Brenner - FC Cincinnati

FC Cincinnati club-record signing Brenner isn't the first Brazilian in MLS. Far from it. He is, however, a new profile of a Brazilian acquisition previously not seen before in the league.

Brenner is a 21-year-old wonderkid who's led the lines for Brazil's U-17 and U-20 national teams. He's known to every Football Manager and FIFA career mode fan as a hot prospect to sign for Europe's biggest clubs. He was expected to follow that path in real life, particularly after he enjoyed his first real breakout season as a professional over the last year. While MLS has gone to market for players with this pedigree in Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and more, it hadn't happened quite yet in Brazil.

And MLS clubs certainly weren't spending a reported $13 million for their services, like Cincy did with Brenner.

The micro-level impact of Brenner's singing has been well-discussed: It's a big swing for FCC as they look to fast-track their improvement after two difficult on-field seasons in MLS as they open West End Stadium. He further expands their excitement and intrigue factors, making the club one of the biggest storylines to start 2021. On a macro level, though, it could mean more talents in his mold move from Brazil to MLS in the future, another path that uber-talented rising stars can take.

Brenner thinks it's possible, at least.

“It opens so many doors. After my transfer happened, more conversations started in Brazil about other players doing the same thing," Brenner told media through a translator on a virtual press conference Wednesday. "After this, in Brazil they started to pay more attention to MLS. It’s a good opportunity, it’s great for everyone involved.”

Brenner is a product of Sao Paulo's esteemed academy and broke through in recent seasons. He enjoyed his best season as a pro immediately preceding his move to Cincinnati, with 11 goals and three assists in 27 appearances. He's been referred to as the "new Gabriel Jesus" in Brazil.

“So many people thought I was going to follow that route to Europe, but I'm very happy with the decision I made," Brenner said. "When they presented the project to me, I enjoyed it. I'm just excited to get started, follow that different route."

The past few seasons have included a steady increase in Brazilian talent coming to MLS.

There are a number of factors to explain the trend, including MLS' growing quality and financial power, increased relationships between clubs and Brazilian executives shaping MLS, including FC Dallas' Andre Zanotta and Orlando City SC's Luiz Muzzi. The new U-22 Player Initiative, in which clubs are incentivized to either re-sign homegrown talent to larger deals or acquire players from abroad for up to three roster spots with cap relief, will help as well.

Just this winter, the Seattle Sounders triggered Joao Paulo's purchase option, Vancouver Whitecaps FC signed Caio Alexandre, NYCFC acquired Thiago Andrade, Alexandre Pato signed for Orlando, Gregore joined Inter Miami CF and Fabio signed for the New York Red Bulls. This comes after a handful of signings, including several to Orlando and Dallas, the year prior.

There were a few moves that didn't pan out, too. Cincy were in advanced discussions to acquire Brenner's youth international teammate Lincoln, though the forward signed for Vissel Kobe from Flamengo, while a source tells that a handful of MLS teams continue to monitor 18-year-old Recife attacking midfielder Gustavo and expect serious discussions this summer.

But as the pipeline potentially opens up, don’t forget to remind the players to pack a few winter jackets depending on where they go.

“In the beginning, to be honest, it was very cold,” Brenner said. “That was very strange for me.”

Brenner’s foray into MLS at this important stage of his career will be a case study for other players of a similar profile. If he settles, shows his talent and develops before a move to Europe, like Miguel Almiron before him, it will only mean good things for others considering the same route.

His American adventure starts in earnest on Saturday, as Brenner and the new-look FC Cincinnati face Nashville SC (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

“Any player wants to score and give a great performance in their first game,” Brenner said. “I’d love to score a goal (in my debut), but it’s not always possible. The main thing for us is to win.”