.
Every potential target below comes with an ideal MLS destination, and each of those on offer already has the necessary roster slots available to complete the corresponding coup.
No. 5: Kahraba
Kahraba (L) celebrates a goal for Egypt. | Reuters/Action Images
The wily Egypt left winger, whose moniker means “Electricity” (full name: Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim Soliman), is as comfy timing a run to get loose on a through ball as he is finding the right spot to slam home in a crowded area. And while Kahraba has spent most of his pro career to date playing in his homeland, he did bag nine goals in 36 Swiss top-flight games as a teenager. The 24-year-old is due to return to Zamalek from a loan, but he's mentioned hoping for a European move. Perhaps an MLS offer can turn his head.
His World Cup role: A part-time starter during qualifying, Kahraba could start the big dance as Hector Cuper's main attack sub. In truth, he has yet to replicate his club level of impact with the Pharaohs.
No. 4: Ki Sung-yueng
The deep-lying orchestrator is the first of our picks who is available on a summer freebie. The 29-year-old Ki has was far and away the best passer for relegated English Premier League side Swansea last term and rarely mishandles into bad turnovers. His most ideal role is that of a No. 8 that can keep things organized with intent. He reportedly has admirers in the Premier League and Serie A, so it won't be some easy-like-Sunday-morning lure.
His World Cup role: It would be a tactical surprise if the captain wasn't given the role of the more adventurous one from a dual-No. 6 deep midfield setup. No pun intended, Ki will be central to their hopes of getting back to the knockouts for the third time in five tournaments.
Who should take notice?Colorado are easily last in the league in possession percentage, and near the bottom in both passing percentage and shot differential. Games often fall out of their control as the defense gets too much to do and the attackers feed on scraps. They need a maestro to get this 3-5-2 Anthony Hudson wants in tune. Go sell the guy on all the pretty mountains.
No. 3: Miguel Araujo
Araujo (in white kit) defending superstar Edinson Cavani | Reuters/Action Images
The Peru center back isn't imposing. He isn't more than safe on the ball. Araujo is just a smooth criminal in ground defense and an ace in aerial duels for his height. Though his agent recently shot down reports of contact with Lazio, the 23-year-old is starting to be noticed while playing at hometown club Alianza Lima.
His World Cup role: Nobody would think he'll start their opener against Denmark, but Peru started forming an enjoyable habit of turning to him down the qualifying back half. He answered the call in matching 2-1 home wins over Ecuador and Uruguay, and a scoreless draw at Argentina. They don't tend to allow much when he's on the field (three goals in 409 minutes, to be exact).
No. 2: Giorgian De Arrascaeta
De Arrascaeta with Uruguay. | Reuters/Action Images
Several young South American attacking talents are shining in MLS, so why not another? The Uruguay dazzler has speed to burn and slaloms pasts defenders for fun. De Arrascaeta finishes with gusto when he's not dealing deadly final balls into the box, and Cruzeiro surely can't hold on to him for much longer. He is more a finished product at 24, so we're talking about a potential Miguel Almiron-type figure here, folks. Though recently linked to Wolverhampton interest, he might prefer a headlining role on our shores to swimming upstream with promoted EPL outfit.
His World Cup role: Over the last year, he's become all but a lock starter. De Arrascaeta probably will pull the strings behind Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, and as such, has the look of a breakout star waiting to happen.
No. 1: Joel Campbell
For crying out loud, can someone go grab the Costa Rica terror already?!? I've wanted it to happen for a while, and now Campbell (pictured, top) is a free agent. Teams like Galatasaray are already hovering around, but a fast-acting MLS team can add a speedy forward/winger raised in big European leagues. Stateside fans are already painfully aware of his ability to stretch and unnerve defenses. The time may be ripe for him to finally score and star consistently.
His World Cup role: You will find him racing down the right flank for the Ticos in Russia. He was strong for them during the quarterfinal run at World Cup 2014, and is four years wiser now.
Who should take notice? Boy, Seattle might start breaking the bank with this gazelle around. However, they seem zeroed in on Peru forward Raul Ruidiaz (who amounts to a great cheat pick for this list by now). Looking elsewhere, it says here that Columbus jumps into the top tier of MLS Cup contenders if they find some goals from out wide to supplement their Gyasi Zardes windfall.