ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – With the MLS transfer window set to open on July 4, clubs across the United States and Canada are busy searching for good value summer reinforcements.
As usual, there is a long list of quality players based in Europe that will run out of contract at the end of June, making them available on free transfers. Every year, we come up with several suggestions for MLS clubs eager to scoop up talented additions without breaking the bank.
It's been quite a successful exercise to date; at least one potential target from our list has ended up joining Major League Soccer every season since we started this article in 2010. In fact, we tabbed three guys who signed with a league club in both 2012 and 2013.
With our perfect streak on the line, let's head to the summer market for some browsing. Players listed with an asterisk have a previous MLS connection, either as a former player, as a former transfer target, and/or from public statements about wishing for a move to America.
While Zlatan Ibrahimovic looks set to join Manchester United after flirting with Major League Soccer in recent months, there are still a few well-known players up for grabs across the pond. We'll start with a pair of impending AC Milan free agents that could have great impact stateside.
Ghana playmaker Kevin-Prince Boateng (pictured above) can work as a playmaker anywhere in the midfield and on the wing. Reportedly, the explosive 29-year-old is already considering a move to America. His Rossoneri teammate Alex is a sturdy defender equipped with a laser free kick. The 33-year-old Brazilian has loads of Champions League experience and has won league crowns in three European countries.
Over in England, former Milan defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini* is again running out of contract at Arsenal. This is not the first time that the 32-year-old has made this list.
While this summer's crop of American players running out of contract overseas is a bit slim, there are still some intriguing players available on free transfers.
Goalkeeper and Atlanta native Cody Cropper (pictured above) gained nine games of Championship experience last season, but is not being brought back by MK Dons. He's been a solid US youth international, exhibiting potential as a shot-stopper. Another player looking for a club after time spent in England's second flight is Huddersfield Town's Duane Holmes, a slippery playmaker with plenty of upside.
Finally, former Colorado Rapids defender Shane O'Neill is free again after a strange European odyssey that saw him appear in just two matches with three clubs in three different countries last season.
FROM THE NEIGHBORHOOD
While there aren't many Americans on the free agent rolls this summer, there is no shortage of excellent CONCACAF performers available on free transfers.
Canada skipper David Edgar (pictured above) is a well-seasoned defensive handyman currently training with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The 29-year-old has spent most of his career in the Championship, but also worked 23 EPL games for Newcastle and Burnley. Maple Leafs teammate Junior Hoilett is a wily forward that has often been linked with MLS interest, but will likely still draw suitors from England's Championship and continental Europe as he leaves QPR.
For those interested in acquiring some younger Canadian talent, promising 23-year-old forward Caolan Lavery is reportedly set to spurn an extension offer from Sheffield Wednesday to search for more playing time. Meanwhile, veteran Jamaica defender Adrian Mariappa appears on the outs at Crystal Palace after making just three EPL appearances last season. The 29-year-old, who was a longtime teammate of Jay DeMerit's at Watford, captained the Reggae Boyz at Copa America Centenario.
There are, of course, plenty of lesser-known players of varying wage levels who could do a fine job in MLS.
Chief among them is Austria winger Martin Harnik: a speedy hard-working player who is leaving relegated Stuttgart after scoring 68 goals for them since arriving in the summer of 2010. It won't be easy to land the 29-year-old, though, as he reportedly has interest from Bobby Wood's Hamburg and a couple of other Bundesliga sides.
His international running mate, Ruben Okotie, is also headed to the open market after piling up 22 goals and a half-dozen helpers for 1860 Munich over the past two seasons. He has good wheels and can operate from any position on the front line. Another player likely to garner competing European interest is erstwhile Torino midfielder Alexander Farnerud. The 32-year-old midfield general reportedly has had contacts with several MLS clubs this year.
If your team is aiming to shore up the backline, there's 32-year-old Argentinian Renato Civelli. He's an all-around solid center back who helped Nice surprise by coming within a whisker of qualifying for the Champions League. For those needing a right back, Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's Artem Fedetsky is about to turn into a freebie. The 31-year-old, who went the full 90 in all three of Ukraine's Euro 2016 matches, helped Dnipro reach the Europa League title match in 2015.