Is the MLS the Perfect Place for Sunusi Ibrahim to Become a Nigerian Legend?
Sunusi Ibrahim is fresh on the scene in the MLS and is as yet an unknown entity to American soccer fans. This could all be set to change soon, though, as the 18-year-old is challenging for a place in the starting line-up of Wilfried Nancy’s ambitious CF Montreal. Already a member of Gernot Rohr’s Nigeria side, massive things are expected of the young talent. The MLS could be the perfect place for Ibrahim to hone his skills and reach the next level of his career.
A Prime Age to Develop in the USA
At Ibrahim’s age, many players are still developing in the youth setups of clubs. In England, for instance, the best that most 18-year-olds can hope for is a regular run out in the U23s squad. They can use this platform as a springboard towards a possible inclusion in the first team – but that only happens for a handful of players. The rest often take up alternative careers outside of the sport.
Ibrahim, on the other hand, already has a full season of professional soccer under his belt with the Nigerian Premier League side, Nasarawa United. He scored 10 goals in 22 games for the Lafia Township Stadium outfit and caught the attention of US talent scouts in the process. Now, the Keffi-born forward is seen as a potential future star in Nancy’s Montreal project.
The Impact is far from the best-known team in the MLS but they are steadily improving as the years go by. The Canadian franchise made it to the playoffs last time out and have been looking up the table once again this season. However, Nancy’s side is still a way off from the top contenders, New England Revolution, who are expected to win the Eastern Conference at a canter this term. Indeed, Bruce Arena’s side can be found at odds of 4.50 with Betway as of August 2, and it is unlikely that any other team will be able to challenge them this term.
Following in the Footsteps of Other Nigerians
Ibrahim should be able to settle in the MLS quickly, as there are plenty of other Nigerians who have managed to do the same over the years. There have been twenty players from the African nation in MLS history, with a couple of them currently playing in the division.
One of Ibrahim’s compatriots, Ifunanyachi Achara, is also playing in Canada. The 23-year-old has been with Toronto since 2020. The other Nigerian MLS player presently playing in the States is Chinonso Offor, who joined Chicago Fire in 2021. All these players will be hoping that the MLS will provide them a stage on which they can flourish.
Could This be a Stepping Stone to a More Competitive League?
Compared to the main leagues in Europe, the standard of the MLS is still much lower. However, it is becoming more competitive as the years go by, and several successful players have found that it can act as a foundation for bigger and better things. The MLS has given opportunities to players who may not have received them in their home countries, and they have then gone on to earn lucrative contracts after impressing in the States.
One recent example of a player who used the MLS to get the vital experience he needed is Jack Harrison. The Leeds United winger spent some of his early career at Liverpool and Manchester United, but swiftly realised that he was not going to be able to compete for a first team berth at the latter. He made the decision to move across the Atlantic and enjoyed great success with New York City.
After gaining attention in the States, the Englishman moved to Manchester City first and then went out on loan to Leeds. Harrison has been a revelation at the Elland Road club but, unfortunately, wasn’t able to take part in the incredible 2-1 smash and grab job that United performed on the Champions in the 2020-21 campaign.
Harrison was the same age as Ibrahim at the time and found that the MLS was the perfect platform for his development at that stage of his career. Ibrahim will be hoping he can achieve a similar feat, and a move to the Premier League could be his dream. He would join a long list of great Nigerian players in England, including Odion Ighalo.
The fact that Ibrahim has already managed to get a call up to the national team at such a young age is highly promising. Now, he needs to capitalise on his opportunity in the MLS and follow in the footsteps of other fledgling professionals who have excelled there.
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