The development of Major League Soccer has not gone unnoticed in any corner of the industry.
Now more than ever, European clubs are lining up to take the league's best talent at an early age, with the likes of Alphonso Davies, Tyler Adams, and Brenden Aaronson enjoying real success across the pond.
Naturally, some of the world's biggest and most successful agencies and representatives have moved into the market.
Watch the story of Charlotte FC's journey to MLS in 90min's The Making of Charlotte FC, presented by DoorDash, on 90min channels now. Subscribe to our new US YouTube channel.
Roc Nation are one such agency. Founded by American rapper Jay-Z in 2008, the entertainment company's soccer arm currently represents European stars like Kevin De Bruyne, the Lukaku brothers, Axel Witsel, and Tyrone Mings.
Former FC Dallas defender Chris Richards - who recently signed for Crystal Palace from Bayern Munich - joined the Roc Nation family in January 2021, marking one of the first steps as the company looks to US expansion.
"The talent in the US at the moment is incredible. So if you are looking to sign the best emerging talents in world football at the moment, you have to have an eye on what's going on in the US because there's real pockets of talent," Roc Nation vice president and head of football Alan Redmond told 90min in an exclusive interview.
"There are pockets where there are players developing and players coming through at a very high level. So firstly for us, one of our missions really is to capture the best emerging talents, sign the best emerging talents and work with them over the course of their career. So the US is of huge importance."
Of course, Richards left MLS for Bayern at a very early age, just months after signing his first professional contract with FC Dallas and without making a senior appearance for the club.
But there are plenty of players who must experience some level of success in MLS before they earn that move to Europe, a la Ricardo Pepi and Aaronson.
Even as it battles to attract a wider domestic audience, MLS has undoubtedly improved its level on the field quite drastically.
As a long admirer of the league Redmond has seen this growth first-hand and wants to give players the chances they deserve, while still showing MLS respect in the opposite direction.
"I've been an admirer of MLS [for] quite [a while]," Redmond said, explaining: "Even the mechanisms of MLS. I think that it's a very fair-minded league. I know a lot of people complain that relegation and promotion doesn't happen, but the actual distribution of top players and the management of available finances is quite sensible and it's quite rare to find that in fact. So for me, it's key for us to have a strong presence in MLS, because I want to respect the league. I don't just want to suck the best talents out of there.
"Don't get me wrong, we want to sign the best ones and some of them will come to Europe, but we also want to play our part in strengthening the league and growing the league. Some of the level of athleticism in the league is sky high and the technical level of the players has gone up so much in the last 10 years. And you could even zoom in and say, even in the last four years, that's even increased a lot."
"When players sign with Roc Nation, they feel like they're part of something"
With their existing client base, Roc Nation's move into the US market is certainly eye-catching.
However, they're not the only ones looking to sign more MLS and American talent. So, what sets them apart?
"I think at Roc Nation, we are doing things in a different way," said Redmond, who has been an agent for over 10 years and speaks three foreign languages.
From extensive charity work to making sure players give their best to improve every day, Roc Nation are taking a more personal approach to an industry that, from the outside, can often appear cold and harsh.
And while Redmond's job can range from brokering deals to meeting with a player's family and everything between, Roc Nation players are armed with an extensive team ready to offer time and guidance through every kind of eventuality.
Redmond explained: "So one of the things we did was we sat down and we looked at what do players need? And then we made sure that we had a subject matter expert in every single department for that. So I think that the players, they really have a sense of confidence. They know that they've been catered for.
"We push our players as well, because we don't want to spoil or overly nanny them. We want to make sure that we're working on the development of the person as much as the player as well.
"But I think that players when they sign with Roc, they feel they're part of something. They feel they're part of the movement."