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Former United player Kleberson signs with American second division club

The Brazilian, a member of the 2002 World Cup-winning squad, has signed with Indy Eleven, a North American Soccer League startup franchise in America's second division.

Brazilian midfielder Kleberson poses for photos with Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer at a press conference announcing his signing with the American second division club on Monday. Joe Vitti / AP / The Indianapolis Star / March 31, 2014
Brazilian midfielder Kleberson poses for photos with Indy Eleven coach Juergen Sommer at a press conference announcing his signing with the American second division club on Monday. Joe Vitti / AP / The Indianapolis Star / March 31, 2014

Remember Kleberson? Won the World Cup with Brazil in 2002, played for Manchester United?

Well, the times, they haven’t been so kind to Kleberson.

Last year he did a loan spell with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, which in and of itself isn’t anything too bad for a 34-year-old. More notable names than Kleberson, certainly, have given MLS a go.

But the North American Soccer League might be stretching it.

Famous for once being the American league to host Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, Johann Cruyff, George Best and others in their advanced years in the 1970s before famously going belly-up, the NASL is a distinctly different animal in its current form.

The NASL nowadays actually serves as America’s second division, right below MLS, and Kleberson has agreed to sign on with one of its teams.

The Brazilian will soon become closely acquainted with Indianapolis, Indiana, a slice of middle America that is distinctly not Brazilian, after signing with Indy Eleven, a startup franchise playing in the NASL.

“This move to Indy Eleven is not just a great professional opportunity, but a great move for Kleberson the person as well,” said Kleberson in a press release on the team’s website. “It’s a new club, and I have big expectations of myself to put my name into the team’s history.”

To be fair, as he noted, Indy Eleven are a new club – they’ll be playing their first season in 2014, in fact. They presumably have ambitions of becoming one of the handful of franchises MLS plans to admit into its ranks as it expands in the coming years, alongside clubs like New York City FC or the more established second-tier club Orlando City SC.

Unlike in Europe, though, MLS offers no promotion hope to second-tier clubs outside of being admitted as a fully-guaranteed member of the first division in the North American tradition. It’s often a lengthy process, so unless Kleberson is in it for the long haul, his American experience won’t quite be so much like David Beckham’s or Thierry Henry’s.

To his credit, though, he appears to be enthusiastic about his new project.

“Indianapolis is a great city, and I’ve seen great commitment by the organisation to make this club a success. My first meetings with teammates have been excellent; this is a group of young and experienced players with a lot of talent. I’m expecting to put all of this together and to enjoy a great future as a part of Indy Eleven.”