Soccer is the most popular youth sport in the United States. In 2002, 17.5 million American kids played in organized soccer leagues, not to mention the countless other children who gather for street scrimmages or spontaneous exhibition matches. Compare that to the classic pastime of Little League baseball, which had only 2.2 million participants in 2006.

But while soccer dominates the amateur market, most serious athletes in the U.S. have to switch sports if they plan to play professionally.

Let’s be honest: American soccer is a joke compared to baseball, football, basketball, and even hockey.

It’s not nearly as lucrative, either. David Beckham, the most expensive player in American soccer, is earning $6.5 million this year. By comparison, the Houston Astros are paying Carlos Lee nearly triple that to hit .223.

With all the excitement of the World Cup, it’s only fitting to think about athletes who might have been soccer superstars had the sport been more popular in their home countries—not just in the U.S., but in places like Venezuela and the Dominican Republic.

In this slideshow are the 10 current or recent MLB players who I think would have been most successful in professional soccer. Each player on this list has some combination of skills and attributes that are important in the game the rest of the world calls “football.”

There’s no way to predict with certainty what would have happened had things been different. But it’s still worth a try.

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