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Oct 28, 2008

Ljungberg signs for Seattle Sounders

Freddie Ljungberg has become the latest big-name player to head to North America, signing for Major League Soccer's newest club the Seattle Sounders.

While David Beckham might be looking to come the other way - at least for a short-term loan - Ljungberg, 31, made a two-year commitment to play for Seattle, signing a contract reported to be worth $5 million per year.

The former Arsenal and Sweden star has been looking for a club after he terminated his deal with West Ham by mutual consent this summer.

''I'm really happy to be here,'' Ljungberg said. ''I feel so welcomed by everybody.''

Beckham, who has just completed the second season of a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, is in talks about a short-term loan to AC Milan that would help him maintain his match fitness and stay in contention for England.

The mooted deal has sparked fresh discussion about the standard of MLS and its ability to attract and retain high-quality players.

However, Ljungberg said he was not concerned and actually made the decision despite friends telling him to stay in Europe.

''Maybe the league is not that great, but I think that is almost proven wrong with David going to Milan - if he can crack it at Milan then he's still doing well and that shows MLS has a good level if he can do that,'' Ljungberg said.

''For me personally, I'm coming here because I want to play football and I see this as a great experience and I want to make it a better league and develop it.

''I felt if I was going to do this as a sincere thing, I should go now. I shouldn't go in three years when I'm past my peak.''

Sounders co-owner and Hollywood director Joe Roth compared the signing of Ljungberg to the deal that took Beckham to the Galaxy in the summer of 2007.

''I would say in terms of significance to the league, he is certainly one of the two significant European players to come to this league so far,'' Roth said.

The Sounders are owned by Roth and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as well as a number of minority owners including comedian Drew Carey.

More than 17,000 season tickets have been sold for the 2009 season, which already puts the Sounders second in MLS.

Roth said those numbers allowed the Sounders to choose carefully when signing players.

''You want someone who's not a gimmick, you want some one who is still playing at the top of his career,'' he said.

''We don't need anyone to come here and sell tickets.''

Seattle will join MLS next season as the league's 15th team.

Ljungberg joins former Tottenham and Borussia Monchengladbach goalkeeper Kasey Keller - a Seattle native - as well as midfielder Sanna Nyassi and striker Sebastien Le Toux as the only players on the club's roster at present, although an expansion draft is due on November 26.

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