Ian Harkes: Major League Soccer is “moving on the right trajectory”
Revolution midfielder Ian Harkes started his Major League Soccer career in 2017, as a fresh-out-of-college 21-year-old with D.C. United. Fast forward to today, and the recently-acquired Harkes says the league has improved in many ways since he made his debut.
Harkes, who signed with New England in July, joined DJ Bean on “The Soccer Show” to discuss the upward trajectory of MLS, helped by the impact of Lionel Messi’s arrival in Miami.
“I think it’s definitely different,” Harkes, who spent four seasons playing in Scotland from 2019-2023 before returning to MLS with the Revolution, said. “The main difference, like you said, is just a little player called ‘Messi’ coming over and changing the landscape again. But I think even before that, coming back from my time playing in D.C., when I was away in Scotland guys over there were talking about how much the league has grown, how much guys want to get back playing over here. The brand of MLS has grown so much, and it has become very attractive to come play here for younger players.”
Messi’s arrival in MLS, noted Harkes, builds an example for younger players in the league to follow in elevating their play.
“My first game that I played in MLS was against NYCFC,” Harkes, who came up as a Homegrown Player at D.C. United, said. “[Andrea] Pirlo and David Villa were on the pitch, and I was already starstruck, I was like ‘what is going on here?’ So the landscape for players coming through, young American players, Homegrowns, for them to see players like that to look up to and emulate is incredible.”
Harkes, 28, took his career to Scotland in search of a different challenge. But a return to the United States was one he always felt he’d welcome with open arms.
“It was always in the back of my head because it’s still home for me and my wife,” Harkes said. “But going over there was just kind of a shot in the dark. I wanted to just change the landscape. I had British nationality so I could get over there. I wanted to challenge myself, an overseas challenge, and just see what it was like.
“I didn’t know where it was going to lead me,” Harkes said. “Obviously these opportunities came up to come back here, so I was very excited to be part of the Revs.”
Harkes comes from a family of soccer players led by his father, John Harkes, a former United States international who played in the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups. The elder Harkes also featured for the Revolution from 1999-2001. The Harkes pairing is the first father-son duo to suit up for the Revolution in club history.
“It’s something that I’m proud of, and my family,” Harkes said. “Seeing what he’s done in his career, it stands alone. Two World Cups, breaking through overseas. His career just stands alone. It’s not like I’m measuring myself up to that. It’d be pretty tough to compare yourself to that. He allows me to be my own person, my own player.”
Harkes and the Revolution have another week to prepare for their return to league play, as New England resumes its 2023 campaign next Saturday, August 26, at CF Montreal for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff at Stade Saputo.