Lionel Messi's potential move to Inter Miami in MLS would be even more significant for US soccer than Pele playing for the New York Cosmos, former United States international Brad Friedel told Stats Perform.
MLS has long been considered a likely end-of-career destination for Messi, but the intensity of such links has ramped up considerably in recent days, with media reports suggesting David Beckham-backed Inter are increasingly confident of luring the Paris Saint-Germain forward to MLS as early as next year.
Beckham was of course seen as something of a pioneer when he made the switch to LA Galaxy in 2007, and stars such as Thierry Henry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Didier Drogba all followed over the next decade.
But before MLS, the North American Soccer League (NASL) had served a similar purpose for ageing superstars in the 1970s and 80s, with Brazil legend Pele proving the trendsetter back then when he joined the Cosmos – Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Muller, Eusebio, Bobby Moore and George Best all went on to feature in the NASL before it collapsed after the 1984 season.
For all the history US soccer has with the biggest names in the sport, Friedel thinks nothing that has gone before could compare with the impact Messi's arrival would have.
"So, we had David Beckham over here, which was one of the best signings that MLS ever made for notoriety around the world," he told Stats Perform.
"And in today's day and age with social media, everyone's sort of a journalist with their phones these days, and how quickly media gets around the world.
"[Messi to MLS] would be unlike anything anyone's ever seen in this country, including when Pele was over here, just because of the way the media is.
"It would be incredible if Lionel Messi was playing in this league. The fans that he attracts, the global respect, how good he has been.
"If they can pull that off… I'm not generally [in favour of] the older player coming in [to MLS], but like [Giorgio] Chiellini and [Gareth] Bale were [signed] for a reason and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic was for a reason, then work out that if you can get Messi, get him over here."
Although Messi's PSG contract expires next year, Inter should not expect a free run at the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner.
PSG are still reportedly confident of securing a contract extension, while officials from Messi's former club Barcelona have spoken openly about their desire to bring him back to Camp Nou.