Enter the era of the player-business, including Marco Pappa John’s

In the modern game, branding is everything. From social media to endorsements, to haircuts and shoes, players are more aware than ever of the impact that their perceived brands have have on their career earnings. It’s one thing to be a careful groomer of self-image, but it’s another to be a full-on branding exercise. If players want to step it up and break through a crowded marketplace, they need to be more overt and align themselves with strong, existing brands. They need to really push the envelope. They need to be as much of a living, breathing commercial product as they are a human being and athlete. Assuming they care about what’s important: cash.

Because we care about the progress of the game, we — along with our regular Mexico writer, Elliot Turner — came up with suggestions for a few MLS players that are sure to make them domestic versions of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Marco Pappa John’s


No one wants Pappa John’s pizza. Not once have you ever been on the couch, stomach on grumble status and said, “That John’s, tho!” You ordered it for one of two (valid) reasons: 1) You’re limited by geography. Central Ohio doesn’t offer the pizza options you deserve and PJ’s is the best of your bad options, or 2) You are limited by finances. The recession is real, and when Peyton Manning offers you five pizzas for $6.99, you take it.

That’s MLS — the hungry but fiscally limited pizza shopper of world soccer. The league has been filled with players like Marco Pappa. No, he’s not the best midfielder available, but you know that. He knows that. What he is, is damn good considering the circumstances. Marco Pappa isn’t carrying your team to glory, but he certainly won’t be the reason you haven’t been winning.


Landon Edge


London Edge is the international fashion trade show for people who insist they are different, but don’t see the irony in the fact that there are enough people dressed similarly to them to fill a convention hall. “Edge” is relative.

In the time since his sabbatical to Cambodia, Landon Donovan has been developing his own edge. Not the sharpest one, but he’s certainly been freer with his opinions lately. It’s all been building up to a post-career goth turn. Landon is sick of the world and and the “sheeple” in it. All the rules about who an athlete is supposed to be and where their priorities should lie have been thrown out the window. Donovan’s isn’t down with that nonsense anymore.

The next step is to express it through fashion. He will offer a collection that blends the sensibilities of goth, steampunk and film noir.


Giles Barnes & Noble


Yes, Barnes & Noble still exists. While you’re downloading e-books with your fancy computer machines and getting next-day shipping on Amazon — only to wait a month before actually cracking the book open — B&N is still pushing real paper through brick and mortar stores. Imagine that.

The criminally underrated Giles Barnes is the same kind of being: old school, but of recent vintage; “Aged School,” if you will. He’s a throwback to the recently-passed era of MLS midfields that featured four or five guys who were more utilitarian than specialized. Barnes can fit the requirements of a few midfield positions and happens to look like he could have been in 90s R&B group Shai.


Bobby BosWells Fargo

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Wells Fargo — like any other large financial institution — is essentially a gang of crooks who exist to steal your money by offering you a false sense of security.

Bobby Boswell has been doing this in MLS since 2005. Throughout his career, he’s been on a series of notoriously stingy defenses and gets words like “anchor” and “rock” thrown into his player profiles, but he’s never been all that great. Regardless, teams keep giving him money thinking their goal is a more secure place because he’s around. Fiscal irresponsibility of the highest order.


Teal Burberry

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Burberry was to the 00s what Hifiger and Nautica were to the 90s: the semi-upscale brand that went mainstream to the point that you resented every piece in your closet and everyone wearing it. The sight of that tartan pattern made you sick.

It disappeared from the malls for a few years but now it’s back to its rightful place as a something only a few appreciate, and do so out of genuine respect for design rather than a need to make a statement.

That’s Teal Bunbury. He was on the never-ending list of strikers destined to be the guy to finally pair with Jozy Altidore for the next three World Cups. He’s in the U.S. men’s YouTube hall of fame and was a rising star for Sporting Kansas City. Then, almost as suddenly as he appeared, you forgot he existed.

This year marks his return. But, thus far, his great 2014 hasn’t had the same fanfare as his rookie season. That’s because, like Burberry, Bunbury appreciation is now a mark of the discerning fan — fancy types who bookmark Opta pages.